By JAMES TABABA
Pork is an essential part of the Filipino diet and cuisine. Adobo, lechon, sisig, crispy pata, bagnet, and sinigang are examples of well-known Filipino pork dishes. However, buying pork can be overwhelming, especially for those still inexperienced in cooking. Once you go to the meat section of the market, there are a lot of different pork cuts to choose from. Here are some of the standard pork cuts in the market to consider when cooking a particular pork dish.
Paypay (Boston shoulder)
Paypay is a cut of meat from the upper portion of a pig’s front shoulder. It is sourced from the pig’s shoulder blade, behind the head or neck. Some may refer to this part as “shoulder cut.” Because it is not heavily exercised, it is less tough and has more intramuscular fat making it ideal for barbecues.
Kasim (Picnic shoulder)
Kasim is the cut of meat from the lower portion of the pig’s front shoulder, below the paypay. Compared to the paypay, kasim is a heavily exercised muscle of the pig, which is why it is a leaner and tougher meat.
Both the paypay and kasim are the most versatile part of the pig in terms of cooking. They are commonly used in adobo, menudo, and sinigang. The fat-to-meat ratio of these parts are also ideal for making ground pork used in giniling dishes.
Loin is the long portion of meat located at the back of the pig between the shoulder and back legs. This is the largest lean and tender part of the pig. It can be requested to be bone-in or boneless. The loin can be used in various dishes but is usually grilled or roasted.
Tenderloin is a long, narrow, boneless cut of meat that runs alongside the backbone. It is the leanest or the cut with the lowest fat content. Unlike other pork cuts that need to be cooked slowly to have tender meat, pork tenderloin is best cooked quickly at high heat, making it ideal for pan-seared pork dishes.
Ribs are located at the side of the pig, below the loin and above the pork belly. It can be further classified into pork spare ribs and baby back ribs. Baby back ribs are the ribs connected to the backbone. They are called “baby” because they are shorter, leaner, and more tender than the spare ribs, which are the ribs cut from the baby back ribs to the pig’s breast bone. Spare ribs have more meat between the bones, and the bones are longer, straighter, flatter, and have more fat than the baby back ribs. Pork ribs are popularly cooked grilled, roasted, or oven-baked.
Pigue (Hind leg)
Pigue is another lean meat derived from the back leg area of the pig. This is the part where hams are made. Similar to kasim, it is commonly cooked in stews and braises like adobo, menudo, and nilaga where slow cooking is required because it has less fat and needs to be tenderized.
The pork belly of liempo is taken from the belly or sides of the pig. It is composed of layers of fat and lean meat, making it the most flavorful cut of pork. This part is also where bacon comes from. Aside from making inihaw or fried liempo, it is a great substitute for kasim if you want to make your dish more flavorful.
Pata is taken from a pig’s back or front knee joints. This part of the pig is usually boiled or braised for flavor from the layers of skin, tendons, and ligaments surrounding it. The meat from the upper part of the leg can be used as a substitute for kasim or pigue, while the trotters or pigs’ toes can be boiled to make a flavorful stock. Pata is popularly cooked as crispy pata and patatim.
The head consists of multiple edible parts – the meaty pig’s cheeks, the cartilaginous ears, and the snout. The different texture of the pig’s head is ideal for making the sisig and dinakdakan. The head can also be chopped up and barbecued for pulutan or sold as street food.
Not all meat cuts are priced equally because some parts are more tender and have high amounts of fat or marbling compared to others. Pork belly, tenderloin, and ribs are expensive pork cuts because of this reason. Being familiar with the different pork cuts may help in looking for alternative substitutes.