Friday, October 5, 2012


Pinakbet  or Pakbet is a healthy vegetable dish known all over the Philippines. It originated in the Northern and Ilocos regions. 'Pinakbet' comes from the Ilocano word "Pinakebbet' which means 'to shrivel' or 'dry up' as what happens when vegetables are steamed...

The original pinakbet uses bagoong (fish or shrimp sauce) with vegetables such as ampalaya, talong, okra, sitaw, parda, sigarillas, camote, patani, cadios and bunga ng malunggay. Tagalog version uses kalabasa.

Ilocanos are of Malay stock, descendants of Indonesian and Malaysian migrants who came to settle more than two thousand years ago on the coastal side of Northwestern Luzon coming from South China Sea. 

They arrived in boats and each boat accommodated a whole clan called a barangay. They spoke Sanskrit.

When Spanish explorer Juan de Salcedo first came to Vigan in 1572, the Ilocos region was already a very advanced and organized cluster of settlements ruled by datus. 

Their daily food was rice and healthy 'ulam'. 'Ulam' is a Malay word that means a mixture of vegetables and herbs eaten daily in meals. Pinakbet and Dinengdeng are some variations of the Malays' 'ulam'. 

Ancient Malays believe that eating 'ulam' would make you look younger even though you are actually aging.

Here is my even healthier version of pinakbet - - without pork, fish or shrimp:

1 1/2 c ampalaya (bitter melon)
1 1/2 c sitaw (string beans)
1 1/2 c kalabasa (squash)
1 1/2 c okra
1 1/2 c talong (eggplant)
1 c tomatoes
2 Tbsp leeks or spring onions
1/2 block tofu or 2 pcs tokwa (cubed,fried)
salt, soy sauce, seasoning

1. Saute leeks or spring onions in oil. Add tomatoes. Cook well.
2. Add ampalaya, sitaw, kalabasa, talong, okra, soy sauce, salt and seasoning. Cover and cook over low heat.
3. When vegetables are tender, remove from heat, add fried tofu or tokwa. Serve.

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