Dinuguan is a popular Filipino dish that is mostly made of pork innards and blood. The word comes from the Filipino root word “dugo,” which is translated as “blood.” The dish is often in the form of a stew, with the pork blood as the primary ingredient for the thickened sauce. Its color can range from a muddy brown to a blackened soup, making it a deceiving dish that some people mistake for a chocolate dish. This is why it has garnered the nickname of “chocolate meat.”
It is said that during the pre-Hispanic and Hispanic period, local chieftains, landlords, and other influential people in the society would slaughter a pig during fiestas and other important occasions. Being the societal leaders, they would get the lion’s share of the roasted pig, but would leave behind the innards and the drained blood to the servants and workers. In turn, the servants would use common kitchen ingredients such as garlic, onion, and a little salt, to turn the innards into a stew.
Aside from the usual garlic and onion, the dinuguan is also cooked with green peppers, both for the fragrance and for that added spicy kick. Some versions would have the green peppers whole, others sliced into big pieces. Lemongrass, or “tanglad” in Filipino, is also a common flavoring, probably to cut off some of the taste and smell of the innards. Bay leaf can also be added for extra fragrance.
One important thing to remember when cooking dinuguan is to prevent the blood from coagulating once it is drained from the pig. Many regions would usually mix it with vinegar, or even coconut milk. The liver can also be pureed to make the blood sauce thicker and richer. It is also important to simmer the dish for a long time to remove the taste and odor of the blood, and of course, to make it safe to eat.
Depending on different regions, the dish can be cooked in varying versions. In the Tagalog region, the dinuguan contains more soup, which is perfect to pour over the white rice. In the Ilocos region, the dish, also called “dinardaraan” from the word “dara” that also means “blood,” is usually made drier. In Batangas, their version of the dish may not even include innards, but instead uses prime cuts for the meat. Dinuguan is also popularly paired with a sweet white rice cake called “puto,” a very nice contrast not only in color, but also in taste.
The dinuguan may be a very unique dish in Filipino cuisine, but it also has similarities to other dishes around Europe. The “melas zomos” or black soup of the Spartans, also used blood and pork as the main ingredients. The Swedish “svartsoppa,” also translated as black soup, is also a similar dish that can also be made from goose blood.