People travel for different reasons. Some do it to escape the mundane, others go for the company, there are those who do it to “widen their horizon” while some others travel just for fun. I travel to eat and discover food. When I get badly smitten by a newly discovered food, it becomes part of our everyday meals at home. Such is the case with poqui-poqui, an Ilocano egg and and eggplant dish that my family was introduced to during a trip to Ilocos many years ago.
The name sounds funny—vulgar even because it’s almost like saying “vagina-vagina” in Tagalog. Believe me, I have wondered so many times about the origin of the name of the dish. I wondered if someone with a wry sense of humor was responsible for it. Think about it: In Filipino culture, the eggplant is often used to refer to the penis while eggs form part of the external anatomy of the male body. So, to call a dish poqui-poqui when the ingredients are culturally associated with the male body may seem funny to some.
But poqui-poqui’s name, it appears, is more culturally significant than someone’s dirty mind.
… according to Chita Sanculi of Divine Word College in Ilocos Sur, poqui poqui’s name origin can be traced back to the ’80s. Around that time, many Filipinos migrated to Hawaii to plant pineapples. The word “poki” in Hawaii means “to cut up” or “mash.” [Source]
To cook poqui-poqui, grilled eggplants are peeled and chopped, and sauteed with shallots, garlic and tomatoes. Beaten eggs are stirred in and everything cooks together until the dish resembles the texture of slightly wet scrambled eggs.
Granted that it’s not the best-looking vegetable dish in the world. But, oh man, it sure is one of the tastiest meatless dishes I have tried—and I have tried a lot. It may be a simple dish but “deceptively simple” might be the more appropriate phrase to use to describe how it is cooked. But even before the cooking, there’s the matter of the ingredients.
First, the eggplant. Not all eggplants are created equal—some are sweet, some are bland, some are somewhat bitter. The best eggplants for poqui-poqui are the sweet ones because they create a delicate balance with the tartness of the tomatoes. Asian eggplants, in other words. The long ones. They are sweet and creamy.
Second, the proportion of eggplants to eggs. Use too many eggs and the egg flavor will overpower the delicate sweetness of the eggplants. Use too many eggplants and the texture doesn’t turn out so good.
Third, use shallots instead of onions.
Fourth, season with patis (fish sauce).
Poqui-poqui, an Ilocano Egg and Eggplant Dish
This recipe has been modified from the two versions published in 2011 and 2013, respectively.
Grill the eggplants. The easiest way is to place them directly on the gas stove. Move and rotate them occasionally for even charring until cooked through. Cool the eggplants.
While the eggplants cool, peel and mince the garlic; peel and thinly slice the shallots; and roughly chop the tomatoes.
When the eggplants are cool enough to handle, use paper towels to rub off the charred skins. Finely chop the eggplants.
Heat the cooking oil in a wok or frying pan. Saute the garlic, shallots and tomatoes for about a minute. Add the chopped eggplants. Season with fish sauce. Continue sauteeing until the mixture appears dry.
Pour the beaten eggs in a thin stream, stirring the contents of the pan with one hand as your pour the eggs with the other. Drizzle in more fish sauce. Cook, stirring, just until the eggs are set.
Serve the poqui-poqui at once.