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...


imbaliktad soup

Beef imbaliktad with soup.

Right, it's imbaliktad. And yes, it is, and it has, soup. Imbaliktad is usually dry--beef (or carabeef, or goat) tender loin, innards, tripe, cut into strips and sautéed in garlic, onions, ginger, peppercorns and then stir-fried briefly and quickly, pour in some pespes/pinespes ("intestine juice") for it's truly Ilokano bitter flavor, stir it a few times more,  and it's done. The meat should be tender, rare or medium rare, not tough, not overly done.

But it's equally good with a broth or soup, just like pinapaitan. The difference would be, that pinapaitan is cooked longer to soften/tenderize the meat and innards. Imbaliktad as it name implies is a quick fix, just a few stirring of the meat and innards in high heat to let the spices seep in in its raw meat sweet succulence. Imbaliktad with soup is, well, with soup, and it's done when its broth has boiled or bubbled in the process called "pers burek" (the time the boiling broth/soup has bubbled). Upon bubbling, it's done.

Let's do it. First off, cut the meat and innards into strips or bite size:

Boil or scald the pespes and strain it:

In a pan or a wok, sauté the garlic, onions and ginger in oil:

Then pour in the pespes:

Stir and simmer. Sautéing the pespes with the spices will make great flavor and aroma of the imbaliktad truly and uniquely the Ilokano way:

Add in water for the soup:

Boil and simmer:

Now, in the boiling broth, add in the meat and innards:

Stir, stir, stir until it boils and bubbles. This is the "pers burek." It's done. Put off fire:

See, it's real, it's really imbaliktad:

But with soup, see that golden soup, bitter but sweetish, and insanely fragrant:

Good while it's steaming hot, don't let it cool down, the soup is perfect for a hearty labay in your rice:



kinirog a kappi, stir-fried river crabs

Kinirog a kappi.
Kappi. Or kippi (as some folks in Ilocos Norte call it). Or agatol or akasit (as we call it in Nueva Vizcaya). River or freshwater crabs, or crablets for that matter because these are small crabs compared to say, the humungous rasa (mudcrab). As a child in our place, a farming community, we used to catch agatols in creeks, streams, ponds and my mother would kirog (stir-fry) it with just salt. It's so good with a vinegar as a dip, especially when the it has lots of that delicious pula, the most-sought after fat in a crab. Besides stir-frying, kappi can also be made into a delicious ginettaan a kappi (crab in coconut milk) as a sagpaw (add-on) to a dinengdeng.

And lo and behold, crawling, clawing kappi live from Buguey:

I immediately washed and rinsed them and pardon me, kappi rights advocates, I stir-fried it still wiggling and running, in a wok. This time, aside from salt, I added some cracked pepper, crushed garlic, and chili powder, I wanted it more fragrant and "hot and spicy."

I kept on stirring, frying, until the crabs are completely dry and almost crunchy.

Yeah, just stir-fry it, it's that simple, quick and easy.

And it's ready: kinirog a kappi!

Cracked open to expose some pula, dip it in plain vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar here, suka ti basi [Ilocos cane vinegar] would have been prefect but not available at eating time) and consume the essentials (meat and fat). The added spices is just right, it enhanced flavor and that distinct crabby aroma.

... or with suka with fermented sili if you relish a hotter kappi goodness:.

And this, if you want some soup, kappi in a dinengdeng:
(Photo from Ilocano ak Kuripot nak)



katuday dinengdeng

Dinengdeng with katuday flowers.
Katuday is perfect for a salad, blanched and tossed with bugguong, kamatis and lasona/sibuyas, it's a perfect appetizer of sort. And it's mostly known and used for as a flower vegetable. But it can be also made into a hearty dinengdeng along with other greens. Yes, although some may not relish its distinct but mild bitter-sweetness, a dinengdeng-gourmand will just simply adore katuday in his bugguong-charmed veggie soup.

This is my dinengdeng with katuday, we'll have here utong, okra, paria and bilonak (alugbati), with bits and pieces of tinapa (smoked galunggong fish), boiling in its nutritious essence, its bubling bugguong broth fusing cozily with the veggies and wafting a peculiar Ilokano aroma intensified by the smokiness of the tinapa:

The secret to a truly delicious and delightful dinengdeng is its crispness and succulence--not overcooked to a bland mash, the cooking should just be quick but sure. This should be particularly noted when a katuday is in the mix because it needs just a few minutes to be done.

Try it, and you'll have this dinengdeng, too:



kaliente, boiled beef skin ceviche

Kaliente made in Tuguegarao City.
Kaliente or simply naanger a lalat (ti baka wenno nuang) is a popular pulutan (finger food) in the Ilocos region and elsewhere. It's cow's or carabao's skin boiled for hours until sticky tender and then made into a kind of kilawen or ceviche: garnished with vinegar or calamansi, salt, chopped onions, minced ginger, and if available, mashed with some of the cow's brain for a creamy texture and more tasty appeal, just like dinakdakan.

Beef hide or skin is naturally tough so preparing it for a chewy soft kaliente entails a lot of time and patience boiling it in low fire to become tender. You can either prefer it tougher or softer by testing and tasting the boiling skin. Boil it some more if you want a more tender kaliente. 

Cut, dice the drained cooked skin into bite pieces. Spice it up and season it and stir/mix thoroughly for the flavor to seep in perfectly and completely into the skin pieces.

And this is it, the kaliente is ready. It can be served hot or slightly chilled. Spice it more with pepper or chili if you it hot.



octopus salad

Kurita salad at its crawling and sucking best.
Like squid, octopus (kurita, pugita), besides being a good catch for a delicious kurita adobo and other sumptous dishes, is also a perfect specimen for a good salad dish or a kind of a ceviche (a sort of kilawen-like delicacy).

I pick medium and or small size octopi for my salad, preferably the smaller ones, babies, if I chance upon them fresh in the wet market, some still alive from Aparri or Sta. Ana (Cagayan).

What I simply do is to boil/steam the kurita quickly in its own juice/ink, with some crushed garlic and cracked peppercorn, and some salt. Don't add water, just let the octopus' own liquid steam itself into perfection. Put off fire after about 15 minutes or so, you can see its done almost by the color and texture. Don't ever overcook it or your octopus will become so tough like rubber or plastic. Just a mild cooking to retain its tenderness and succulence.

Now, cut the cooked kurita into bite pieces. Discard some of the ink and other innards in its head/belly. Retain some ink liquid as a sauce if you want (the black broth is tasty and optionally, you can turn it into a beautiful black soup by adding water and more spices and boiling it).

And it's done! This is my kurita salad, I garnished it with sliced tomatoes, chopped onions, salt & pepper, and dressed it with a vinaigrette of some apple cider, a little honey, a little olive oil. This is so good with a freezing beer or a brandy on the rocks! And of course with a steaming rice...



pinapaitan, the really bitter original innards stew

Really bitter Ilokano pinapaitan, its broth/soup thickened not with fat but with  pespes boiled for hours.
Pinapaitan  is solely and authentic – even exotic – Ilokano dish. Loved by any true-blue Ilokano there is, specially those bred in the away (farm, country sides) or promdi (from the province) in any Ilocos place, native and even those so-called "Ilokanized".  Well, some Ilokanos shun it, but it’s really an acquired taste and kind of inherent preference if you really have Ilokano roots or blood. But pinapaitan has become a truly Philippine – national, that is – dish. Ilokanos and non-Ilokanos loved it, period. Although non-Ilokanos has somewhat corrupted the right term into a lame“papaitan” (Tagalogized, perhaps?). And most non-Ilokano variation of the original is not at all bitter. Bitterness defines the Ilokano palate, and that of being Ilokano, and the distinct Ilokano-ness (mistaken by some as being kuripot or tightwad, big deal). Some pathetic "papaitan” has no pait at all simply because they avoid the extreme pait of it, bile or the pespes (extract of the masticated grass inside the small intestines of the cow/goat/carabao). And they have the gall to call it papaitan still when it’s not that bitter! IMHO, a certain meat soup or stew even with some innards in it should not be called a "pinapaitan" or "papaitan" if it's not bitter because it's an insult to the term or name itself, ahem!

So, here are real Ilokano pinapaitans, the bitter ones!

An early bird catches the "pers klas" cuts (the choicest pinapaitan/kappukan cuts). This is the prize of an early foray into the slaughterhouse mismo, having the freshest cuts.

The prizey and pricey beef innards/offal: heart, liver, intestines, the tripes–the liblibro and the tualtualia, and the most important pespes (intestine "juice").

Sometimes when you're late to have your pang-pinapaitans, you'll just content yourself with this standard: tripes and  some meat and an intestines cut filled with ready pespes.

Cutting up...

The tualtualia (literally "towel") being cut into bite pieces...

Cooking the perfect Ilokano pinapaitan entails a lot of labor and love. After a painstaking preparation of cutting up the meat and offal into bite pieces and chopping the onions and crushing garlics and gingers, ready yourself to boil them oil to its bittery goodness. First, you'll have to sautée the spices together with the cut pieces to enhance flavor and aroma and to do away some unwanted smell. Then the boiling and simmering. You have two options: a medium rare, or a very tender pinapaitan. A medium rare pinapaitan is like having an imbaliktad but with soup or lots of broth, the cooking/boiling is brief so the meat and innards is just chewable and not tough. A tenderized pinapaitan, which I prefer, is slowly boiled/simmered for an hour or more (you can opt to use a pressure cooker if you want it quickly done), and as a result will give out more flavor and color and aroma.

A perfectly cooked pinapaitan, simmered for hours to really tenderize the meat and innards, with its sweetishly bitter fat oozing out to tantalize a finicky Ilokano palate.

A really napait a pinapaitan. Even with its thick soup only, I'll be contented with my steamed rice. (Photo from Ilokano Food)

More finds enjoyed along way on my quest for a real bitter pinapaitan:
From a popular pinapaitan/lauya house just beside the slaughterhouse in Capatan, Tuguegarao City.

Pinapaitan at a roadside eatery along the national highway in Carig, Tuguegarao City. Pinapaitan's real pait essence is more intensified by spicing it up with lots of chili.

Home-cooked pinapaitan, simmered for hours.

My plateful of pinapaitan with fermented chili on the side.