We think about longanisa a lot. Our first impulse is to form it into patties, fry it and serve it with eggs and mac salad for a Hawaiian style breakfast, or put it on a plate with garlic fried rice and atchara for a Filipino longsilog.
Our most vivid encounter with longanisa was in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, last winter. Our friend Camille led us into 9 Sisters' Longanisa & Bagnet, which we keep referring to as a factory but only is in the loosest sense. Loads of casings were strewn across a low plastic table waiting to be individually stuffed with hand-mixed sausage tangy with vinegar. The balanced flavor of the sausage was surprising given the generous amounts of garlic and spices. Not a process typical of most "factories." Of course our casual inquiry into the precise ingredients used to consistently produce these famous short links of longanisa was the only question met with guarded silence from an otherwise engaging and friendly sausage assembly line.
After our recent extended trip to Mexico City (extended because of that big blizzard), we've had longaniza on our minds even more. We ate tacos de longaniza, topped in spicy guacamole, papas fritas and onions.
We were thinking about the differences between Mexican longaniza, chorizo and Filipino longanisa and noticed that Filipino longanisa is always formed into small links (like chorizo consistently is in Mexico City) but Mexican longaniza stretches on without interruption. I met a local culinary school grad in el DF and asked, "What's the difference between longaniza and chorizo?" She paused and responded, "I don't think we know."
When I found a street food stand offering not just bright red longaniza, but also chorizo verde tacos, an equally unnatural shade of green, I was thrilled. The fact that this place was adjacent to a vendor with a comal full of tlacoyos only made it that much more enticing.
I sat down and quickly received my deli-paper-lined plastic plate with one of each taco. The Mexico City longaniza was distinct yet familiar with its dense flavor. Plenty of garlic and spices seasoned the coarsely ground, fatty pork sausage. It tasted even better after a squeeze of lime, as it lacked the strong presence of vinegar that balances the Ilocano variety. The green chorizo presented brighter flavors coming mostly from the inclusion of fresh chiles, cilantro, raisins and ground nuts. I was eating on the street in Mexico City, so of course I topped each taco with a bit of salsa, though the chorizo would have been perfect just as it was served.
For our part, we have combined our own longanisa, which draws primarily from Ilocano flavors, with sushi rice, and molded it into musubis, wrapped in toasted nori and topped with pickled green papaya. We've served these on a large scale at the Terroir Symposium in Toronto last spring and in an more intimate setting, for a COOK class last July (Kiki brought out her heart-shaped musubi mold for this one).
The longanisa recipe we have developed is a cumulative result of our various encounters with this sausage in places near and far.
Our longanisa recipe (for one pound of ground pork):
- Make annatto oil (2 cups canola oil, 1/3 cup annatto seeds, half a head of garlic, bay leaf, two toasted and seeded dried ancho chiles). Medium heat until garlic starts bubbling. Turn it off and steep for an hour, then strain.
- Make the paste to marinate the pork in by combining:
cane vinegar (1.5 tbs or more)
brown sugar (1.5 tbs or more)
annatto oil (1.5 tbs or more)
soy sauce (1 tbs)
1 head garlic, minced
zest of 1 lime
dash of ground black pepper
smoked paprika (1.5 tbs or more)
salt (0.5 tbs)
Marinate pork at least overnight, form into patties, pan fry and serve alongside garlic rice and eggs or wrapped up with sushi rice and furikake for longanisa musubis.