Pinakbet or Pakbet is a famous dish from the Ilocano’s that lived in the Northern Region of the Philippines. However, it is now one of the favorites from all over the archipelago. The word “Pakbet” came from the “pinakebbet”, which was shortened Ilocano word. The original version of the Pinakbet of Ilocano’s was made up of “bagoong” and fermented monamon or other fishes; while in the further part of South, they used bagoong alamang. There are many local vegetables in this dish such as native bitter melon, tomato, eggplant, okra, ginger, lima beans, string beans, parda, chili peppers and winged beans.
There is also a Tagalong version for Pinakbet wherein they added kalabasa. Ilocano has used vegetables that are easily available and can be grown outside their backyard. As its name implies, it is cooked until it dries up and all the flavors of the vegetables be emphasized and the taste of bagoong be accentuated. Some people like to eat Pinakbet with chicharon, lechon or other meat parts to add more texture and taste. It is one of the healthiest dishes of Ilocano’s and it is so convenient for them to cook for they can use any vegetables they have in their yard.
According to Gilda Cordero-Fernando, Pinakbet is known all around the Philippines; however, no one still compares to how Ilocano’s cook it. The locals from Ilocos swear that they know if the Pinakbet was cooked by their locals or not. They can differentiate it by the way the bitter gourd was cut off. They say Pampangos and Tagalogs slice the ampalaya into quarters and releases more water and salt into the Pinakbet. This will cause the vegetables to shrink and toughen. Ilocano’s version of cutting ampalaya looks like a hotdog bun wherein they do not slice it all the way through so it is like a hinge. Moreover, Ilocano’s include a small portion of the stem of eggplant, which is sliced into four halfway so that it will look like a flower.
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Image Credit: Chewy Chua