Nothing says 'Good morning!" better than a plateful of longganisa.
At least, in my case. See, even before I discovered the simple glory of the pancake, hash brown, and orange juice combo during my college days, or choco chip muffin plus coffee with milk (two sugars! please), I spent a good number of days as a child waking up to this all too familiar breakfast meal: longsilog. With eyelids still half-shut at five in the morning, I then reluctantly head to the dining area where a pair or so of freshly cooked native sausages await. Slightly burnt on some parts, the fat longganisas looked giddy, almost like they were on the verge of bursting. With the chorus of the roosters as background music, the longganisas in their steamy glory bid me a warm "Good morning!" Ahhh, another day has started.
Much like Anton Ego's flashback scene upon a bite of Remy's Ratatouille, that recollection honestly was the first thing that raced in my mind as I was served a plateful of longganisa in Sonsi House of Longganisa.
But my first visit there wasn't at the break of dawn. It was noon and the sun was priding its prowess. Since that area in Pioneer Mandaluyong is practically barren of any shady place (except if we were to go to the mall or walk into some random building), we decided to stop by and have our lunch somewhere in Madison Complex. House Of Longganisa sounded awesome. So Sonsi, it was.
Instead of roosters' chorus, a steady humming of cars hustling the busy Pioneer road served as my background music. In place of our antique wooden chair, I found myself sitting on a Monobloc at the al fresco area of the unadorned resto. My eyes weren't half shut as well. On the contrary, they were on their most alert state, almost gleaming. With something like this in front, how could they not?
If it were back then, I would consider the platter above as "mama's not so clever way of force feeding me the same old longganisa through dicing 'em." But today, it is the Longganisa Platter. And doesn't it sound glorious?
I browsed the chalk board in front of the store and found an easy read of longganisa variants Sonsi offers. I grew up eating the normal, fat and oblong kind of longganisa. You know, the red one tied end to end in community markets. It's that, or the skinless ones in supermarkets. The latter, I prefer better. It isn't until later on that I learned of the existence of Vigan longganisa, which I thought for a while as the only "other longganisa." So definitely, me being in an actual "House of Longganisa," was like a pre-schooler in her first first trip to a zoo.
"So how many longganisas are housed in here?" I ask John Sison, owner of Sonsi Longganisa (Si-son, son-si... get that?). John can be thought of as somewhat a longganisa connoisseur, if that title even makes sense. He lives and breathes longganisa. Okay, that was an exaggeration, but seriously. His job is to hunt for each region's best longganisa and share them to us here in Manila. Ultimately, he's somehow helping the good ol' longganisa gain recognition, pushing it to a celebrity status. After all, its cousin tapa has been in the spotlight for the past decade. It's about time. Right, longganisa fans?
"Now, we have seven," John answered. Alaminos, Cabanatuan, Lucban, Vigan, Tuguegarao, Cebu, and Baguio. The Longganisa Platter (P255) requires you a mix of 3 choice regions. For our meal, we chose Alaminos, Vigan, and Tugegarao, a best-selling trio according to John. We ordered their Lechon Macau Fried Rice (P135), which is easily good for 3 people, to go with the order.
Lechon Macau Fried Rice
Easiest to spot is Vigan which is dark in color like ground beef.
I instantly loved Vigan longganisa. I love how distinct and powerful its flavor was, again almost approximating ground beef. My friends found it a little too salty, but personally, it was fine. It definitely is fattier than it is meatier, the oiliest among the three.
At the other side is the vibrant orange Tugegarao.
Beside it, Vigan looks old and dull. The photogenic giniling however isn't as extreme as it looks. I like how Tugegarao is mildly salty and not too spicy. Its best quality however is being very garlicky (I'm a fan!). In fact, you would remember Tugegarao longganisa solely for that. And to match something really garlicky with cheek-numbing suka... you must know now what that equates to.
And last but not the least, is Alaminos. John's favorite.
Looks-wise, Alaminos can be considered the most normal looking one among the three. In plain red-orange color, much like Manila longganisa, this skinny but not skinless longganisa is served sliced in penny-sized pieces. A closer look would reveal that Alaminos is peppery. A bite will prove so. Apart from it being extra peppery and smoky, this kind doesn't register much difference from the regular longganisas. And oh, with the skin still intact, expect it to be more chewy than the previous ones.
Aside from longganisas, Sonsi also serves other Filipino comfort food items such as Kangkong in Oyster Sauce (P75), Bonoan Bangus (P125), and Calamares (P135).
Kangkong in Oyster Sauce
The kangkong made a good appetizer and palate cleanser in between longganisa bites but it's not much different from what's available in other restaurants. The Bonoan Bangus wasn't too salty, which was good news, given the high levels of salt already in our system thanks to the longganisa. Calamares also did fairly well as it wasn't gummy at all.
There were four of us who shared for lunch that time (three girls, 1 boy) and we even ended up having left overs. Some say Sonsi's longganisa servings are quite small, so I guess it really depends on how hungry you are. After all, that's fatty longganisa we are talking about right? As with all things great, do enjoy it in moderation.
Longganisa may be something too common to us Pinoys. It's not exactly a dish that needs cooking expertise nor one we'd crave to order when we're eating out. Open your fridge and chances are, you have the native sausages in stock. But together with this familiarity is its capability to define what "comfort food" really is. I'm sure we all have our share of memories of longganisa one way or another. It may be something you had for baon for a good portion of your elementary years, or maybe something you first tried cooking. Whatever it is, longganisa will always hold a special place in our Filipino hearts. It may not be as as stellar yet as our sisig or lechon, but with efforts such as John's, I'm sure longganisa will eventually be.