Pinakbet is considered a vegetarian dish in the Philippines, even though the meat is usually added on the top of it after cooking. It is also one of the most popular dishes in the Philippines. Different regions have their own versions of the pinakbet, but two things are always the same. Ampalaya as an important ingredient, and the way of cooking it. The traditional way is making it in a palayok (pot), and just giving it occasional shake, letting the vegetables steam with their own juices. Letting it ‘shrink’ or ‘cook until wrinkled’, as the literal translation of the word ‘Pinakkebet’ says.
• 4 cloves garlic, chopped
• 1 medium onion, chopped
• 3 pieces tomato, chopped
• ¼ cup shrimp paste (bagoong alamang)
• 1 cup water
• sweet potatoes, chopped into large pieces
• squash (kalabasa)
• Ampalaya (bittermelon/bitter gourd)
• okra (ladyfinger)
• sitaw (yard-long beans)
• sigarilyas (winged beans)
• cooking oil as needed
• salt and pepper to taste
• ½ kg bagnet (crisp fried pork belly) or lechon kawali
Heat oil in the pan and add garlic, onion, and tomatoes.
Add the shrimp paste and water and cook for several minutes until you can smell the paste well.
Add the sweet potatoes and squash.
When they soften, add the greens – baby Ampalaya, baby eggplant, ladyfinger, string beans, winged beans.
Let simmer and shake occasionally.
Season with salt and pepper.
When serving, top with bagnet or lechon kawalli.
Tips and ideas:
You can also use fermented fish sauce instead of the shrimp paste.
The mixture of tastes in this dish is very interesting. Sweet potatoes act as sweetener, while the bitterness of Ampalaya defines much of the Ilocano cooking. Eggplant has a pleasantly bitter taste, which is another Ilocano cooking thing, and spongy texture that leaves somewhat of a biting sensation in the upper mouth. Definitely an interesting combination, especially with all the other ingredients!
This is also quite a healthy meal. Squash and string beans are rich in vitamins and minerals, and the Ampalaya, even though many people try to avoid eating it because of its bitter taste, strengthens our immune system and boosts skin health. Okra has low calorie and has dietary fiber. Eggplant helps lowering the blood pressure, and contains potassium and fiber.
Images – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7gQPWXEDYo
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