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...



Lenten season once again, and accordingly as was and is the traditional belief and practice of the pious and devotees in us, no meat, please. Shun away from meaty pleasures, of fleshy indulgence, whatever that is.  Be contented with veggies. And fish is just okay. So fish be it, fish be with us, let's have a fishy Lent.

And this is palileng (a,k,a birut, bukto, bunog; actually palileng is grown or overgrown bunog, mullet or goby), right from Gonzaga, Cagayan's pristinely famous Pateng River, home to rare freshwater fish like palileng and kampa.

This is a nilingta or steamed palileng, literally cooked with its own fat with vinegar, onions, garlic, ginger, black peppercorns, a little salt:

This is a previous tomato-soured nilingta a bunog/birut, smaller in size (for comparative purposes with the larger palileng):

Palileng, palileng, nagraman, nagnanam, nagtaba, ayna, nakaim-imas! Let's have a Lenten feast!

And it's not just fat palilengs, this is my actual labay, on my feast--oppss, sorry, there's a meat here, raw flesh even, but at least it's a majority of Lenten-friendly palatables: kappukan a baka, steamed padaw, adobo a pusit, sinigang a malaga, and ensalada nga ubog ti way:



artem a bawang, young garlic pickled in ilocos (cane) vinegar

Pickled young garlic and chili in cane vinegar.
We relish artem or inartem (pickles, pickled), and we fancy pickling, fermenting almost anything in vinegar to freeze the freshness and succulence of fruits and veggies: the usual cool cucumber, carrots, green papayas, onions, chilis, bell peppers, even young string beans. We especially love pickled hot chilis, fermented in suka ti basi (Ilocos cane vinegar from the famous basi [actually sour/soured basi], akin to the beloved pinakurat of the Visayans, from their tuba), for our dips. And Ilokanos particularly make fine artem out of green garlic come garlic season in the Ilocos where young garlic is abundant in the market. Ilokanos prize naganus a bawang for a special dinengdeng or pinakbet a bawang, and as an added spice in their vegetable dishes. And the rest of it find their way into artem.

I tried it myself one bawang season when I got some freshly uprooted bawang being sold in Cagayan (the vendor said it came right from Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte):

Luckily, I still got some suka ti basi, which I bought a year ago in a roadside bawang-lasona-suka-basi stall in Pinili, Ilocos Norte--which means this suka is kind of "aged":

Preparing the bawang, cut, with the hot chili ready, then bottled it in suka, seasoned with salt, black peppers, some brown sugar to sweeten it a bit, and I added some young lasona just for the heck of it:

And there, I have two-jarfuls and a bottle of artem a bawang:

I set aside my artem in a cool, dry, place to ferment. After about two weeks, here's it, the great Ilokano suka has done its chemical magic--it turned the bawang and the chili into a great spice, the bawang is still crisp and crunchy and succulent, its tang and zest intact in its now sour-sweet state:

Really perfect sawsawan and spice for almost everything edible. I dream of it drenched in my pinapaitan, in my grilled and fried fish and meat, in my barbecues, or simply in my pinakbets and dinengdengs:

Meanwhile, let me try it in this fried tuyo:

Man, it's just so insanely good!



ubog ti way, rattan bud (heart)

Tinuno nga ubog ti way, narekaduan iti kamatis, bugguong ken lasona. (Click photo for a larger view) 
It's becoming rare that I see ubog ti way (rattan bud) in my market forays, especially so in Cagayan, so When I chanced upon some bundles of ubogs sold at the public market in Gonzaga, Cagayan, I bought outright a bundle of four large and smaller pieces for Php100:

Maybe even rattan vines in the remaining forested areas are rare these days what with the demand of rattan craft and furniture by some people fond of "native" decor. And of course, the denuding of forests due to illegal logging of the trees with which the rattans climbs and dwells, so what can we expect?

But anyway, the first thing in mind when I saw these childhood favorite (yes, I as a child has live in bitter life--that is, an Ilokano child of a poor family in a farming community, used to simple vegetable dishes like papait, paria and ubog [in our place, though rattan is also rare, there used to be a wild or smaller variety called barit on which the bid of it is equally bitter and sumptous]), is that I'll be grilling them over fire and make it into a delicious ubog salad--tinuno nga ubog ti way with KBL (kamatis, bugguong, lasona)--so, here I roasted them ubogs over gas fire, the only available fire I've got at the moment, it could have been better over wood or charcoal fire but it's not available, this will suffice, as long as it'd be roasted evenly and well:

And here's is, the cooked ubog inside the burnt bark:

I cut the cooked ubog thinly, with kamatis and lasona:

And here's the end-result of my labor of love--thinly sliced ubog ti way, garnished with tomatoes and onions and drenched with bugguong essence--I tell you, it's like heaven, an ambrosia of sort, the bittery goodness lingered in my palate as I savored memories and tastes and flavors and delights of childhood and the simplicity and modesty of rural life which I always miss, the bittery quality and pride of being an Ilokano:

The next day, I decided on a dinengdeng nga ubog with the remaining pieces--with patani and kalalaki nga alukon (see separate blog post on my dinengdeng a kalalaki nga aluko and ubog ti way):

I cleaned the raw ubog to get just the heart of it, the precious bud:

And again, I thinly sliced the ubog for my dinengdeng--see how promising it is, the sweetish bitterness it brings to satisfy any dinengdeng- and pait-freak Ilokano that there is:

And this is it, my dinengdeng--what a bliss, what a blessing to be able to partake such gastronomic opportunity like this, once more, again, in a lifetime:



kalalaki nga alukon, "male" alukon

Dinengdeng a kalalaki nga alukon with patani, kardis and pallang.
Not many folks, even those so-called patneng nga Ilokanos (true-blue Ilokanos) know or are aware that the fruit (or is it flower?) of the kalalaki nga alukon (male alukon [allaeanthus glaber, himbabao] tree) is edible or as sumptous as the commonly consumed slender and longish flowerette sabong ti alukon. Maybe because kalalaki nga alukon trees are rare. In fact, I only know of it because we have once a kalalaki tree right in our backyard in Mabasa, Dupax del Norte, Nueva Vizcaya, my native place. As a child, we used to climb up the tree and gather (or cut branches with) flower/fruit and shoots of this unique alukon and my mother make it into a delectable dinengdeng with patani, kardis, or young utong pods/beans and with pallang or parda, sometimes with paria fruit and occassionally with ubog ti barit (bud/heartof a wild smaller variety of rattan). I relished it as a child and until my bachelorhood. When I came to Cagayan, I didn't see any tree, much more of it being sold in the local tiendaans.

And imagine my amazement and joy when I saw these beautiful kalalaki nga alukon "balls" (yes, it resembles the human male testicle, complete with hairs--of which I presume is one reason why it was called "lalaki") sold by an old woman in the merkado publiko in Gonzaga, Cagayan--I immediately bought two liter-fulls, while my companions at that time keep on exclaiming wonder and utter disbelief ("nah, masida gayam ti kasta?" "diak man ammo a mabalin a sidaen dayta, nagadu kasta 'diay ayanmi!" "ania ngay ramanna daytan, kasla met ukel-ukel, ne, adda pay urmotna, wahaha!"):

A close up of the miniature "balls" (click on the photos for a larger view):

I eagerly, and painstakingly, prepared my first kalalaki nga alukon dinengdeng in Cagayan. I was in luck that day because I also chanced upon some gorgeous ubog ti way ( rattan bud/heart) in the same market, which is a perfect pair to alukon (paria, especially the "native" ones is also good; I prefer bitter veggies for my alukon dinengdengs). I also bought some patani:

And here's it, my dinengdeng a kalalaki nga alukon with ubog ti way and patani, with dried shrimps (kuros, aramang)--it overloaded my carbo intake that day, because I consumed a lot of rice with it:

The next day, I cooked the remaining balls with patani, kardis and pallang, and with kuros, of course, my way of reminiscing and re-living and relieving my childhood in Nueva Vizcaya, and an act of giving kudos to the dinengdeng expertise of my mother, her basic cooking skills (mostly on dinengdengs and barely with meats [on rare occassions when we have tinola a manok for dinner, or a pinapaitan for lunch in rare occourences where some carabaos are butchered to be mauraga or loaned in exchange for palay when harvest comes], because that was our life then in the barrio, a farming community. living simply and contented with our own backyard produce) which I terribly miss, and of which I shamelessly claim to have "inherited":