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May 12, 2004

Pinakbet

Reyna's pinakbet is my personal favorite, with its utterly distinctive taste and aroma. When Reyna asked if the fragrance was O.K.--she was worried we would not like the shrimp paste--Lisa said the house smelled like a restaurant and we loved it.
Cut 2 Japanese eggplants (the smallest are the best) into 3-inch lengths and then in four, lengthwise, almost to the top of the section, but not all the through.
Cut 3 bitter melons (we used Indian bitter melon, lovely small bright green warty bitter melon, with skin like an alligator) the same way as the eggplant or all the way through to form 3-inch quarters. In Tagalog, bitter melon is called ampalaya.
Cut 20 long beans to the length of a finger. We used the light green ones.
Trim 15 okra, but do not expose the interior or the okra will be very slippery.
Chop two fresh ripe tomatoes into 1 inch chunks.
Layer the vegetables in the pot, with tomatoes, garlic (10 cloves crushed), and ginger (unpeeled, thumb size, crushed) between the layers, as follows: bitter melon (salt first to remove bitter taste, if desired--this was not necessary with small Indian ones), long beans, fava beans, okra, and frozen or fresh fava beans. Add either patis (about 1/4) or half a jar (about 100 grams) of sauteed shrimp paste (bagoong guisado) in spoonfuls on the very top. We used the spicy shrimp paste (Zamboanga brand).

shrimp paste.jpg indianbittermelon.jpg

Add eggplant later as the top layer, because it cooks more quickly. Simmer, covered, for about 15-20 minutes. Before adding eggplant, uncover and shake the pan. Add the eggplant and when it is tender, the dish is ready to serve. Pinakbet can be prepared in advance, partially cooked, and completed just before ready to serve.
If fresh or canned tomatoes not available, substitute tomato paste or ketchup.
In the Tagalog region, they add yellow winter squash.

It turns out that Ilokano pinakbet is famous! "Pinakbet according to Gilda Cordero-Fernando in Philippine Food and Life is a vegetable dish known all over the Philippines, but which no one cooks as deliciously as the Ilokanos. The Ilokanos say they can tell if a pinakbet was prepared by an Ilokano or not. Pampangos and Tagalogs cut ampalaya (bitter gourd), the main ingredient of pinakbet, into quarters and this, Ilokanos feel, allows too much water and salt in, which shrinks and toughens the vegetable. Ilokanos cut the ampalaya of their pinakbet lengthwise, and only on one side, leaving the opposite side uncut, like a hotdog bun, so that it opens like a hinge. In addition, Ilokanos include a bit of the stem in the last slice of the eggplant which is cut in four halfway through so it opens like a flower."

Posted by BKG at May 12, 2004 12:01 PM

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