28 Aug2012

I have known for a couple of years or so that epazote or pasyotes or pasotes is the “unique or secret” ingredient in the lechons from Carcar Cebu. The pasyotes is a critical ingredient in the lechon stuffing, and it imparts a unique flavor. For most folks, they can’t explain the history or significance of this herb and its seemingly odd appearance in Carcar, of all places. Epazote was probably brought to the archipelago by Mexican sailors on the galleon trade route… and they probably tried to replicate some comfort food from home when they landed in the Philippines after a long crossing across the Pacific Ocean. Epazote appears in Ilocos (where the Galleons first stopped) and it is very much a part of their version of the Mexican Pipian, a chicken stew thickened with toasted ground rice or peanuts in the Pinoy case, but pumpkin seeds and nuts in the Mexican versions. Pipian versions from Cavite also exist, probably another place Mexicans made stops, and now I learn, epazote can be found in Carcar, Cebu as well. To cut a long story short, I asked a colleague from our office in Cebu to bring back some pasotes from Carcar and she brought this humongous bunch…

I have written about epazote or skunk weed or pig weed before, here. The last time I cooked with it, we made a pretty decent version of Ilocano pipian, so I decided to try and replicate that pipian, on a much larger scale… The original recipe I used was in this post. For this recent attempt, I used lots of chicken parts, thighs, legs, cut up breasts, wings, etc. I also used more toasted rice and let it cook longer, resulting in a thicker sauce. I also reduced the amount of achuete oil and ramped up the use of fresh kamias. The results were absolutely delicious. Not a single person in our Cebu office had ever tried this version of pipian before, and every single one of them seemed to enjoy it immensely. This humongous kawali worth of pipian was wiped out! The chicken, thick sauce, sourness from the kamias and the unique, almost medicinal taste of the epazote meld into one truly satisfying stew… I wish the herb were more readily accessible in Manila, as this is a dish I could see having at least once a month!



  1. millet says:

    have never had epazote before, nor pipian. the leaves look like the vietnamese sawtooth herb….i wonder if they’re the same. i imagine that like most herbs, this would be easy to propagate through cuttings, MM.

    Aug 28, 2012 | 8:26 am


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  3. Zerho says:

    It looks visually appealing. Would it be possible to have it in the Zubuchon menu? I want to taste is so bad…

    Aug 28, 2012 | 8:33 am

  4. Cecile says:

    I’m an Ilocana but I can’t remember hearing about this herb even from my grandparents before… maybe I should ask my cousins.

    Aug 28, 2012 | 10:44 am

  5. Greenmangomama says:

    This sounds amazing! I’ve only ever had epazote in Mexican dishes, never Filipino. I’d love to try my hand at this dish. Epazote can grow like a weed here in my backyard, but, sadly, no such luck for kamias. Maybe I’ll sub in some tomatillos.

    Aug 28, 2012 | 11:23 am

  6. Joel says:

    I’m from Cavite and I’ve never tried this. Any restaurant have this in their menu in Cavite you know?

    Aug 28, 2012 | 1:36 pm

  7. PITS, MANILA says:

    this is a first for me, MM …

    Aug 28, 2012 | 1:44 pm

  8. kennonballer says:

    Pasotes will thrive very well in pots. We’ve had some of them that lasted years in the pot back in Ilocos. They don’t like too much water and during the rainy season, the pots have to be moved to sheltered areas. Afaik, the pasotes were utilized by the cook only for pipian, nothing else.

    Oh, and before I forget, lechon in Vigan and environs are stuffed with the leaves of another obscure shrub/cactus called “carimbuaya” – something that I don’t hear about being done in other parts of the Phils.

    Aug 28, 2012 | 2:45 pm

  9. Sam says:

    Thank you for this post! I like to add epazote to my mole verde, and a small bunch always brightens up even a basic caldo de res. I’ve also added epazote to mackerel paksiw. Wow! for the bunch in the pic above, that would be $15-20, or more. Lucky Marketman! :)

    Aug 28, 2012 | 4:11 pm

  10. EbbaBlue says:

    With so huge population of Mexicans here in Houston, this herb can be bought cheap at Mexican Markets as well as Asian Groceries. I am not sure if I had eaten this in some Mexican Restaurant, but I sure will try to cook with it MM’s style.

    Sam, I had some “paksiw na galunggong” weeks ago, with only talong for the veggie. Next time I make this dish, I will add Epazote.

    I’ll try to plant some too.

    Aug 28, 2012 | 8:41 pm

  11. Connie C says:

    Mexicans use this herb with beans……eases the problem of gassiness for those who do not tolerate beans but “Beano” will also do it for you. If anybody remembers “aceite de manzanilla” from olden days being used for infant colicwhen Ask hubby’s cousin who includes the pills in the table setting when serving monggo , and I did tell you MM, I am not kidding.

    Epazote comes only once in a while in our local international grocery store, I blanch the epazote, place them in small snack ziplock bags and freeze them for future use for my pipian. I have also substituted the sinigang mix ( an occasional shot of MSG is tolerable) for the kamias which is not readily available here in the States. I have yet to serve pipian to someone who does not like the dish. I tell my guests, think arroz caldo, with a souring agent with epazote giving it a distinct flavor.

    Aug 29, 2012 | 12:46 am

  12. netoy says:

    The only stuffing I remember used when we had lechon (years and years ago) was the young sampaloc leaves that left such a beautiful sweet/sour taste to the inside meat (with the other condiments, of course). Those were the days… Now the lechon that we buy here in Southern Cali are mostly oven-roasted and lack that definitive taste. :(

    Aug 29, 2012 | 12:50 am

  13. Connie C says:

    OOps, missed the 10 minute mark for editing. I meant to say to be careful with too much epazote in your pipian or it wil l give you a taste similar to the carminative ” aceite de manzanilla”.

    Aug 29, 2012 | 1:07 am

  14. EbbaBlue says:

    Ms. Connie, now I know I have eaten a Mexican dish with Epazote… because it has that aceite de manzanilla taste. I never order that dish again, and come to think of it.. I never came back to that restaurant ever. I told my hubby then that they had put “Robitussin” in the stew.

    Aug 29, 2012 | 5:16 am

  15. Timmy says:

    I went to Chiapas and Yucatán on the southern end of Mexico, and Guatemala last year and I fell in love with their Pipían and Jocón – the best stews and next to Filipino comfort food. With rice, instead of the corn tortilla served as primary carbo source in these locales, I felt next to home sweet home cooking. They even served it in wooden plates and clay pots.

    Aug 29, 2012 | 9:50 am

  16. Rob says:

    Note that in Mexico, epazote is avoided by women who are pregnant or lactating.

    Aug 29, 2012 | 12:04 pm

  17. Getter Dragon 1 says:

    A very interesting post!

    Aug 30, 2012 | 6:03 am

  18. Betchay says:

    I learned something new again. I sometimes see this in the market but never knew how to cook with it. Thanks MM!

    Aug 30, 2012 | 7:44 am

  19. Shannan says:

    This looks like an awesome herb to add to many dishes and it looks delicious in this meal!

    Aug 31, 2012 | 7:43 am

  20. Marichu says:

    Born in La Union, never heard of this herb (or pipian). Married to someone in Ilocos Sur and finally had a taste of it. It is a comfort food. My in laws either have miki or pipian for merienda at least 2x a week.

    Aug 31, 2012 | 2:41 pm

  21. paul says:

    I am from vigan ilocos sur, pasotes as we call it locally. not all filipinos know this plant. my mother usually put it in pipian dish and mongo as substitute of malunggay. oh i miss vigan…

    Sep 9, 2012 | 4:31 pm

  22. Fred b block says:

    I grow lots of epazote here in Dauin at the beach in Negros Oriental. I use it in pico de gallo(fresh salsa), guacamole, pinto, black beans , salads. I cook Mexican cuisine and make tortillas from yellow field corn grown locally. It is fun and can involve the children if you have them…grinding the nixtamal into masa needed to form balls that are pressed into tortillas. Also grown are tomatillas, a variety of hot chiles, and poblano type for chile rellanos. You can find long Astal variety of sweet peppers in the Philippines for making the delicious rellanos. Dust the cheese(Jack) with minced epazote very well, and place two pieces inside each roasted chilies that you removed the skin and seeds from. Fry in butter that has 2 teaspoons of manteca added. The buttery favor of the chile comes through. Also, coat the chile with flour, dip into a batter of stiffened whites and beaten egg yokes and then fry in butter & manteca, butter & olive oil. Manteca is really better than the olive oil for taste! stuff the chiles with beans as an additive as well. Make a tomato sauce of tomato sauce, fried onions, and wedges of sweet bell peppers, use cumin, black pepper & chilpotle flakes if available! Now have fun, delicious!

    Nov 18, 2012 | 6:38 pm

  23. Jenalyn says:

    I miss pipian and having been in UK for 3 years means wasn’t able to eat pipan for 3 years! I’m from Vigan and I think pipian is only popular in metro Vigan because some of my Ilocano friends don’t know what a pipian is even if I show them the picture. I was thinking of making pipian here but i couldnt find any pasotes. :( For me pipian isn’t pipian without pasotes coz it gives the distinct flavor. I remember back in Philippines, we used to have sinigang sa kamias mix but my mum said she couldn’t find them anymore. One of my friends in Canada asked her nan to send her dried pasotes so she can cook pipian. However, I don’t know if the dried pasotes gave some flavor to the soup, have to ask her when I get hold of her.

    Sep 24, 2013 | 8:05 am

  24. carmelita organo says:

    I come from the northern part of the Phils, in Ilocos Region and since the Spanish settled there for many yrs we had the taste of the best pipian at home..my grandmother used to be a cooked for the rich in Ilocos and learned this marvelous recipe from the Spanish…I am not really a pipian lover but since I am already residing in Belgium for a decade, I am also craving for this recipe once in a while…I carry with me this famous pipian & nothing can equal the great taste & richness of the flavored rice soap…this is good for special occasions and when I’ve got visitors at home…

    Oct 15, 2013 | 7:06 am


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