Pinakbet, a dish of sauteed vegetables with bagoong (shrimp paste) is traditionally cooked with bagnet, the Ilocano version of crispy fried pork belly. But this is not traditional pinakbet.
First of all, I used lechon kawali which is a close sibling of bagnet. I don’t fry lechon kawali though; I roast it in the oven.
Second, this is not the usual pinakbet where the sauteed vegetables are served swimming in a thin sauce. This is dry pinakbet. At the end of cooking time, the bagoong coats every piece of meat and vegetable and no liquid remains.
Third, I used a special king of bagoong. Not the mushy kind. This bagoong, a present from the parents of Sam’s friend, David, is almost like the pricey Chinese condiment known as XO Sauce. Similar texture. Similar mouth feel. It was lovely.
Those of you who have been following my blog for years might recall how allergic I was to crustaceans. I ate no shrimps, no crabs and no bagoong. Today, I am allergy-free. Although I still eat shrimps and shrimp products sparingly (no need to tempt nature, after all), I am happy to say that as long as they are fresh, my digestive system does not complain.
So, it’s time to retire my old pinakbet with no bagoong recipe.
Now, the cooking.
The most intriguing part about cooking dry-style pinakbet is how the vegetables get cooked through in the absence of liquid without scorching the pan. There is a technique.
What I do is fry the vegetables, one kind at a time. First, the sitaw (yard-long beans. After scooping them out of the oil, the eggplants went in. When the eggplants were half-done, I took them out and into the oil went the okra and, after that, the cubed squash.
Then, in a clean pan, I sauteed the spice base. Garlic, chilies, shallots and tomatoes. And the bagoong. When the mixture was quite dry (I waited until the liquid from the tomatoes had evaporated), I added the fried sitaw, eggplants and squash. It took only a few minutes for them to get cooked all the way through.
When the vegetables were done, I added the pork. A few tosses to coat the meat with the spice base and my pinakbet was ready.
- cooking oil
- 2 cups sitaw (yard-long beans) cut into two-inch lengths
- 2 cups diced eggplants
- 2 cups cubed kalabasa (squash)
- 2 cups diced okra
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 bird's eye chili chopped
- 2 shallots thinly sliced
- 2 plump tomatoes diced
- ¼ cup bagoong (shrimp paste) the best quality you can get your hands on
- patis (fish sauce) as needed
- lechon kawali (as much as you like), cut into two-inch cubes
- In a cooking pan, heat enough oil to reach a depth of at least two inches.
- Dump the sitaw in the hot oil and cook, stirring occasionally, for about three minutes. Scoop out and move to a strainer.
- Add the eggplants to the hot oil and cook for two minutes. Scoop out before they are completely done because the eggplants will continue cooking off the heat. Again, move to a strainer.
- Next, fry the okra for about two minutes.
- Lastly, fry the squash cubes in the oil just long enough for the edges to brown. Scoop out and move to a strainer.
- Heat a frying pan. Drizzle in about two tablespoons of the hot oil from the other pan.
- Over medium heat, saute the garlic, chili, shallots, tomatoes and bagoong until the mixture is almost dry.
- Add the fried vegetables to the pan. Toss gently but thoroughly. Taste. If too bland, drizzle in patis, a little at a time.
- When the vegetables are heated through and done, add the cubed lechon kawali. Toss a few times to distribute evenly and to coat the meat with the shrimp paste spice base.
- Serve your pinakbet with lechon kawali with hot rice.