Ten Years and Beyond: How Señor Sisig Pioneered the Filipino-American Cuisine in Bay Area
Putting the Filipino food "sisig' on the Bay Area's map was one of the milestones these two high school friends - Evan Kidera and Gil Payumo, accomplished in the past ten years in their culinary business.
In 2010, San Francisco's street-food scene was taking baby steps, trying to walk the city's complicated permit requirements. To make it, one needed passion and vision—precisely the two things that fueled the launch of Señor Sisig's first food truck that year.
Inspired by the success of Roy Choi's Kogi Korean taco truck in Los Angeles, high school friends Evan Kidera, who has an MBA from San Francisco State, and Gil Payumo, an experienced chef, saw Filipino food as a Bay Area cultural force ready to break out.
Before Señor Sisig came to the scene, the well-known Filipino dish in California was only "adobo" and "Lumpia."
According to Kidera, earlier Filipino-American generations were very conventional in their cooking. It could also be why Filipino cuisine didn't explore much ten years ago because it didn't adjust to American society.
"We just really wanna do something different at that point and we want to bring this Filipino recipe that Gil had and infused it with Mexican food, which we grew up on." - Evan Kidera, CEO and Co-Founder of Señor Sisig
Kidera and Payumo were committed to the format of tacos and burritos. To fill them, they reached back in Gil’s family history to find a dish his dad was famous for at parties: sisig.
In the province of Pampanga in the Philippines, where Gil’s family has roots, sisig is rustic drinking food, a highly seasoned mixture of chopped meat from the head and snout of a pig. Gil’s family recipe called instead for pork shoulder: more accessible, friendlier to modern sensibilities, and just as rich and juicy as the traditional version.
Gil tweaked the recipe, which calls for infusing the pork with a highly seasoned, slightly spicy marinade for 24 hours before grilling and chopping it. He adapted the method for chicken and tofu.
"Right of the bat, when he [Kidera] mentions something Asian and Filipino, right there and then, I said, 'Sisig tacos.'" - Gil Payumo, Chef and Co-founder of Señor Sisig
Traditionally, Sisig in the Philippines is made of pig's head, but Señor Sisig's version uses pig's shoulder for a meatier dish and marinates it in 24 hours, grill it, and chopped it to bits.
The duo began rolling up sisig in burritos, spooning it into tacos, and sprinkling it on nachos. Driven by word of mouth on social media and the popularity of San Francisco's newly launched Off the Grid street-food events, Señor Sisig quickly became a local phenomenon.
Street food in San Francisco and the wider Bay Area have evolved throughout the decade. It became a source of people's comfort food—an expression of grassroots culture and the entrepreneurial spirit. And Señor Sisig was one of the forefronts in this growing cultural movement using a novel punch.
Senor Sisig Bestsellers
Even though the conventional Filipino sisig is made out of pork, Kidera and Payumo, created a menu that also caters to vegans out there.
To help you decide which are the ones you must try, here are some of their bestsellers.
The Señor Sisig Burrito
Top on the list is the Señor Sisig burrito consists of protein, adobo garlic rice, pinto beans, lettuce, pico de gallo, and cilantro cream sauce.
The vegan version of this burrito is made of tofu. You may also choose their 100% plant-based “Vegano” as a meat alternative.
For a more American style, try the California Sisig burrito. Instead of rice, this mouthwatering comfort food has French fries, shredded cheese, sour cream, guacamole, and pico de gallo.
Sisig Tacos' corn tortilla is filled with protein, onions, lettuce, fresh jalapeños, and drizzled with cilantro cream sauce.
Señor's Sisig Nachos is unlike any other. It's not merely colorful but also flavorful. Instead of the normal beef mince and cheese. This one has unique toppings like a celebration of flavors in every bite.
Crispy corn tortilla chips are topped with protein, pico de gallo, nacho cheese, guacamole, and pickled jalapñeos.
The Sisig Crunchwrap has protein with Monterey jack, pico de gallo, lettuce, sour cream, and guacamole, all inside a tostada wrapped in a grilled flour tortilla. Served with a side of spicy nacho cheese.
Sisig with Rice
Sisig in the Philippines is always paired with hot steamed rice. Therefore, the menu wouldn't be complete without this 100% pure Filipino version of it. Señor Sisig also has the Lechon Kawali for protein, another Filipino dish wherein the pork was fried into crispy perfection. This meal is topped with red onion and chillis, with atchara on the side.
All these flavorful dishes are very affordable, ranging from nearly $5 to $12.50. To those who want more protein, an additional $1 for any extra pork, chicken, tofu, and tocino.
More Sisig in Bay Area
For over a decade, Señor Sisig continued to innovate its products. And even during the pandemic, the business even expanded.
Now, Señor Sisig already has five trucks, two brick-and-mortars, a 100% vegan truck, and ghost kitchens throughout the Bay Area.
You may find their trucks' schedules on their website or order online. You may also visit their restaurants at 990 Valencia St. San Francisco and 1628 Webster St. Oakland.
You can also catch Señor Sisig's local kitchens at Mount Diablo Boulevard, Lafayette, Rogers Avenue, San Jose, and Stevens Creek Boulevard, Cupertino.