Vigan Empanada and the gastronomic treats of Ilocos

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Friday, April 23, 2010

ILOCANO food may not be as sophisticated in taste as Kapampangan cooking and may even fall short of the gastronomic expectations if you're a Kapampangan with a palate for food of glutinous and adventurous flavors. However, Ilocano food presents a throng of gastronomic encounters if you only know what to look for.

While Ilocano food may be bland and unexciting for some, there is in fact a myriad of taste for the adventurous palate. One must understand that the Ilocos terrain had a significant effect on historical development of its food culture.

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We had the chance to focus on Ilocano food delights in a short visit to Vigan Heritage Village in Vigan City in Ilocos Sur last week. First on our list is the famed Vigan Empanada. Vigan empanada is made from freshly-rolled dough of rice-flour and egg whites. It's filled in with a mixture (at least one or all) of cabbage, carrots, green papaya, monggo sprouts and tomatoes.

The filling inside the dough is then deep-fried until it turns into a crispy shell. This is the regular empanada and sells for some P15 depending on the stall location. I personally love eating empanada along Plaza Burgos in Vigan, where the stall vendors put on a show of making the delectable treat for tourists and buyers to see. Whenever I visit Ilocos, I would try to eat my fill of empanada while walking along Crisologo Street.

There is a variation to the Vigan empanada. One can order a special empanada that has a slightly bigger crust, is filled with all the ingredients of regular empanada, but has additional Vigan longganisa (local sausage) bits and an egg yolk. For the adventurous of palate, three hours away from Vigan is the town of Batac in Ilocos Norte. Here a wide variety of empanadas await the food lover.

There is also a throng of other food attractions in Vigan. Stalls and ordinary eateries here offer home cooked Ilocano food. Internet blogger "Carambola Manila" in his blog space gives an interesting description of Ilocano food: the food is simple-honest Ilocano fare of abrao (assorted seasonal vegetables, typically malunggay, and that quintessentially Ilocano vegetable, saluyot, boiled in a bagoong and fish broth), pakbet, grilled and steamed fish and other seafood, seaweed salads garnished with sliced tomatoes, the sinful bagnet with accompanying KBL (kamatis, bagoong and lasona-sliced tomatoes and spring onions with fish sauce), dessert would consist of fresh fruits in season, and local rice cakes (tupig, patupat, linapet, dudol) and sesame seeds in molasses (linga), accompanied by coffee or native chocolate.

Bagnet is also a favorite pasalubong among tourists. Bagnet is the Ilocano version of the lechon kawali-pork squares first boiled in a saline solution, air dried, then deep fried twice until they are crisp and golden, according to Carambola Manila.

There are also ordinary foods with unusual names-the breakfast fare called poki-poki (also poqui-poqui), an innocent omelet made of eggplant sautéed with garlic, onions, tomatoes, and eggs; and vegetables with racy names: kabatiti (Tagalog patola, the vegetable served with misua), utong (string beans) to name two. So next time you visit Ilocos, make sure to savor the cuisine in between sightseeing and beach hopping.

Vigan empanada and gastronomic treats ilocos

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