Philippine Cuisine Spiced Up the Ilocano Way

Choice and tender pork cuts mixed in a delicately spiced stew of native, crunchy vegetables cooked fast and easy as one, two, and three.
 
Sound good?

Pinakbet is a popular dish in the Philippines. In fact, almost every region in the country has its own version of this native cuisine. But nothing beats an original, especially an original recipe. And there’s no Pinakbet like the original Ilocano Pinakbet. Beware of imitations—they’re well-intentioned concoctions, but they fall short of being fully representative of the real McCoy, the popular dish of Ilocanos.

This native cuisine is a display of small but terrible Ilocano fresh vegetables ranging from small eggplants to small ampalaya or biter melon to small okra and small flat string beans or “patani.” We need a small bunch of all these, plus a fourth of a small squash, ten small peeled unchopped onions, 6 pieces small and ripe tomatoes, a bunch of “kangkong” leaves (an inch of the stems from the leaves included), about a half-fist of peeled ginger (or smaller), 3 pieces long native chili (“sili” for “sinigang”), 5 cups water, and 5 spoonfuls of Ilocano-style preserved small fish. Almost everything small but one can get a big kick out of this popular dish.

A kilo of tender choice cut pork is needed for this native cuisine, cut into small cubes—about 3X3 inches. Tender loin pork may be used. What Filipinos call “liempo” is often the favorite. After chopping the pork, put 5 cups of water in a pot and throw in everything else: pork, vegetables tomatoes, onion, preserved fish, and all. Boil on medium fire. Once in full boil bring immediately to a gentle simmer until pork is tenderly cooked. Do not overcook. Once the pork is cooked enough (about 20 minutes or so), everything’s ready for serving. Serves 5 persons. This popular dish is better eaten when dipped in a sauce of fish sauce (“patis”) with crushed long chili from the cooked dish.

The stew of this special native cuisine, pinakbet, is the result of a delicate mix of succulent flavors oozed from the subtle taste of pork and the sweetness of fresh vegetables plus the qualities of melted tomatoes. The tangy features of ginger and long native chili add a “kick” to the overall pungent taste of this popular dish.

Pinakbet in its original Ilocano form is a native cuisine that can satisfy discriminating taste buds and health aficionados. Among Filipino popular dishes this rates an “A” in overall aspects.

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