Etag Smoked Pork: What you should know about this exotic food

Etag is an exotic pork food of locals in the upland Cordilleras, distinct with its strong, smoky flavor.

An ancient practice of preserving food, curing meat with salt starts the process of turning a slab of pork into the unexpectedly addictive etag. Using bare hands, a generous amount of rock salt is applied on all surface of the meat. The cured meat is then hung for the next process- smoking with the use of pine, guava or alnus (black alder) wood chunks. The smoking process ends in a week, with the pork losing about 20% of its original weight.


Using a well-ventilated kitchen is recommended. Since the smell of etag can be transferred to the hands, using rubber or plastic gloves can help avoid getting smelly hands after cooking. 


After slicing etag into the desired cuts (less than an inch wide cut is practical as a thicker cut yields longer time to soften the meat),soaking it in boiling water for a minute does not only lessen the saltiness of the meat but also help remove oil in the exposed surface.


Etag is commonly added to any soupy food like tinola, nilaga, and mongo for instant salt ingredient and a strong smoky taste. In fact, Cordillerans use etag to flavor pinikpikan, their own version of tinola. 

It may take at least half an hour to soften the meat while releasing its signature salty and smoky taste. To further control the saltiness of the soup once etag is added, chayote, papaya, and other bland-tasting vegetables can help absorb the saltiness.

If not as a sahog to a soupy food, etag can also be sliced thinly like bacon and sauteed with any types of vegetables and herbs. When topped on a cup of rice, this makes a perfect breakfast. 


Since its smell is strong, etag may attract flies. Thus, it is advisable to wrap the etag in paper and place it in a closed container. The paper absorbs its oil excretion when the temperature rises.

While it is advisable to consume etag as soon as possible, sun-drying it once in a while can help preserve it further. In the cold mountains of the Cordilleras, houses can store etag for months. 

Placing etag inside the fridge may be a bit problematic, since its smell may affect other food. 

In the resort town of Sagada, locals celebrate the Etag Festival every February. A part of the fest is a show off of different ways of cooking the smoked meat through traditional ways and new techniques in an attempt to adapt the exotic food to the taste buds of the new generation.

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