dinengdeng, glorious dinengdeng!

I'm a typical Ilokano who can't live without dinengdeng, come share my passion...

various authentic, exotic, ilokano pinakbets

Concoction or variations of this kind of exotic Ilokano dish, of this ever ubiquitous vegetable stew...

sinanglaw? paksiw? which?

What do you prefer, Vigan-sinanglaw or Laoag-paksiw? What about pinapaitan and singkutsar?

unnok/ginukan, freshwater shellfish

Want some unnok soup or ginukan bugguong?

baradibud a tugi, lesser yam vegetable stew

Tugi, for some, is only meant to be boiled and eaten simply as is. But for me, it's an indispensable ingredient for yet another hearty Ilokano dish...


fried abaleng/abalin, abal-abal/sibbaweng beetle grub/larvae

Abalin (also abaleng, or tateg [salagubang in Tagalog]), is the grub or larva of the abal-abal or sibbaweng (May/June beetle). While the adult abal-abal is more popularly known as a delicacy, its protein-rich grub is also edible and, as claimed by many "gourmands," even more palatable. Abalin is a popular fare especially in Cagayan and the rest of Cagayan Valley provinces, enjoyed and considered as an special delicacy by both Ibanags, Itaweses and the Ilokanos.These are usually found and gathered (dug out) near or on river banks in the rainy seasons, or prior to the onset of abal-abal season (May-June).

It's usually sold by the glassful early in the market or hawked around. It's kind of expensive but a best seller nonetheless because it's best as a kind of snack, besides being a scrumptious viand to go with rice. And it's a favorite pulotan (finger food) to go with drinks.

Nathaniel B. Gumangan, an Itawes from Enrile, Cagayan shared his simple recipe on how to cook a really good fried abalin (he supplied us the photographs used here), in some steps:

1. Wash and rinse the abalin thoroughly. The abalin, when dug out the ground/earth, the gatherer will already clean it out, squeezing out the "black" entrails (the earth it has eaten), and then cleaned and rinsed throughly in water afterwards before selling or cooking it.

2. Soak the abalin in vinegar and salt for at least an hour.

3. And then, rinse with water. Put it in in a pan with some water. Boil the abalin. Simmer until water is reduced and eventually dry, stirring it occasionally with a ladle. 

4. Add in a little cooking oil and cracked garlic. Add in salt or patis to taste. Stir-fry the abalin until crispy.

5. Serve hot and crunchy!


tabtaba/barbaradio/bakbakasi/dodol-dodol/bilbildong, freshwater blue-green algae salad

Tabtaba, also known as bakbakasi, barbaradio, badbadiokdodol-dodol, bilbildong, kulatlatbakatel in different places, is a true delicacy, in that not many know that it's edible and palatable, and some doesn't have the guts to eat it because of the fact that this is actually gathered from the ground it's like the skin of the earth itself. When I was a kid, we used to "harvest" tabtaba in the fields just after the rice were cut and/or threshed when the rice field is somewhat dry, these bounty of the earth lay in the ground abundantly, waiting to be picked.

Some fortunate times, tabtaba is available in the market, during rice harvest season. This one, in  the Don Domingo public market in Tuguegarao City.

Tabtaba is actually a kind of freshwater algae (lumot), named blue-green algae and the scientific name of the locally growing species in Northern Luzon is Nostoc linckia. It is rich in protein, with a protein content of 40-45% (dry weight), according to studies

Tabtaba in the ground. (Photo: wikipedia.org)

Barbaradio for sale in the Bambang public market in Nueva Vizcaya.

This protein-rich algae is best prepared and consumed as a kind of salad. Wash and rinse well to get rid of the dirt stuck to its lobes. When it's thoroughly cleaned, put in a bowl then pour hot water into it to "cook" it. Let it wallow in hot water for some minutes, then rinse it. Dress with squeezes of calamansi, tomato and onion slices (add in young ginger, if you want), and drops of bugguong juice to taste. Some prefer to sauté tabtaba in little cooking oil, garlic, onions and tomatoes.

Tabtaba salad.


saluyot and rabong variation--with bulong-sili, kalunay and utong

Now, talking more about dinengdeng, when rabong (bamboo shoots) is mentioned, among Ilokano folks, it is usually and readily thought so as being the righteous or de facto pair of the quintessential and ever-ubiquitous saluyot (Corchorus olitorius), that's it, dinengdeng a rabong ken saluyot: partners.

But then, as a veggie, rabong can go with almost any other veggies for that exclusively Ilokano-branded dinengdeng or inabraw.

Like, for instance, rabong with kalunay (Amaranthus spinosus) or kalkalunay (Spinacia oleracea) and the tender leaves of sili ti sairo/abuyo (bird's eye chili, Capsicum frutescens), and with bunga ti utong (string beans):

These freshly picked veggie goodies, with a little big help of bugguong...

Kalunay, local spinach.

Bulong/uggot ti sili, bird's eye chili.

Bunga ti utong, string beans.

... will turn into a delectable dinengdeng like this, with fried galunggong (round scad) to flavor:

Still, the open secret is that you have to cook it the veggies briskly and briefly, don't overcook, especially the leafy ones. Boil the shredded rabong first (some folks parboil rabong before cooking it as dinengdeng, to rid of its bitterness; but that depends on the variety of bamboo, some like the bayog (Bambusa spinosa) kind, sometimes doesn't need to be parboiled and rinsed; some Ilokano folks even prefer their rabong to be a bit bitter, anyway). When the rabong is tender, put in the utong, simmer for some minutes, and then put in the kalunay and sili leaves. Simmer for a minute then put off fire and remove the pot's cover so the leaves don't wilt. Serve immediately.


unnok/ginukan, freshwater shellfish

Unnok or ginukan (Delillia sp.) is a freshwater mollusk or bivalve that grows in rivers, it is believed to be endemic in the Cagayan River especially along the towns of Lal-lo and Camalaniugan (unnok is abundant as well in the Abulug River), although it can be usually found in rivers close to the coastlines (deltas) in Northern Luzon. But nowadays unnok is becoming rare in Cagayan itself, reportedly because of the ongoing quarrying/dredging activities (actually mining of magnetite or black sand which is reportedly wreaking environmental havoc) along the Cagayan River which affect not just unnok but also the kabibi (Batissa violacea), another important shellfish endemic in the area (and other shells and fish, like the rare and expensive ludong). Quarrying/dredging/mining of sand in the river disturbs the habitat of these shells endangering their very existence.

This is somehow true because I myself rarely can find unnok for sale in the wet markets, whereas in the past years it's sold in abundance in regular market days.

And imagine my pleasant surprise when I found this in the Allacapan (Cagayan) market and was told that it came all the way from Laoag City (Ilocos Norte)! The vendor said unnok is almost a thing of the past in Cagayan, it's not readily available anymore as it were, and she's not exaggerating, I guess. I bought the whole remaining lot for fifty pesos:

We made it into a soup with lots of tomatoes and onions, and some bugguong juice to taste. The broth is so savory with a hint of sweet and sour tomato goodness.

The tiny bits of flesh has a distinct taste and texture among other freshwater shells that makes unnok a kind of delicacy, especially now that it's diminishing and becoming a rarity.

And of course, unnok meat is also prized because it's great to be made into a bugguong (salted). The vendor also sells bugguong nga unnok at one hundred fifty pesos a bottle (yes, it's that expensive). But I was able to convince her for a hundred bucks plus the fresh shells, so this is it, I got one, it's been years since the last time I saw bugguong nga unnok being sold.

It's perfect with a squeeze of calamansi and it's a great appetizer, just like bugguong nga ipon.

What an opportunity to once again blessed with this bounty, now that some greedy people are destroying nature that nurtures its very existence... What a pity that future generations might not enjoy this delicacy anymore, when it's already extinct in the Cagayan River... 

Meanwhile, here's a video by Youtuber mjrfmpaul123 of unnok (ginukan) being prepared as a kind of "salad":



kuditdit, kudit/kudet (bracket fungus, tree ear fungus)

Come rainy or thunder-stormy season, especially when the late afternoon rains bring a plenty of lightning and thunder, you can expect that early in the morning, an abundance of mushroom has grown in the wild, like the uong-kalaw, uong-bunton, or uong-managadu and many others. The rains and the lightning also induce edible fungi, like the kuditdit (also called "kudet" or "kudit", bracket fungus or tree ear fungus). There are some kinds of kuditdit, some are commercially grown (large ones called oyster/abalone mushroom), but the most popular and most preferred of course is the small wild and "native" kuditdit which grows on dead/rotting trees. I used to pick, as a child in Nueva Vizcaya, kuditdits on fallen mango and tamarind trees.

Wild kuditdit growing on a dead tree. Photo from Wikipedia.com

Kuditdit has also become rare nowadays, and thus it has become a kind of another exotic fare. You can usually find them sold in the market and is quite pricey but nonetheless a best seller as it is a prized companion to a savory dinengdeng/inabraw especially when partnered with wild mushrooms.

Kuditdit for sale by the glassful.

When preparing kuditdit, you have to wash/rinse it thoroughly to remove dirt, but don't squeeze it too much and just rinse it once or twice only, to preserve its natural flavor and succulence.

Kuditdit is great with paria, leaves or fruit, and with other leafy vegetables and veggie fruit like pallang and tarong.

Kuditdit with wild mushrooms, kalunay (amaranth, wild spinach) and kabatiti fruit.

The soup/broth is so good with the fusion of two wild fungi goodness, sweetened by the young kabatiti!