atap/balang a paria (wild bitter-melons)

Ilokanos are known and are famously distinct to be bitter-loving peoples in these northern parts of the Philippine archipelago, in terms of food geography (as Tagalogs south down under favor sourness in their sinigang or paksiw, or the Bicolanos in their coconut milk-sweetened and chili-spiced Bicol Express). And true-blue Ilokano pait connoisseurs love the most bitter in their food, the bitter, the better, so to say. As to veggies, they want their own Ilocos paria or native amargoso, smallish and round, especially in their beloved pinakbet.

And for the more pait extremist, he is familiar and most enamored to the balang a paria of paria ti bakir, a wild  variety of the common paria which grows in forested areas or mountain sides specially during rainy months.

The shoots are the ones mostly gathered early in the morning after a rainy dusk.

These can be prepared simply into a salad, blanched briefly, then garnished with sliced tomatoes and bugguong.

Or as a perfect green leafy companion to mushrooms and other edible fungi soups, such as this kudet or kuditdit (bracket fungi) which also grows abundant in dead tree barks on rainy season:

Or in this uong ti garami/saba (straw mushroom):

But what's prized is the fruit itself. Tiny and round bitter goodies. Some folks are not aware that this is so good as well, they only know of the balang a paria leafy greens. The most bitter-loving Ilokano folk loves to roast the freshly-harvested fruit over live embers and then lace it with bugguong and adorn it with sliced tomatoes and chopped onions.

And of course it can be made into a really scrumptious pinakbet a solo a balang a paria (stewed with no other veggies). Cooked exactly like pinakbet, with lots of bugguong to taste, lots of tomatoes, and onions and garlic and ginger.

In fact, paria a balang, if available, can be a good paria substitute for your usual pinakbet as these are more bitter and more odd-looking and therefore makes an exotic pinakbet of sorts.

Bon appetit! Naimas a pannangan!



  1. Wow, this is the first time I've seen this dish.It looks like a young ampalaya but you're saying it's different, right? First time in your blog and I like it already.