casaveneracion.com Pinakbet, an Ilocano pork and vegetable stew with shrimp paste

Pinakbet, an Ilocano pork and vegetable stew with shrimp paste

If you ask the average Filipino what Ilocano cooking is all about, he’ll likely say, “Bagnet, empanada and pinakbet.” Of course, Ilocano cooking is much, much more than those three dishes. But bagnet, Ilocano empanada and pinakbet are sort of iconic and they are loved by Ilocanos and non-Ilocanos alike.

What is pinakbet? It is a a pork and vegetable stew with shrimp paste. There are as many recipes as there are cooks, some Ilocanos claim that only the Tagalog version of the dish includes squash, others say otherwise because, like most regional dishes with peasant origin, pinakbet is really about cooking with whatever ingredients are on hand. Therefore, although there are vegetables that are considered traditional for cooking pinakbet — like ampalaya (bitter gourd), malunggay pods and okra — it is not the presence of all traditional pinakbet vegetables in the dish that makes it pinakbet. Rather, it is about how it is cooked and how it tastes.

I say all that because Filipinos can be ridiculously regionalistic when it comes to food. And many Filipinos judge the authenticity of a dish not so much by cultural or historical standards but by the way their mothers and grandmothers cooked them to the point that they will insist that a recipe is wrong unless it is exactly the same as their mothers’ and grandmothers’. There are even some who say that unless you’re a true-blue Ilocano, you can’t cook Ilocano dishes properly. Filial love and regional loyalty are nice but, you know, cooking just doesn’t work that way.

And just how should pinakbet taste? It’s a bit complex, truth be told, because aside from the seasonings, the vegetables all have distinct flavors and all the flavors meld together as they simmer away with the pork. In simplistic terms, pinakbet is salty (a distinctive kind of saltiness because of the shrimp paste), a little sweet and a little spicy.

For best results, the best meat for cooking pinakbet is bagnet. No bagnet on hand? Use lechon kawali. Otherwise, if plain pork belly is all you’ve got, just make sure that you brown the pork well before adding the vegetables. Seriously. Plain boiled pork won’t give this dish justice. The pork has to have substantial texture.

Recipe: Pinakbet

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsps. of cooking oil
  • 2 c. of diced bagnet, lechon kawali or well-browned pork belly
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 tomatoes, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • a thumb-sized piece of ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsps. of bagoong (native shrimp paste)
  • patis (fish sauce), to taste
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • a bit of sugar, for balance
  • 6 okra, diced
  • 1 c. of cut sitaw (string beans a.k.a. yard-long beans)
  • 2 eggplants, diced
  • 1 to 2 c. of diced squash
  • 1 and 1/2 to 2 c. of pork broth

Instructions

  1. Heat the cooking oil in a frying pan.
  2. Add the pork, garlic, ginger, onion and tomatoes. Season with the bagoong, patis, black pepper and sugar. Toss around just until heated through.
  3. casaveneracion.com Pinakbet: an Ilocano pork and vegetable stew with shrimp paste
  4. Add the vegetables. All at the same time? No. The ones that take longest to cook go in first. There really is no hard and fast rule there as to which vegetable takes longest to cook because some vegetables are more mature than others. In short, I can’t say that, in strict terms, the sitaw and the okra should go on first. They should if they’re mature because they’ll need to cook longer than the eggplants and the squash. But if they are very tender, it is possible that they will cook in the same amount of time as the eggplants and the squash.
  5. casaveneracion.com Pinakbet: an Ilocano pork and vegetable stew with shrimp paste
  6. In my case, the okra and the sitaw were quite mature so I threw them in first. After adding the first batch of vegetables (or all the vegetables, whichever is true in your case), pour in the broth. How much? Just enough to wet the vegetables, not to totally cover them. You’re going to stew them, not make a soup out of them. The broth has to be just enough so that by the time the vegetables are done, you have a little sauce that has thickened a bit.
  7. So, after adding the broth, bring to the boil and let boil, uncovered, for a couple of minutes. Lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer until all the vegetables are done. Avoid stirring to prevent the vegetables from breaking apart. Rather, toss and swirl the pan from time to time.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 20 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4



Comments

  1. AngelGab says

    This is what we had for lunch today, paired with daing na GG. To make sure my kids eat their vegetables, I add in some kamote. It gives the dish a little sweetness. I also add more broth than usual for their ‘sabaw’. :)

  2. jv says

    I love pinakbet and I love it best with pritong gg. ^_^ Minsan pag ako ang nagluluto, instead of pork, hinimay na pritong gg ang hinahalo ko. :D

  3. Connie says

    I don’t think you two know each other but pinakbet-galunggong combo is your common denominator. :) Speedy will love that.

  4. says

    I have been looking for a good recipe of this for a while. It was a dish I didn’t like as a kid but started to love as I got older. Unfortunately I couldn’t remember how my Lola would make it.

    I can’t wait to try this out, Thank you for much for the detail instructions and pictures for each step.

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