Tag Archive for ampalaya

Bitter is Better for Ilocanos

Ilocanos love  bitter veggies making the  parya (ampalaya or bittermelon) as its centerfold in most meals. I can't count how many ways we cook the parya leaves (sometimes with the flowers, too) or its fruit in any dish. In New York, parya leaves are sold in frozen packets in most Asian groceries. Pictured below are the three common varieties I spotted in New York plus its leaves, of course.   The fruit is available all year round but is best bought during summer when it is considerably cheaper. Preparation To prepare the fruit, some people will soak it in brine water prior cooking (10-20 minutes) to remove bitter taste. Some would even squeeze the bitter juice after soaking. Ilocanos would usually eat it as it is. No squeezing or soaking. When they cook the authentic Pinakbet Ilocano the seeds are not carved out of the fruit to preserve the bitter taste. Bitter is definitely better. Cooking the ampalaya leaves is tricky. It is bitter with aftertaste of sweet when cooked right -- not overly done nor undercooked. Timing is crucial. The leaves are usually thrown into the pot in what my lola would say as 'huling kulo' (literally means the last boil) which is when everything else in the pot is almost ready. Don't simmer. And a superstition states that when you smile as you pour the leaves, it will not be very bitter. Here are standard Filipino viands that make use of ampalaya: 1)Dinendeng - a very Ilocano method of cooking seasonal vegetables. Flavoring is the bagoong or monamon alamang 2)Pinakbet - there are 2 kinds: the authentic Ilocano and the guisado 3) Ensaladang parya - boiled or cooked together with steamed rice. dipped in bagoong and best eaten with fish. 4)Guisadong mongo - soup of mung beans with either pork or shrimp 5)Suam - soup of glutinous corn with pork or shrimp 6)Beef Tausi - great with Korean spices 7)Tofu tausi- same as beef tausi minus the meat, for vegetarians 8)Pork spare ribs with ampalaya fruit 9)Bulanglang - sauteed with alamang or another version is with coconut milk 10)Pork binagoongan with ampalaya fruit 11) Paksiw bangus with ampalaya fruit 12) Guisadong itlog with amplaya 13) Chicken sotanghon with ampalaya fruit 14) Frog stew with amapala leaves -- EXOTIC!   Here's a list of avant garde dishes using ampalaya. These are meals borne out of dormitory halls. 1)Corned beef with ampalaya 2)Red sardines with ampalaya - Ligo sardines is highly recommended 3)Button mushroom soup with ampalaya - use the fresh mushrooms 4)Ampalaya leaves omelette - not for everyone! 5)Guisadong ampalaya leaves with onions and tomatoes -- again not for everyone! 6) Pansit pakbet - a version of the one served at Isdaan Restaurant in Gerona, Tarlac. (http://www.travbuddy.com/Isdaan-Restaurant-v193237)   There are more possibilities. Let me know if you have one in mind. For inquiries about recipes, email me at maricar@ilocanoyork.com.