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This Sisig Taco in DTLA Is the Bridge Between Mexican and Filipino Cultures

7:30 AM PDT on April 22, 2021

[dropcap size=big]L[/dropcap]eave it up to a taco to reinvigorate my love for downtown LA. On a much-too-warm Saturday, I took the Metro into Downtown and had Petite Peso’s sisig taco. It was a porky reminder of the stunning food offerings you can find in the heart of Los Angeles.

The sisig taco starts with a slow-roasted pork belly which is then stored in the fridge overnight. Next, chicken livers are lightly seared and set aside to cool as well. Once cool, the two proteins are chopped and mixed with red onions, Thai chilis, kewpie mayo, and cornstarch (to make sure it sticks together). On the plancha goes folded tortillas filled with the sisig mixture and seared until crispy. It’s served alongside patis (fish sauce) and calamansi pico de gallo, and lime.

The taco is striking. The gaminess of the liver is cushioned by the pork belly, almost like what you’d expect from a taco de tripas. The pico de gallo adds acidity and freshness to round out the dish. Each crispy bite displays how chef Ria Dolly Barbosa plays with the flavors and textures an Angeleno might be familiar with but then pulls the rug and exposes eaters to lesser-known Filipino dishes. 

Despite having already gone through a ’trendy’ and ‘next big thing’ phase, is still unknown to a lot of people so we thought by bringing the two worlds together, it would create a familiar bridge to bring people in, in hopes they like that first taste enough to explore the rest of our menu,” explains Barbosa in an email.

The sisig tacos take inspiration from one of L.A.’s favorite tacos. “We are HUGE fans of Mariscos Jalisco and took a page out of their book with how they presented their fried shrimp tacos,” says Barbosa. They use corn tortillas sourced from Vallarta supermarket for their own crispy tacos. 

Barbosa was born in the Philippines, but her family moved to L.A. when she was six and was no stranger to tacos. She fondly remembers times when her family had leftover tortillas from El Pollo Loco, and her mom would fill tortillas with leftover pork adobo or beef caldareta. That same essence is felt with her taco Petite Peso. It captures the uniquely L.A. patchwork of flavors, cultures, and familiarity.

“I always considered what we did at Petite Peso as the food I grew up eating with an L.A. perspective, and that is very much what is going on here,” admits Barbosa.

Petite Peso cleverly uses L.A.’s favorite food, the taco, to create a bridge into the rest of her menu. But don’t be fooled though, almost everything at Petite Peso is banging. Chef Barbosa and her team make expertly crafted pastries like their polvorones and ensaymada and modern Filipino dishes like a chicken adobo french dip sandwich. Or other Pinoy favorites like lumpia and pancit or seasonal bowls and salads.

For now, the taco is just a seasonal item, but Barbosa has considered introducing a seasonal rotating taco. One thing is for sure. The sisig taco reminded me how exciting it was to go to Downtown. One thing that’ll never change, you can always get some good eats.

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