Traveling is not just about visiting landmarks or enjoying an assortment of activities and crafts but diving into the gastronomic pleasure of local cuisine. Food is part of travel and travel is absolutely incomplete without dining. Lame are those people who feel comforted with foods that you can eat in anywhere while on a trip. Breathe the air of a place when you taste its local food.
Ilocano cuisine is a major part of the over-all Filipino cuisine. With its distinct characteristic of stewed vegetables, deep fried meat and yes, that bagoong (shrimp paste). Ilocanos have their own sauce which is a concoction of the bagoong and various spices like garlic and onion.
Start your day with a typical Filipino breakfast of sinangag ( fried rice) and longsilog, a combination of longganisa ( Filipino sausage) and itlog ( sunny side-up egg). Ilocanos are known for their longganisa which is stuffed with ground pork and what best complements its taste is Ilocos’ native cane vinegar – the prefect blend of sweetness and sourness. It is the perfect condiment for any cooking. Do not be surprise if someone asks you to take home some bottles of native Ilocos vinegar from your trip.
Who can afford to miss Ilocos’ bagnet? Bagnet is the Ilocano version of lechon kawali / lechon carajay but it is unique across other type of deep fried pork because it is fried and seasoned with nothing else but..bagoong! It seems that only the locals are true-blooded Ilocanos can perfectly prepare this forgivable guilty pleasure. To balance any oily aftertaste, sauce of tomatoes, local onions and garlic with bagoong ( yes) is served.
Pinakbet, stewed vegetables is one of the region’s specialties. Do you know that Ilocanos can create up to five different variations of this Filipino dish? Depending on the specific locality, Ilocanos can whip them in many ways. The key to the supremacy of their pinakbet lies in the freshness of the vegetables like bitter gourd ( ampalaya), eggplant, okra, stringbeans and squash. The sauce is the Ilocano bagoong which is less salty compared to other types. Some prepare them with no meat at all. Those close to the coastal areas often top it with shrimps while other use bagnet as their meat.
Other Ilocano foods that you must try is the empanada (fried stuffed pasty with cabbage and ground pork, dipped in native vinegar), dinengdeng ( malunggay or horse radish soup seasoned with bagoong and topped with grilled fish) and their famous bibingka ( mini cake made of cassava, rice and milk instead of the usual rice).
When you visit the Philippines, travel up north and experience a place rich in heritage, history and food. Rekindle with your Ilocano roots with these sumptuous dishes.
What Ilocano dish do you miss the most?