Tag Archive for ilocano food

Pinakbet Guisado

Pakbet or pinakbet guisado is a popular and modified version of the authentic pinakbet. Although the ingredients are the same, the manner of cooking is guisado. Instead of strategical boiling of the vegetables, this version is sauteed in pork fat (generated from cooking the other main ingredient, pork belly) and added with a generous serving of Ilocos bagnet or 'Chicharon Camiling'. Ingredients Eggplant, 2 lbs Bittermelon, 2 lbs Sweet potato or yam, 2 lbs Tomato, 1 lb 1 small can of tomato sauce Bagoong monamon, 1/8 of a cup Okra, 1 lb 2 tablespoons of minced garlic Half cup of white onion Pork broth Sliced Pork belly, 2 lbs Scallion Preparation of the vegetable is as important as cooking it. The shape and size must be bigger than usual to not overcook. Timing, cookware, variety of vegetables used are the different factors to consider when cooking pinakbet. Vegetable Cutting Procedure 1) Peel the sweet potato. Cut into big chunks around 1" by 2". Do not cut too small because they easily crumble once cooked. Soak in water while preparing the rest of the vegetables. 2) Cut the bittermelon. Clean out the seeds. Cut into half-inch sticks. To those who prefer it less bitter, soak in brine water for 15 minutes or more. 3) Cut the eggplant. If it is the round variety just slice a little bit on top. If it is the asian long ones cut into 3 slices and slice the top part making sure the two halves are still jointed on the lower part. Just like the sweet potato also soak in water to prevent darkening of the cut vegetables. 4) Mince the tomatoes. Keep the juice and seeds. 5) The okra just needs to be washed and cleaned on top. Do not cut the head. The seeds will spill out once cooked if the top is cut. Pork Belly Preparation 1) Boil chopped scallions and pork together. Wait until pork is tender. Remove from broth then cut into bite-size pieces in such a way that fat, skin and meat are evenly distributed in each slice. 2) In a thick pan with splatter cover, pour little oil. Once ready, fry the pork. Turn over when necessary. Wait until both sides are brown. This can be dangerous as oil splatters can burn the skin. If available buy already cooked bagnet or crispy pata as an alternative. Set aside when done. Keep the oil for next step. Saute Procedure 1) Using the remaining pork fat, saute garlic and onions. Mix the tomato. Pour a cup or two of pork broth. Wait until the tomato is melted. 2) Throw in the sweet potato. 3) Once the potato has changed color, put the eggplant. 4) Put the bittermelon. Do not disturb and cover. 5) Once the other vegetables are 80 percent ready, put the bagoong, tomato sauce, pork belly and okra. 6) Simmer for another 5 minutes. There you go! Pakbet guisado is now ready! TIP: The pinakbet is best enjoyed the same day it is cooked. Not recommended for tomorrow's baon. 20130911-123654.jpg

Do-It-Yourself Binubudan: When Craving Gets Tough, BREW!

One of my favorite Ilocano specialties is the binubudan or tapuy. Binubudan is a wine porridge that is a favorite northern Philippine delicacy usually eaten as a snack or breakfast item. It has a soupy rice consistency and with a sweet juice that tastes a lot like sake. The key ingredient is the 'budbud' or live yeast balls available in the Philippine north. Once I tried using the yeast balls available I found in oriental stores in New York, the finished product did not quite come close to the kind we eat back home. (Maybe in the microbiological level there are also ethnic differences) In my part of the US, the perfect timing is during summer, June to August, when the hot weather is most ideal for fermenting binubudan.

Preparing binududan is fairly easy. The hardest part is waiting 3-9 days before the delicacy can be enjoyed.


1) Sweet sticky rice (for stronger wine taste) or red rice (for sweeter binubudan) 2) Budbod, usually imported from the Philippines 3) PATIENCE! - Fermentation can take 3-9 days. WHAT TO EXPECT 3 days: it starts smelling like alcohol. 5 days: my favorite when I can taste the alcohol, but the rice remains sweet. 9 days: results to a very intoxicating binubudan and bittersweet taste. 10 days or more: Expect some kind of hard liquor. Rice will disappear.   PROCEDURE 1) Steam cook the rice. (Like you always do) Let it cool.

2) In a clean (must be very sterile) container, terracotta or steel, sprinkle the powdered budbod evenly on cooked rice. For one cup of rice, I usually use half of the budbod cake. I arrived at this preference by trial and error.

3) Cover the container with a clean cotton cloth. This allows the fermentation agents to breathe and do their work well.

4) Keep and place in a cool dry place away from sunlight and movement. Do not disturb until its ready.

5) Once the binubudan is ready it will smell sweet and with soup that tastes a lot like alcohol. No need to add anything. I like serving it cold though so I put it in the fridge to cool before enjoying.

Like any alcoholic beverage and food, it can be intoxicating so eat moderately.


Yeast cakes imported from the Philippines


I prefer using the red rice variety. The red wine once fermented is sweeter compared to the usual white sticky rice.

What Makes Ilocano Food Ilocano

Ilocanos are notoriously known for being frugal. Born of an area bereft of  resources, who can blame them? As far back as Pre-hispanic times, they scrimped to survive the harsh living conditions of the northern Philippines. If it were hard times for the entire archipelago, it was much harder for them (and yes same is true for some of our brothers in Visayas and Mindanao). They migrated vigorously.  Families moving in droves to south, and males boarding ships to Hawaii, Alaska and California to fill foreign labor with their entire clan following suit. Motivation to go find better life is the major reason why they are one of the most dispersed ethnic communities in the Philippines.
These hardships and lack of resources reflect on the Ilocano table. Food preparation was always simple, and ingredients never expensive if not FREE for most ingredients were  locally available. And fortunately for them, the selections were very healthy and green. They cooked the slimy saluyot, picked flowers and made them edible, and basically took every free growing weed into the pot then flavored them with the smelly buggoong and armang. As compared to the Ilocano taste, Filipinos in general are a culture of meat eaters. The healthy roughage, overly simple and flesh-scant Ilocano viands don't appeal to the common Pinoy tongue. Onlypinakbet and bagnet have made it to mainstream Filipino cuisine. In fact, have you ever seen a popular faithfully Ilocano restaurant chain that serves dinengdeng? Nope. Some Tagalogs aren't even aware that such mix of bitter vegetables and leftover fish tail could be so deliciously addicting.
Scavenger Cook
I'm an immigrant Ilocano living in the States. In US, ingredients are easily available, food is relatively affordable, but it's hard to shake off traits that have been socially and culturally ingrained in my head. Plus, I admit I miss the bitter veggie stew my grandmother used to cook. In one of my sentimental weeks, I actually spent more cooking Ilocano comfort foods whose ingredients have otherwise been free if cooked in my hometown in Tarlac, but since New York has a climate that wouldn't perennially grow  ingredients like saluyot, I splurged on ingredients that turned out to be more expensive than the regular American steak.
I don't cook often, but whenever I do my method of cooking is green in the recycled sense. I cook whatever is in the fridge. I cook whatever is left from last night's dinner. I cook the takeout leftovers. No fancy ingredients. No elaborate trappings. No running to the store to buy missing ingredients. I make my fridge as sustainable as possible. Simple and economical are my two governing principles. On this page, do not expect popular Filipino foods. I only do creations born out of hunger. Food that is cooked because I was hungry and at the same time have this creative tendency to see how a certain leftover will taste if mixed with something I don't want to throw out from the fridge.
I have been programmed to be frugal, so frugal I will be. I am your friendly, feisty, and most frugal Ilocano SCAVENGER COOK.