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...


the venerable patupat of ballesteros, and the patupat i know

You missed a lot when you went to Ballesteros, Cagayan and missed its famous "isang subo ka lang!" (you're just a mouthful!) glutinous rice cake, the patupat. It's the mostly Ilokano-populated town's so-called pride, virtually or even officially its OTOP (one town one product) for besides its equally great "royal" bibingka, its own version/rendition/innovation/variety of the blessed suman (rice cake), Balleteros' patupat is almost synonymous to the town's name, well, at least, in the province of Cagayan. Yes, patupat-Ballesteros is kind of venerated as it identifies Ballesteros town all the more.

Heavy snack: Ballesteros' patupat and bibingka, with Lal-lo's tinupig, and Sanchez Mira's nalingta a saba, and that obligatory glassfuls of ice-cold soda!

Yeah, patupat is invented in Ballesteros, a miniature cake of a rice unique for its "cute" packaging of banana leaves, cute as in petite and in its alluring triangular shape intentionally formed bite size to tease more the palate and of course for you to crave more of this mini-sumans, sweetened and cooked in coconut milk then intricately wrapped in banana leaves and then steamed. It's really a gastronomic seduction that you'll sweetly indulge and give in into.

See? Ballesteros Patupat rocks and roll! \m/ Come to where the real patupat is, come to Ballesteros, Cagayan!

Well, yeah, I'm not a so-called "native" Cagayano although of course I can proudly identify myself still a Cagayano because I was born and raised in this valley, in this region, Cagayan Valley where my home province Nueva Vizcaya belong (pre-Hispanic times, the entire valley is actually one vast territory of the original inhabitants, fierce warriors and sultry maidens). But imagine my shock and confusion when I first visited Ballesteros and was introduced to the so-called patupat. I beg to disagree, I pathetically protested then, that's not fucking patupat ever, that's goddamned suman! And they laughed at me, these jolly and merry Ballesteros folks and countered: What suman? And they meticulously described to me what their suman is, which only scandalized me, because what they insist as suman is nothing but our inkiwar in Vizcaya! After some happy word bickering, I rested my case and submitted myself to their patupat especially when I consumed scores of this morsel of a rice cake, satisfied and delighted, having proven that they're not just exaggerating their lavish adjectives heaped on their pride of a snack. So much so for discussions on word meaning, wordage, usage, terminologies, synonyms and other linguistic concerns that usually affect places or towns. I just noted to self that someday I'll show them what a real patupat is!

And I got my sweet revenge when fresh from a short vacation in Nueva Vizcaya, I served on the table the patupat I bought in Bambang:
Patupat of Solano, Nueva Vizcaya.
(Photo by Raymund Catindig)
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With vehemence and apparent confusion, they'd just stared at what I humbly presented as our patupat. What the hell is that? Is that even edible? they peppered me with ignorant, errr, innocent queries, and I have my last laugh while I grabbed a knife and cut into half the sticky woven coconut leaves-wrapped thing and brought out the delicious glutinous rice goody inside cooked in molasses, dipped in molten sugarcane juice. This is our patupat, I persisted and have them taste it, and they nodded approval when I asked them how sweet and palatable it is. Well, our patupat in Vizcaya is actually the sinambong of Ilocos region. Called patupat in Isabela, and in La Union, in Pangasinan all the way to Tarlac.

I was relieved in that at least I've proven that there's really other patupat besides the conviction and belief that only Ballesteros has it and that theirs is the best. Well, yeah, no argument here, because I learned to love this patupat and even equally got proud of it, having adapted myself as i-Ballesteros by affinity, this authentic Ilokano delicacy. Here let the photographs speak for themselves to tease your palate and craving (click on the photos to enjoy larger viewing):

More sinambong/patupat photos:

(Photo by Biag Diay Farm)

(Photo by Biag Diay Farm)

(Photo from Out of Town)



dinengdeng a saba! banana/plantain stew

You might be surprised to know that saba (saging na saba, the dippig variety, plantain, banana) can also be made into a hearty dinengdeng! Well, it is, really, and I'm cooking it every time I fancy or when I terribly miss my mother's dinengdeng a saba which we often partake when I was still in Nueva Vizcaya. Folks here in Cagayan seem unaware that dippig a saba can be cooked as a masida (ulam, viand) or as dinengdeng. Most know only of its culinary significance in its ripen state as a kind of souring or sweetening agent in a lauya (boiled pork or beef). Or only as boiled saba, banana cue, or as a turon, or cooked in molasses/sugar to serve as an ingredient in halo-halo.

An Ilokano dinengdeng a saba with marunggay leaves.
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dinengdeng nga aba, stewed taro leaves/stems/roots

Aba. Gabi. Taro. Somewhat a staple root vegetable in Pinoy cuisine, specifically in Bicol where its stalks especially its leaves, fresh or dried, is prized for the hot (spiced with lots of chilis) and coconut-milky laing or ginataang gabi (cooked in coconut milk). Ilokano simply make dinengdeng nga aba (stewed,boiled in bugguong broth)or sour it as paksiw nga aba, stalks (stem), leaves and with the root (called corm; laman, bagas). Yes, we Ilokanos usually gather taro as a whole plant, pulling it out from its roots. Which is a no-no for some in Bicolandia as they retain the roots so that new stalks and leaves will grow for the next gathering/harvesting--they love and prize their taro plants that much that they can't afford to uproot it and eat it whole!

Aba for sale in a roadside talipapa in Gattaran, Cagayan.
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Aba with roots and stalks. And some tender leaves. The mature leaves of taro is not usually cooked as dinengdeng because it's itchy. 
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Panagdalus or panagimuri. This is how I clean and prepare the aba for my dinengdeng. I removed the thin peel of the stalks. Careful when cleaning taro stalks as the hands might got some itchiness, an allergic reaction to the sap. Use gloves or sprinkle salt on your hands to prevent getting itchy.
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The aba cooking in a pot. I boiled the bugguong first, put in some crushed ginger and garlic and some onions and then the cut aba stems and corm, plus some leaves. It's that simple. Cook the aba for some time and don't stir else it becomes itchy (on the mouth, especially on the throat!). Undercooked aba is also itchy, sometimes. Some old folks believe that not all can cook a not itchy dinengdeng nga aba. I tend to believe because there are some friends I know that never cook an aba dish because when they tried it, it so nabudo (nagatel, itchy)! But I believe more it's on the way you cook it, just cook it well and avoid stirring while the aba is being cooked. Meanwhile, besides plain dinengdeng, a more delicious dish is paksiw nga aba or soured. I made mine paksiw by adding little vinegar. Instant tamarind mix is also good. But if you have fresh tamarind fruit, use it instead. Green mangos is also a perfecty souring agent. As well as fresh pias (kamias). 
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Dinengdeng/paksiw nga aba done! Fortunately i've made it again--it's not that itchy although honestly the aba has made some parts of my hands red with itch. The broth is just minimal, thickened by the corm (root). Sagpaw or add-in is usually a must for this kind of dish, but I opted to make it just pure aba. You can add in dried or smoked paste in it, or even meat.
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This is my other aba dish I cooked months earlier: ginettaan nga aba (semi-laing in that it has bagas or corm. I used freshly squeezed coconut milk, not the canned one.
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Ginettaan nga aba and its usual partner in crime: sili! :-)
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Another dinengdeng/paksiw nga aba. Photo by Leilanie Adriano.
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Another laing dish. Photo from Ilokano Food.
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Yet another ginettaan nga aba, cooked dry and soured with pias.
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idiay tiendaan, talipapa, merkado publiko, market (part 2)

More forays in local public wet market, roadside and/or makeshift market stalls... This a continuation of an earlier post about tiendaan. I keep on going to the market myself to buy ingredients for the next dish. I also stop by some roadside stalls whenever I could to check what's fresh and unusual goodies not available in the wet markets. These are from different places. I love roaming the market of what ever town or city that I've been to. What I really am thrilled is that I always find something new or something rare, a certain fish or farm produce that I didn't see for a long time, or something edible that I didn't know and eaten in that particular place. Really, going to the local wet markets is fun!
A roadside stall along the national highway in Dili, Santa Cruz, Ilocos Sur.
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Fish for sale along the road in Dili, Santa Cruz, Ilocos Sur.
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Clams in Dili, Santa Cruz, Ilocos Sur.
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Wet market, Aparri, Cagayan.
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Meat section of the public market of Vigan City, Ilocos Sur.
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Seaweeds for sale at the wet market of Aparri, Cagayan.
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Freshwater fish for sale at the public market in Libertad, Abulug, Cagayan.
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Meat section, Aparri public market, Cagayan.
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Fish for sale at a talipapa in Santa Ana, Cagayan.
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Reef fishes for sale at a talipapa in  Santa Ana, Cagayan.
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More fish for sale at a talipapa in Santa Ana, Cagayan. The orange paste-like thing in plastic is the innards of maritangtang (sea urchin).
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Dried fish for sale at a talipapa in   Santa Ana, Cagayan.
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Watermelons for sale at a road side inTuguegarao City, Cagayan.
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Gakka for sale at a bangketa in Aparri, Cagayan.
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pinakbet ingredients

These, typically, are the vegetable ingredients of the famous pinakbetthe basic of which, are tarong (eggplant), paria (bitter melon), kamatis (tomato), okra and the obligatorlasona/sibuyas (onion), bawang (garlic) and laya (ginger). These the basic ingredients of an authentic Ilokano pinakbet. Or may be even reduced to only paria, tarong kamatis, in some cases where no other vegatables are readily available to be picked in the garden when the bugguong broth is already boiling. These are the basic essentials, Ilokano-wise, period. Sweet chili (sili nga aruy-oy) may be an staple but it's only an add on, just like utong or kardis. And please, please, no karabasa (squash fruit), because a real Ilokano pinakbet has no karabasa in it but only in a Tagalog pakbet (which is usually sautéed, bagoong-alamang-flavored, and with broth akin to a soup, etc.). And only "native" round paria is used, not the hybrid longish ones which is not that any bitter at all. Pait (bitterness) after all defines Ilokano palate.


Tarong. The longish, slender ones are preferred for pinakbet. Also the small green (white) round ones.


Kamatis, lasona, bawang.

With laya.

Some of the other optional ingredients:

Kardis (kadyos, pigeon pea)

Bagas ti kamote (kaong, camote, sweet potato). This is used in an Ilokano pinakbet, instead of karabasa, to sweeten and thicken the broth.

Sili nga aruy-oy.

Bunga ti marunggay.

Bunga ti utong.



Pallang (winged bean)

Alukon (Photo by Leilanie Adriano)

Bunga ti Singkamas (Photo from Ilokano Food)

And now, to the pinakbets!