Pinakbet Tagalog is a Filipino vegetable dish. It is composed of a variety of vegetables and it also has a protein component. I made use of lechon kawali or crispy deep-fried pork belly for this recipe. This recipe is a variation of the popular Pinakbet Ilocano.
The difference between the two versions has something to do with the type of bagoong used. The Tagalog version makes use of bagoong alamang or shrimp paste. It is made from krill, which are small shrimp-like crustaceans found in the waters of Asia. The Ilocano version uses fermented fish or bagoong isda. Bagoong Terong and Bagoong Monamon are the common fermented fish used to cook it. Using the freshest vegetables is ideal for pinakbet. This dish is best paired with fried fish.
How to Cook Pinaket Tagalog
Start by sautéing onion and garlic. I also add ginger to my pakbet tagalog. This is an optional ingredient. Make sure that the onion softens before adding pork.
The pork in this recipe is the lechon kawali. You may also use bagnet, fresh pork, or even leftover fried pork. Saute the pork for 1 to 2 minutes and then add water. Let the water boil. Add Knorr Shrimp Cube. This ingredient gives our pinakbet that nice shrimp taste. This is the point where the pork needs to be tenderized by boiling in water. Do this by covering the pot and cook the pork until tender. That will be 20 minutes for lechon kawali and 40 minutes for fresh pork.
Add the tomato and bagoong alamang. Cook this for a few minutes and then add the kalabasa and kamote. These veggies are added first because these takes longer to cook than the others. 7 minutes should be enough to initially cook these.
Add the remaining vegetables and cook for 5 minutes. I also intentionally kept the crunchy parts of the lechon kawali for this step. It gives the dish a nice texture when added towards the end of the cooking process. Season with ground black pepper and serve this with warm white rice. You may also add extra water if you want more sauce on your pinakbet.
Food and the Filipino Culture
Food can serve as a brilliant storyteller, characterizing the people who make it and eat it. And in the Philippines, a great deal of these stories told have to do with the culture of the province or area it comes from. With the country being agriculturally rich, these narratives are often those of innovation and creativity. This stems from the availability of various ingredients. Our beautiful hodgepodge of eggplant, tomatoes, ginger, and sitaw is definitive of this same creativity, while more particularly defining the place it comes from. That, perhaps, is the magic of Pinakbet.
Getting a taste of this colorful dish of ampalaya, kamote, and multiple other wondrously selected components is like hearing a story. Each ingredient brings a distinct texture and taste that does little to disturb the harmony of flavors. Rather, it works together with many other foods. And together, they are able to mimic the feeling of being home, and of being in the Philippines.
The story behind Pinakbet
This dish was named after the Ilocano word pinakebbet, which means “dwindled” or reduced in size. This is because the method of cooking Pinakbet ends up with the ingredients shriveled. Slicing up the ampalaya into quarters usually provides more salt for the ingredients, which leads to the vegetables toughening and shrinking. In the end, you get spoonfuls of deliciously complementary vegetables, crispy meat and a savory, clement soup.
And with the etymology of our dish in mind, this recipe actually originated in the Ilocos region. However, Filipinos all over the country now deeply enjoy the dish. And you’ll find that cooks serve it in many other countries. The traditional version of this dish, surprisingly enough, does not include kalabasa or squash. This is an ingredient you can find in several renditions of Pinakbet, but not in the original one. This is apparently due to how kalabasa, with its relatively unique texture, tends to shift the taste of the vegetables unfavorably.
Nevertheless, the preparation of most Pinakbet recipes are still largely similar. Essentially, you will put together a large set of vegetables, most of the time including the previously mentioned string beans or sitaw, tomatoes, eggplant and more. And you will be seasoning these with what else but one of the most beloved condiments in the country– bagoong.
Why has Pinakbet become so popular?
You might be able to notice from our list of ingredients, as well as from the dish’s general background, just how unapologetically Filipino Pinakbet is. It has just the right mix of spices and seasonings, as well as vegetables, to tailor perfectly for Filipinos’ taste. But more than that, it also represents much of the Ilocos region and the country’s culture.
The pick of vegetables does not solely come from the seamless combination of flavors. Rather, these are also the ingredients they usually grow in the Ilocos area. And so you can also easily find them here. The province of Pangasinan is actually known for supplying a great amount of okra, ampalaya and eggplant to the rest of the country, especially Metro Manila. Meanwhile, Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur produce plenty of tomatoes and garlic for the rest of the region. This has only helped increase the popularity of pinakbet both within and outside the region.
But other than taste and convenience, you might be able to credit Pinakbet’s fame to its cultural significance. Traditionally, people believe it to bring strength to farm workers. This is partially why people often cook the dish during the farming season. But with its wealth of healthy ingredients, it also brings a good number of benefits for one’s body.
Health advantages to eating Pinakbet
Among the essentials in cooking a vibrant dish of Pinakbet is eggplant. It is one of the many ingredients that come with most variations of this dish. And conveniently enough, it also contains various nutrients. It is a great source of fiber, which means it can help balance one’s digestive system. Furthermore, it can also aid in lowering blood pressure.
But eggplant is not the only vegetable in the mix with its share of health benefits. Our kalabasa or squash can help keep your bones strong. Moreover, it contains a good amount of vitamins A, B6 and C. And ampalaya, also known as bitter gourd, contains properties for anti-aging, as well as maintaining one’s immune system. If you love skincare, consuming ampalaya can be a fantastic, organic way to keep your skin healthy.
And for that burst of unique, salty flavor, we also have onions in our Pinakbet recipe. Containing a lot of manganese, it can help in bone formation. Its phosphorus content can also support cell work in your body. The tomatoes in our dish are also a terrific source of lycopene. This supports heart health, while containing a good deal of vitamin A. Like ampalaya, it can keep your skin healthy. Also, the vitamin A is good for your eyesight.
Now if you’ve tried to make your own Pinakbet Tagalog, and are looking for other dishes with similar ingredients and some of that familiar, classic Filipino and cozy taste, I can suggest a couple of recipes. As mentioned before, this Pinakbet has grown popular all over the Philippines. This is why, luckily enough, we have such a unique set of variations for the dish.
Renditions of the classic Pinakbet that you should try in the kitchen
While it is true that Pinakbet is also greatly known for having its delectable share of meat, its well-intentioned set of spices also go well with a flourish of seafood. In this Pinakbet sa Gata recipe, this happens to be some deliciously sauteéd squid. The flavor of this alternative ingredient helps elevate our dish. But the difference doesn’t end there.
Our ingredients are simmered in a comforting stew of gata or coconut milk for this variation. We know this component to go massively well with seafood. This only makes this recipe more of a guaranteed culinary success. I can also suggest adding a bit of a punch to this creamy stew. A touch of spice from some Sriracha sauce, or one hot chili pepper can go a long way. This can accomplish a great deal in making our dish taste even more interesting.
Some of the best recipes blend together the complex flavors of sweet and savory ingredients. This contrast often works to enhance the dish, and provide an unexpected twist to your food. That being said, this Crispy Air Fried Liempo Pinakbet with Ube derives the same philosophy. And it does so while celebrating ingredients that serve as famous Filipino favorites.
Ube or purple yam is usually seen as a dessert ingredient. And this comes as no surprise because its mild taste jives well with a good variety of flavors. Among these is a beautifully seasoned liempo, infused with a lovely amount of salt, and a stew of onions, kalabasa, okra, and many other members of the Pinakbet family. Try this mouthwatering variant, and enjoy some crunchy liempo with less oil, as we are using an air fryer.
Where else should we pluck inspiration from in cooking some Pinakbet than its place of origin? The Pakbet or Pinakbet Ilocano has all of the essential qualities of a great Filipino dish. Peppered with a gorgeous amount of string beans, kamote, eggplant and okra, it is the perfect mix of flavors.
It remarkably makes use of bagoong isda instead of the alamang variant, which has more of a liquid-like consistency than shrimp paste. It contributes much to the flavor palate of the dish, and collaborates well with our beautifully crisp bagnet. This recipe is also open to lechon kawali as a meat option, with both providing a necessary and delicious texture of crunch to the stew.
But if you are looking for other Filipino recipes aside from Pinakbet, feel free to browse around. There is a great variety of dishes to find, especially those with a wealthy deal of vegetables, and a warm stew like this one!
Given your familiarity with these Pinakbet variations, you might be thinking about some of the ingredients you’d like to use. With such a large selection of components, some might be unavailable to you at the moment. But fret not, as I have some suggestions for alternatives you could use!
What are some substitutes I can use for bagoong alamang, lechon kawali, and Chinese eggplant for my Pinakbet Tagalog?
Bagoong Alamang substitutes:
To make full use of the ingredients you might easily have at your disposal, you can try utilizing your patis or fish sauce to replace bagoong. Just like shrimp paste, it has a strong flavor that helps brighten up a dish and heighten its saltiness. Unfortunately, this may be a bit less acrid or powerful compared to bagoong alamang.
But since we are using a plethora of other delicious seasonings for Pinakbet, this should still work as a proper substitute. For adjusted measurements, try pouring 1-2 tablespoons of fish sauce for each teaspoon of shrimp paste needed.
Another alternative, albeit a tad more shocking, are dilis, also known as anchovies. As it is infused by a rich, savory flavor, this would help mimic the taste of bagoong alamang. You could also give anchovy paste a try for this option, or if it is more accessible, fish paste in general. And if you can’t find this, mixing some water into blended anchovies could do the trick of achieving the bagoong-like texture.
You can also use the traditional ingredients of the classic pinakbet Ilokano, which are bagoong terong or bagoong monamon.
Lechon Kawali substitutes:
Now if you would still like to have your Pinakbet with that meaty flavor, we actually have options to achieve that but without the use of pork, chicken or beef! If you are generally avoiding meat to keep healthy, there is such a thing as vegan liempo. This can be found in online shops or in specialty food markets for about P770 for every 700 grams.
When you utilize this ingredient, you’ll be able to get a similar crisp and savor to lechon kawali. And the best part is that it is also a great source of protein, and is made of soy, wheat flour, cassava flour, garlic and more.
However, if you still have an inkling for meat, but with a bit less oil, you can also try slices of pork for your Pinakbet. Another variation to try with the same crunchiness would be chicken skin. This can bring a one of a kind savory flavor to your dish, while maintaining that amazing crisp.
And if you mix this in with some coconut milk, as seen in our Pinakbet sa Gata recipe above, a great protein alternative would be squid! Ultimately, you have all the freedom to play around with your source of protein, so long as you season it as well as we have with our nicely salted lechon kawali.
Of course, Bagnet is always perfect to use. This is the Ilokano version of crispy fried pork.
Chinese eggplant substitutes:
As for our vegetables, we know that among our essential ingredients is the Chinese eggplant. This is great for the recipe, as it has a smaller amount of seeds than the regular eggplant. Such a quality enables the vegetable to taste less acrid, and have a gentler taste. However, you can still try the normal globe eggplant for the recipe. However, you may end up with a more powerful taste from this. Perhaps reducing your share of sliced eggplant in the pot would help settle the flavor down.
You could also put some zucchini in the place of eggplant to imitate its mild taste. This conspires well with other vegetables because of how it is comparably less outrageous in flavor. That, and it has a great texture that can turn softer like the eggplant. You could also turn towards turnips, rutabagas or other kinds of root vegetables for a possible substitute. These ingredients can turn more tender with the right cooking time, and can replace eggplant.
With the large number of ingredients this tasty dish demands, we now know that we can still make it even if we might be missing a few. All there is to it is finding the right alternative ingredients to work with the recipe. And if you’ve already made your steaming bowl of delicious Pinakbet, you might also be wondering, “How do I store this if we’re unable to finish it?” There’s no need to worry about spoilage and warming up this dish again.
Follow these steps to storing your Pinakbet properly
Say you’ve made a nice meal of your Pinakbet, but you’ve got quite a lot of it left over. As much as you’d like to finish it, this array of filling, protein-filled ingredients are just too much for your appetite right now. And so for storage, the first thing you have to think about is cooling down your vegetable and meat stew. This is because we plan on refrigerating your Pinakbet to make it last longer.
But if you place your dish inside the refrigerator without proper time to cool, bacteria can contribute to spoilage more easily. This is because of its higher temperature. Make sure that it is at room temperature before putting it in the fridge to also avoid other perishable ingredients and dishes inside from getting contaminated.
Once your Pinakbet is no longer hot, you can pour it into an airtight container. Now take this, and place it on your fridge. With this, you can expect your dish to be good for eating for a maximum of 3 days.
How do I reheat my Pinakbet?
And when the cravings for a healthy, savory batch of vegetables and soup come up again, feel free to whip it out of the refrigerator. It might be hard to imagine it tasting as well as it did on the day you cooked it. However, sometimes the flavors of your ingredients– especially the seasonings– seep into the stew and other components better as the days pass. In the end, you are sure to taste something great!
But of course, it is best to have it nice and hot. You can put your dish in a wide pan, and let this get hot over medium heat. You can use your stove for this. Once you can see that it is completely warm, you can serve it all over again. Now you can have a lovely batch of Pinakbet all over again, perhaps with a good cup of warm rice!
Have you got any thoughts on this Pinakbet Tagalog recipe? Keep us updated by chatting us in the comments section below!
Try this Pinakbet Tagalog Recipe. Let me know what you think.
Pinakbet Tagalog Recipe
- 1 lb lechon kawali sliced
- 1 piece Knorr Shrimp Cube
- 12 pieces sitaw cut into 2 inch length
- 1/2 piece kalabasa cubed
- 12 pieces okra
- 1 piece Chinese eggplant sliced
- 1 piece ampalaya sliced
- 1 piece kamote cubed (optional)
- 2 pieces tomato cubed
- 2 thumbs ginger crushed (optional)
- 1 piece onion chopped
- 4 cloves garlic crushed
- 2 teaspoons bagoong alamang
- 2 ½ cups water
- 3 tablespoons cooking oil
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Heat cooking oil in a pot. Saute onion and garlic. Add ginger and continue to cook until the onion softens.
- Add lechon kawali. Saute for 1 minute.
- Pour water. Let boil.
- Add Knorr Shrimp Cube. Cover the pot and cook in medium heat for 20 minutes.
- Add tomato and bagoong alamang. Stir. Cover the pot. Cook for 3 minutes.
- Put the kalabasa and kamote into the pot. Cook for 7 minutes.
- Add sitaw, okra, ampalaya, and eggplant. Stir. Cover the pot and cook for 5 minutes.
- Season with ground black pepper and add remaining lechon kawali. Cook for minutes.
- Tranfer to a serving plate. Serve. Share and Enjoy!
Watch How to Cook Pinakbet Tagalog