Dinakdakan: How to Make Creamy Ilocano Grilled Pork Face at Home

Image source - Pexels.com
Jump to recipe

Dear sweet moms and parents! April here helping you relax into motherhood from my tropical island home. Today we’re exploring a unique Filipino delicacy from the northern Ilocos region – dinakdakan, a favorite delicacy in local parties especially served as “pulutan” or appetizer.

What is Dinakdakan

This creamy pork brain stew uses all parts of the pig, tailored to minimize waste and maximize flavor in an island culture of resourcefulness. Since my father hails from the Ilocos region, it’s one of the Ilocano dishes I grew up with and look at with fondness.  It starts with boiling pork belly until tender, then sealing in flavor with a delicious grill. But the best part is the savory mayonnaise dressing mixed with onions, chilies and calamansi that brings all the flavors together.

Traditionally, Dinakdakan consists of boiled, then grilled pork parts like ears, cheeks, tongue and sometimes intestines blended into a rich sauce and the star ingredient – pig brains.  The brain adds a unique richness that sets Dinakdakan apart from other Filipino dishes.  Unfortunately for us, this is not always available so my recipe uses mayonnaise, maintaining the creamy consistency without sacrificing taste. I know some will be raising their eyes but this dish is equally yummy as the traditional Dinakdakan. 

But, at the heart of Dinakdakan lies the main ingredient: grilled or roasted pork parts. Traditionally, Ilocanos used pig’s face, ears, and tongue, adding a distinctive texture and depth of flavor. My father actually never grills the pork and prefers it as just boiled. According to him, this is the authentic dinakdakan and not the grilled one.  But I argue that when the pork is grilled to perfection, it imparts a smoky essence that elevates the dish. I like the almost charred flavor of the pork mixing with the creaminess and the heat from the chilis.

The aromatic flavors of Dinakdakan come from the combination of onions, ginger, and garlic. To balance the richness of the pork and creaminess, calamansi juice, a local citrus fruit, is used to create a tangy dressing. This addition not only adds a refreshing zing but also helps cut through the richness, creating a harmonious symphony of flavors. Put together, these ingredients lend a burst of freshness and a touch of pungency that enhances the overall experience. 

How to Cook Dinakdakan: A Labor of Love

Like the Sisig,  the preparation of Dinakdakan may seem labor-intensive, the love and care poured into the dish make it a culinary journey worth taking. If you’re a busy mom like me though. I have added options with modern “hacks” to make this island delicacy simpler for busy moms.

Instead of grilling all the pork parts, you can use the air fryer to pan-fry it to perfection. This shortcut save tons of hands-on time without sacrificing much flavor.

You can just use the classic liempo instead of pork parts if they are not available.

For the pork brain, simply use mayonaisse. You can lessen the time of cooking and chopping by also using liver spread instead of liver that you have to grill and chop later.

How To Cook Ilocano Style Dinakdakan

Last weekend, I gathered the traditional ingredients to give it a try. It was definitely a new process for me – boiling the pork parts first before grilling was a technique that packs a flavor.

I can see why Ilocano dinakdakan is considered a prized comfort food in the region. Using quality pork parts and those melt-in-your mouth pork cheeks results in a dish that packs a punch and is perfect for beer!

If you’re looking to experience authentic regional cuisine, I highly recommend seeking out Ilocano dinakdakan recipe.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to create this iconic Ilocano masterpiece as well as notes for preparation. 

While some find the idea of pork brains off-putting, the texture melts into the sauce, leaving only a subtle mineral flavor. 

I hope this island-inspired take on creamy pork brain stew brings moments of joy and unity with your little ones,mama. To get this tutorial emailed to you along with toddler activities, simply sign up for my newsletter below!

Bask in the boujee,

Related articles

You may also be interested in

New updates right into your inbox.


Never Miss A Story

Get our Weekly recap with the latest news, articles and resources.
Cookie policy
We use our own and third party cookies to allow us to understand how the site is used and to support our marketing campaigns.