Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Pinakbet in a Palayok

title
One of my food resolutions is to learn how to cook Filipino food. My own cuisine has always been, to me, a secret world of family recipes that I never took the time to learn. Why try to learn how to make adobo and sinigang when somebody’s grandmother or mother or aunt has already spent years mastering it? Why not just enjoy these dishes at their tables and spend my cooking-energy learning something like how to make pasta and bread and French desserts?

Shamefully, I have fallen into the trap of familiarity-breeding-complacency when it comes to Filipino food. Obviously, it’s everywhere over here! And since this old comfort-blanket of dishes has kept me warm and safe quite successfully for all this time, I hesitate to weave my own version.

But nevertheless, I pull back my shoulders and put a tentative toe in the Filipino kitchen. I’ve already started making adobo – I have come quite far from my first attempt I’m happy to report. I’m still far from setting a recipe in stone as there are just so many things you can do with it! With the arrival of this bounty of vegetables though, pinakbet was the obvious choice.

Pinaktbet (or pakbet for short) is a very popular Filipino dish that hails from our Northern province of Ilocos***. Ilocos is a region with quite a distinct culinary profile, and some of its dishes, like pinakbet, have become popular all over the country. It is a vegetable dish that includes eggplant, ampalaya (bitter melon), okra, sitaw (long beans), chilli, tomatoes, ginger, fatty pork, and bagoong isda (their fish sauce). In some versions of pinakbet, squash is added – but I think this may be more a Southern move.

Another reason why I was so excited to make this dish, aside from the serendipity of having all the main ingredients delivered fresh to my doorstep, was my palayok. A palayok is our native clay pot used for cooking and I have had one for a couple of years now. It’s been sitting in my kitchen, longing to be used, but I’ve just never had the wherewithal to do so.

Well, it seems like fate had all the stars aligned for a pinakbet in a palayok and who am I to argue with culinary kismet? :)

No recipe yet, since I was just feeling my way around the dish (making kapa). But in a nutshell this is what I did:

Heat some oil in the (seasoned) palayok. Add chopped bagnet (this is the fatty pork I used). Add chopped garlic, onions, ginger, tomatoes – let reduce a bit. Add bagoong (I used bagoong alamang, shrimp paste, because I didn’t have any bagoong isda). Add in layers: chopped squash, ampalaya, sitaw, okra, eggplant, and chilli. If you want to get an idea of the quantities, take a look at this photo – I used all of the squash, ampalaya, okra, and eggplant, about half the sitaw, and one chilli. I added a little more bagoong on top of the vegetables and covered the pot. I let it cook for about 15-20 minutes total, checking on it every so often to make sure it wouldn’t burn. More than one source instructed me not to stir, but try as I might, I couldn’t manage the gentle palayok-shaking needed to toss the ingredients...so, sigh, I had to stir...which accounts for some of the mushiness of my vegetables.

Other than the veggies getting a bit smooshed by my stirring, I was quite pleased with the result! Not in the least because it actually tasted like pinakbet! It was very flavourful, and with a hot steaming scoop of rice, and some fried bangus (milkfish), made for a simple yet satisfying meal.

If you need more pinakbetspiration check Marvin’s post on finding his soul and Marketman’s Palayok Pinakbet!

I sense an all-new comfort blanket of Filipino dishes steadily in-the-weaving :)

***I’ve had the good fortune of visiting this lovely and delicious part of my country and you can take a peek here, here, here, and here, if you want to learn more :)

35 comments:

magpie said...

Holy moley that looks awesome. Squash is so versatile. Yum. I'm hungry now even though I just ate dinner.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

An interesting post! That looks wonderful! Yes, it makes you feel hungry at any time of the day!

Cheers,

Rosa

Rico said...

I love pinakbet. Well, I love anything that has bagoong, but I still wouldn't eat the okra though.

Manggy said...

Ah, I wasn't aware some versions had chili... I'm sure I'd prefer it that way, hee hee :) I love picking the sitao and the kalabasa from this. They're two of my favorite "native" veggies :)

Anh said...

Oh jo, bring it on. This is authentic and full of goodies!

Anonymous said...

The pakbet looks good. I'm posting a comment in response to your twitter status about a duck carcass you have. (Sorry, don't have twitter) I went to town with my duck carcass making arroz caldo with some, and miswa with the rest. They were awesome! Just make sure you use lots of aromatics (garlic, ginger) to soften the panghi (sorry, I can't find another word to describe it) of the peking duck. Good luck!
Annette

Stepford Mum said...

jo, since you are the chicharon lover, try it with crumbled bits of chicharon on top next time - they actually serve it that way at gerry's grill, oh yum!!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Magpie! Thanks! This is a very Filipino dish :) I love squash too...you are right, so versatile!

Hi Rosa! Thanks...I think I like this dish more than my hubby :) Even if it has his favourite bitter melon in it!

Hi Rico! I also love anything with bagoong :) And I’m also not too sure about okra...which is why pinakbet was the perfect solution to use both the okra and the ampalaya! But I do intend to try to forge a tentative friendship with both ;)

Hi Manggy! I wasn’t either until I started googling it! I love it spicy! I really tried to be democratic about this, it being the first pinakbet ever made by me, and ate all the veggies...although, like you, most of the time I try to swipe all the squash and sitaw ;) And talong!

Hi Anh! Thanks! I am loving working with my native flavours! :)

Hi Annette! Thanks so much for your tips regarding the duck carcass! They are good ones and I am dutifully taking note :)

Hi Stepford Mum!!! What a nice surprise!!! That’s right about the chicharon on top...will do that next time! I love your blog...going to explore now :)

Erin said...

Goodness, that looks delicious!

Marvin said...

Hi Joey, I'm so glad your getting around to sticking your toe in the filipino kitchen:) Pretty soon, you'll be jumping right in and splashing about I'm sure.

Irene said...

Your post really hit home for me. I'm the same way with Russian food -- my grandmother and my aunts are so good at it, that I feel like I should learn other stuff (especially French desserts). And it just struck me during a recent family gathering that I don't know how to make my family's favorite dishes!!! Must correct that, and immediately. I want to learn from them while they are still here.

mtan said...

Pinakbet is my madeleine. It takes me back to my childhood, eating pinakbet made by my ilocano yaya, even though I hated ampalaya like a vengeance then, picking around it for the okra and squash, spooning the bagoong laden sauce on my hot rice. I've never cooked a pinakbet yet! You and MM are going to inspire me to make one soon, but maybe not on a palayok, just in my crockpot.

Mike said...

For a first-timer, your pinakbet looks yummy, Joey! Congratulations!

I eat everything in a pinakbet and don't mind having it on the table everyday :-)

On stirring the vegetables, I think it's still ok as long as you do it gently or lightly. However, my mother said that there's a reason as to why we shouldn't stir the veggies. I haven't been able to prove it though :-) Here's a link to my mother's version of the dish: http://lafang.mikemina.com/index.php/2006/05/13/luto-ni-nanay-1-pinakbet-ilocano-vegetable-stew-in-anchovy-paste/

Patricia Scarpin said...

I have never seen this dish before, Joey, but immediately thought of my dad - he's crazy for okra!

christine said...

I knew this post was coming soon! :) But I had no idea you would be cooking it in a palayok. How nice! I've never cooked in a palayok before.

garandee said...

I love pinakbet!
Which bland of bagoong do you usually use and recommend?
By the way, I'm Japanese and living in Manila. I have also food blog and hope introduce Filipino food to Japanese by my blog. :D

ChichaJo said...

Thanks Erin! :)

Hi Marvin! I hope so! You are certainly an inspiration! :)

Hi Irene! So interesting how this little habit can cross cultures! I also have been badgering my relatives for their recipes! Good luck :)

Hi M! What a lyrical way to put it :) Well, let me tell you, this is quite easy and comes together quicker than I thought! The palayok is fun but to get the full effect I would have to have a wood fire...which is not really a good idea in my apartment!

Hi Mike! Thank you! Thank you so much for sharing your mom’s recipe...I’m sure I will learn tons from it! :) As for the stirring and the ampalaya, I do the whole scrubbing in salt and rinsing and squeezing bit to de-bitterize it ;)

Hi Patricia! C likes okra too...not me, although it’s ok mixed with other things like here :)

Hi Nens! Pakayok cooking is fun! It’s like bahaybahayan but 100X better! :)

Hi Garandee! For those one I just used the Barrio Fiesta bagoong that was in the cupboard but in the future I’ll try to get my hands on the bagoong isda that they traditionally use in this dish :) So nice of you to introduce Filipino food to your Japanese readers! Your photos are lovely btw...wish I could read your posts! :)

ces said...

it's been years since i last cooked pinakbet myself...that looks so good! even for my afternoon snacks right about now! with loads of rice, nyumnyum!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

;0) Familiarity . . . and then we're afraid of it. I so glad the universe came together for you to cook this. That is really a beautiful dish (and the container too). I hope you continue to weave your own versions. Excellent!

Midge said...

Hi, Joey. That looks absolutely delish! Like you, I can never really get the hang of shaking the pot, but I don't really mind the slight mushiness one gets from stirring.

(I can only think of one thing that can gild the pinakbet lily: chunks of crispy, crunchy bagnet!)

mikky said...

wow... this is hubby's favorite... your pinakbet looks very authentic and delicious!!! simply awesome with lots of steamed white rice... yum...

Anonymous said...

I have to admit, I can't cook Filipino food (yet). I guess like alot of people, I've relied on the family cook (yaya Lucia). Yaya Lucia is seventy plus and retired. The thought of my children not enjoying family favorites was dis-heartening. Hence, I've taken baby steps and started with adobo. It's hit and miss but it will get there. My chicken relleno was another story. It looked like a chicken version of Frankenstein. Everybody was horrified. But I have hope:)

ChichaJo said...

Hi Ces! With loads of rice is right! ;)

Hi Tanna! Yes, familiarity and fear hold us back...but my voracious appetite pushes me forward, hahaha :) This is a very typical Filipino dish and so it the container...so thank you for the nice words :)

Hi Midge! I mixed the bagnet in (kinda using it for my pang-gisa) so it wasn’t crispy, but I’ll try to leave a few crispy bits for topping next time!

Hi Mikky! I don’t know how authentic this is but thanks! :) I actually like this more than my hubby does, heehee :)

Hi Anonymous! Thanks for sharing! Adobo is a good place to start and I’m still tweaking my recipe! As for chicken relleno, you are much braver than me for making it! :)

lee said...

wow! amazing colors. i love pinakbet!

lee said...

and bagnet of course is the healthiest "vegetable" in the mix.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Lee! Hahaha! :) Of course I wouldn't leave out the very "healthy" bagnet ;)

JMom said...

that pinakbet looks delicious! and I just love the palayok :)

ChichaJo said...

Thanks Jmom! I love the palayok too :)

Happy Jack said...

kudos on learning to cook your favorite filipino foods! i'm learning, as well, but i have to admit...there are some that i'm still not willing to touch just because it'll never be the same unless my mom makes it (like kare-kare or palabok!). i'm making nilaga tonight, though. yummm :)

glad to have stumbled upon a blog that embraces filipino comfort foods! looking forward to reading more...

ChichaJo said...

Hi Happy Jack! Thanks! It’s definitely a delicious journey :) I agree with you...there are certain dishes I don’t know if I’ll ever learn to cook, because nothing could come close to the family’s “expert” version ;) My hubby loves nilaga and I recently cooked it for him and he was happy as a clam! Glad you left a comment coz now I’ve “discovered” your blog too! :) I love to see how Filipinos abroad are doing :)

Gracie said...

wow.. i love pinakbet! =) thanks for sharing the info..

ChichaJo said...

Hi Gracie! Glad you enjoyed the post :)

toninoname said...

Thanks for this yummy recipe. I just love the taste of bagoong shrimp and squash. Nothing beats squash. Watch this "How to Cook Pinakbet" video to learn this recipe visually on www.filipino-foods.com. Enjoy! :)

ChichaJo said...

Hi Toni! Thanks for the link! I love to put bagoong with veg like squash and kang kong :) Add a little coconut milk and it's even yummier!

Anonymous said...

Bagnet will make magic to your pinakbet. It will make it flavorful though mahal lang talaga ito sa ilocos. hehehe