I love pinakbet. I didn’t always feel this way. But a well-made pinakbet has sweetness from the kalabasa (squash), bitterness pakbet2from the ampalaya (bitter gourd), the endearing somewhat rubbery bite from the sitaw (long beans), mushiness from talong (eggplant), mucousy consistency of okra, salt from the bagoong (shrimp paste), fat from the pork and several other textures and flavors from other ingredients you add as you see fit or have handy in your market basket…together it makes a Pinoy “ratatouille” of sorts, and I love it. It is perhaps an acquired taste, as I can see many uninitiated palates confused by the mixture of fermented shrimp, pork and a mish-mash of vegetables, but once hooked, it becomes comfort food…

Oddly, I have NEVER cooked pinakbet myself. Worse, I have never been pakbet3to Ilocos to get a taste of this dish closest to its home base. And many Filipino cookbooks don’t bother to include it in their line-up of dishes, assuming EVERYONE knows exactly how to do this dish. So I may definitely be waxing poetic about a dish that I haven’t the foggiest idea about, except through our own home version or that which my mom used to make decades ago… And I have very definite personal biases on how I think it should be cooked and served. Foremost among these biases is that the vegetables be JUST cooked and not overcooked and stewed until one big mushy stew with everything almost mashed into each other. So take this post with a grain of salt if you are a pinakbet expert…this is how we do it in our household and I would be glad to hear about your own variations…

Slice up kalabasa, sitaw, eggplants, okra and ampalaya. Add some bataw, blanched segments of malunggay pods, and other vegetables you think appropriate. Next, heat up a kawali or wok and sauté some chopped onions and garlic in some vegetable oil. Once these are soft and aromatic, add some chopped pork, preferably with some fat on it. Then add the vegetables in an order that they will end up cooking just right…perhaps the kalabasa first, then the sitaw, ampalaya, talong, eggplant, etc. Throw in some good bagoong along the way and stir gently. Cover so that it steams itself and the flavors have a chance to quickly come together. Add some water if the mixture is too dry but I actually like the final product to be dryish, not soupy or watery. Add salt and pepper to taste. And serve hot, just as soon as you finish cooking it. For this photo, I had a fat nervous breakdown and at the last moment I chopped up several pieces of good chicharon and threw it in…superb effect…but possibly seriously un-authentic. Serving the dish this way means the vegetables retain some of their integrity and vibrancy, but the overall mixture still comes together. Yum!!!


47 Responses

  1. my ilocana spinster grandaunts did not use shrimp bagoong, they used the stinking fermented fish type which we call “tinabal” here in Bacolod. They did not stir but they tossed the pot to mix the veggies. I also recall seeing a whole onion in the mix. There has to be pork because pork is the tastiest vegetable in pinakbet.

  2. lee and millet (from previous post), YES, I think the keys to a good pinakbet are the pork and the shrimp or fish sauce. The pork, possibly bagnet, of the Ilocos region is a real flavor enhancer and the type of salted or fermented shrimp or seafood will definitely change the overall impact of the dish. And lee, I love the TOSSED part…I always wondered how to minimize the mushiness and simply tossing everything is a perfect suggestion…

  3. My favorite version of pinakbet, the one cooked by my lola in Ilocos, has sweet chucks of kamote and patani :). I remember that in lieu of pork, she sometimes adds left-over broiled fish which adds a really distinctive flavor to the pakbet.

  4. I love how Lee calls pork the tastiest veggie in pinakbet. Indeed it is! I kinda saw this post coming when Marketman featured okra and kalabasa. You make pinakbet sound effortless. I might just dare make it for a taste of home in the middle of this frigid winter.

  5. my true-blue ilocano in-laws would scoff at how tagalogs bastardized their pakbet. they just plunk everything in a big claypot and let them simmer until the vegetables wilt (thus pakbet–which means kulubot in ilocano).

  6. In our province in Camiling, Tarlac, my lola cooked pinakbet this way. In a pot put the chopped “seseron” actually this is bagnet or lechon kawali. then the next layer , chopped tomatoes, lots of it, then next layer the sliced/chopped onions. Then the vegetables, the longest to cook goes in first- ampalaya the small ones if you have it and then cut at the tip 4-ways but do not cut all the way thru. Then the eggplants cut the same way as the ampalaya, then the sitaw, the okra. So everything is in the pot and she cooked this in a slow fire. My lola used the “buggoong na dilis” not the baggoong alamang and mashes the fish with some of the sauce or liquid from the baggong and adds this only when the mixture in the pot started to boil. She did not add any water but the liquid will come from the juice of all the vegetables. Then to mix she did not use any spoons , she tossed the vegetables inside the pot, toss and shake. So everything is layered in the pot and cooked in a slow fire until you reach the desired doneness of the vegetable. If you are a person who likes “sabaw” then add water at the start of cooking. We did not really use kalabasa and alamang, that is another recipe.

  7. My Ilocano bro-in-law makes the local version in a pot too. He arrange the vegetables in order, “hardest” one goes at the bottom. He uses patani too, aside from the usual squash, okra,string beans and eggplant, he tops it with onion, garlic,tomatoes and ginger(most any Ilocano dish has it). Then he season it with a bagoong but not the alamang bagoong, all I know is it is called Bagoong Balayan down south, not dilis but a look alike. Then top with bagnet.

  8. true ilocano pinakbet by ilocanos does not include kalabasa. and shrimp paste is never ever used. true pinakebbet is cooked with fermented paste (bugguong) from dagupan or even balayan. if the ilocanos want a somewhat sweet pinakbet they mix in camote or patani ot kadios.

    this pinakbet here is the one popularized by tagalogs. it is delicious also but very different from the real pakbet of ilocanos.

  9. I must say ilocanos make the best pinakbet. i had a room mate who cooks pinakbet without any meat in it still it was very tasty. I tried cooking it pero iba pa rin ang luto nila.

  10. The chicharon is a great addition MM. I do the same thing myself =) As an Ilocana, i prefer using bagoong rather than the alamang. i also don’t like to put ampalaya. oh heck! i pretty much do what i want with pinakbet. i tell u a funny story though. i was home for holidays years ago in manila and ordered pinakbet in a somewhat posh filipino restaurant. i gasped in horror when my pinakbet was laden with carrots and french beans!?! what the f**k! i guess the resto thought they could also poshi-fy this native dish by using these vegetables. it just felt soo wrong! what were they thinking?! yikes!

  11. thanks Divine G. that was nice of you. I want my pinakbet as close to the real one as possible. I wonder which restaurant in Manila serves authentic pakbet. I have not tried the real pakbet.

  12. MM, no tomatoes? tomatoes give good counterpoint to the bagoong and other strong flavors there. and yes, the “shaken, not stirred” line is not a Bond original; I’d like to believe it was used to describe thw way pinakbet is cooked. my friend’s maid who cooks the best pinakbet says she cooks it in a claypot with a tight-fitting lid, and every now and then, she picks up the pot, lid and all, and shakes it. by the way, she has shown me so many times how she cooks it, but i still can’t do it the way she does.

  13. never cooked mine but here in athens the majority of the filipinos are from ilocos…just a matter of calling friends when i get this craving

  14. The mixture of chicharon/bagnet with stale fried bangus, onions, tomatoes and bagoong balayan and whatever veggies near and dear to my heart is good enough for me to call it pinakbet or pseudo pinakbet. The best I could do to give this great dish justice without corrupting its root. Though it is not the real true blue blooded pinabket that most of the people in the Northern Region will call it.

  15. I love ilocano pinakbet! At home, we’d alternate between the true blue northern dish and the Manila version, which incidentally was prepared by first rendering the fat off pork pieces and using this oil for sauteing the alamang.

  16. All right, all right let us all settle down and let’s de-mystify this dish called pinakbet for technically this dish should be the national dish of our great country after all “adobo” came along when the Spanish decided to oppressed our people. PINAKBET is an acronym for Pinangat Ni Baket meaning stewed by the old lady or old lady’s stew. I say everyone was 90% right and yes we do not use shrimp paste, instead we use fermented fish sauce or often called monamon or in tagalog called balayan. And yes we do use vegetables thar are readily available, so the idea that you can not use squash or kalabasa is garbage. Use your favorite vegetable as long as you have tomato, talong, ampalaya and okra feel free to add your own (ex. talbos ny kalabasa or the buds/flower, sitaw, sigarelyas, kaldis etc.) so long as do not put too much sabaw after all it called Pinangat Ni Baket. As far as sauteing it with garlic and onions that is not the Ilocano way. it’s way better to boil water depending how many vegetable your using, add ginger and tomato, then add your fermented fish sauce, then the rest of the vegetable beginning with the longest one to cook. When all the vegetable are about done top it off with Roasted Bangus from Dagupan Pangasinan and let it simmered for another 2 minutes, it’s done. Serve it with freshly cooked rice and Lord have mercy on this dish.

  17. This is my mom’s version, too. And she’s from La Paz, Tarlac. I remember Oscar’s in-laws’ version by another name – dinengdeng where the veggies are boiled in bagoong broth. Both I like.

  18. my lola’s pinakbet, she just puts the veggies in the pot add water and bagoong, tops it with crushed tomato and simmers it until its all cooked, and instead of pork, she adds bagnet slices. . . the ilocano pinakbet tastes so different than the pinakbet we usually see with shrimp bagoong, although i think not everyone would like it. . . but it really is a satisfying dish. . .

  19. I really like this blog and the comments of so many of its readers. And this post is the perfect example why. I knew I had probably fallen in love with a dish that turns out to be a tiny shade of its original and I am glad to see so many voices on how it is made, should be made, was made, made nearest its source, etc. Gosh, I really need to get to Ilocos… I like the idea of tomatoes, we don’t use it but that would definitely make sense, particularly since I understand the vast majority of tomatoes raised commercially used to come from up North. That would also add natural moisture. The fish sauce rather than bagoong does not surprise me in the least and I can totally see where that is coming from, as I do for the bagnet which is brilliant all on its own. I love the descriptions of just layering it and “tossing” it as it cooks…but I have one big problem with all of this…it seems the authentic version has more of a chance of being somewhat “overcooked” since I tend to like my veggies “just cooked.” Hmmm, I have to try this in a manner closer to its original and see how that turns out. Thanks everyone for all of your comments, you have truly raised the bar on this dish for me…

  20. To all the Ilocano pinakbet experts, a big thank you for all the tips! Just two more questions– do you use a claypot to cook the dish? And what is the difference between this and dinengdeng?

  21. hello marketman! GMA-7 feautured Ilocano cuisines just days ago . sumakit ang ulo ko kasi ang sarap tignan ng mga luto.anyways, if you failed to watch it, you can visit and search 100% pinoy….they showed different types of cooking pinakbet in every different part of Ilocos.

  22. My yayas were from Ilocos and I grew up eating great pinakbet (of course it’s only now that I wish I could track them down and ask them for their recipes). The tips and suggestions on the comments is really helpful for someone who wants to get their hands dirty and make authentic pinakbet. I prefer al dente vegetables, but can mentally picture how the layering helps draw flavors. I’m having a tagalog pinakbet for lunch, and have had some in the past topped with chicharon. The ones with real chunks of bagnet are great, the meatiness of the refried pork adds to the texture and flavor.

  23. I’m salivating so badly. You all evil doers of pinakbet is making me dying for IT. I never forget my neighbor “Manang Saleng”. She lives now in Canada. She cooks us the best pinakbet in Sta. Rosa, Laguna. Pinakbet must have bagnet otherwise it is not pinakbet. I can’t find the best pinakbet here in Los Angeles. I can’t wait to go home in June.

  24. i want to adda that real ilocano pinakebbet (root word is “kebbet” meaning shrivelled, wilted; “pinakbet” is a contraction of the verb “pinakebbet” meaning made wilted; “pinakbet” is not an acronym, “pinangat ni baket” might be another coinage or concoction so it is also somewhat valid) has tomatoes in them. in fact it’s one basic ingredient. without tomatoes (the native ones are preferred as well as native amplayas are preferred), a pinakbet can not be pinakebbet because the sourness in tomato make it kumbet (kumebbet) or wilt.

  25. trishlovesbread, if you ever get to Ilocos dinengdeng and pakbet is just the same(whether with meat/fish). But for us non-Ilocanos dinengdeng uses grilled fish and pakbet uses bagnet. And I also don’t like overcooked vegetables but I do copy my bro-in-law’s way of cooking “layering” and use a stainless steel with thermoknob pan since I dont have a claypot. I just cover everything and when it boils,I turn off the heat. Voila! Not overcooked veggies but still flavorful. And by the way, bagnet is different from lechon kawali. Bagnet has more flavor.

  26. To MarketMan, To All and Trishlovesbread,

    Thank you for all submitting your ten cents on a dish that is dearly close to my stomach and my heart. You all just opened up the bulalo inside my cranium for I tend to forget that we all come up to the top from different regions of some one thousand and two hundred somewhat of an island. My own personal suggestion is “make it your own and have fun doing it. Get creative! Trishlovesbread use any deep dish cooking utensil you have available as far as the difference between pinakbet, diningding or as we Pangasinanese calls it “Pising”? PINAKBET calls for tomato and DININDING OR PISING don’t have. MARKETMAN, I AM DEEP IN NEED OF LECHON RECIPE. Please, Please, Pretty Please, Touch base on this PINOY Centerpiece. Thank you All. Peace

  27. When you make the Dinengdeng, don’t forget to add some of the following: mushrooms, katuray, saluyot, parda, sayote, patani, marunggay, or alukon that give it the extra complexity. Add your best bugguong and simmer for a good bit. The most important thing is to use what’s freshest in the market or whatever needs to be used(we didn’t become the frugal Ilocanos for nothing). My nanang makes either this or Pinakbet almost every weekend. Ilocano ‘soul food’ :)

  28. This is my first visit to this blog after having vainly searched for the Sr. Pedro chicken. My dad is Ilokano and my mom is Tagalog but I learned to cook dishes from them both, with pinakbet being one of my speciality. I currently live in London but thanks to Filipino stores around here (although expensive) I still get to cook this dish, I just miss adding in the bunga ng malunggay and if I remember correctly my dad truly loves it also in his labong and saluyot dish. I totally agree about the comment regarding adding fish instead of pork.

  29. Hey MarketMan! I cooked this for our supper tonight. Paired it with tinapang bangus because I don’t have time for a complicated recipe for today. I put chicharon in my pinakbet. Yummy! Especially if you use the chicharon which has both rind and meat. Mmmm…sinful! My dad cooks his pinakebet in layers. He sautes the onions, garlic and tomato in bagoong alamang or bagoong balayan, adds bagnet or deep fried pork cubes, then adds the vegetables in layers. First the squash cubes, then the okra, sitao, bataw, then finally the ampalaya. Everything is mixed just before serving. Yummy!

  30. I love pinakbet… but when my Mom makes it for me, she omits the pork (because I’m a vegetarian) and ampalaya (not too fond of bitter taste) and adds seafood (shrimps, etc.).

  31. MM, wish i could cook for you this dish to let you try the ilocano pinakbet. . .

  32. MM, my mother cooks this dish same as yours, but we call it “bulanlang”…..we use fish bagoong for pinakbet, and alamang for bulanlang…

  33. Pinakebbet a kumkumbet is right. The vegetables are shrivelled up (kimbet), but not overcooked, as in mushy. And I think you get this by partly opening the lid of the pot when the veggies are nearly done and let it simmer some more. To have a really tasty meatless pinakbet, use lots of tomatoes.

  34. This pinakbet looks like the Cebuano version. Lots of squash. Sometimes, it also has crushed ginger.

  35. buki capora, my mom was from Cebu/Bohol and our current cook is also from Cebu so you may be right… And yes, sometimes smashed ginger is included…

  36. i am entertained just by reading every comments here. i haven’t worn a smile today but more than a smile i was thrilled.. =) ..hmmn, i can almost s m e l l all ur pinakbets from this laptop already! ..great! i wana cook this one to sample for my friend who is coming from ilocos to london today! gosh, si dodong bisaya-ilocano un, wag ko paglutuin baka malagyan pa ng coconut milk ha ha ha.. well, hopefully when i get home in a bit, i’ll make it as my 1st time to cook my old favourite, i hope it’s a history in the making as i’ve never cooked pinakbet n my entire life. it was around 12 years ago the last time i’ve had my lola’s pinakbet during my schooldays in LA Union. those were the days for getting home at lunch. so GOd help me rest that taste in my hands for later!!

    thank u ol kabayan where-ever u are. . . God bless!

  37. pinakbet can be cooked with either bagnet or broiled fish, with or without ginger. try cooking it either way and compare the taste. personally, i’ld rather have the one cooked with bagnet and without the ginger.

  38. hi, i’d like to cite your recipe in my research paper regarding the evolution of pakbet/pinakbet across the country… thanks in advanced

  39. im actually curious about Himbabaw. bought this packet of podlike vegetable, more like collection of flower buds. The vegetable vendor, told me it was used in ilocano dishes, particularly pinakbet or dinengdeng. Just want to verify what himbabaw look likes. Looks kinda creepy actually, like a green caterpillar with a stem.

  40. Everybody has their own favorite version of this dish. I highly suggest you learn how to cook it, as mentioned in previous posts. I asked my youngest brother how he cooks our late dad’s infamous pinakbet and I managed to replicate my dad’s pinakbet. Believe me, I never had any interest in learning how to cook this dish until I ate it after a long time of not having it! As a child, I loved the patani, tarong, palang, utong, and okra!! Learn to make it, eat it,and savor it like I did!!! It is very easy to cook , but be careful when using bagoong, as this stuff will stink the hell out of yer house if you dont’ have proper kitchen ventilation going on!!!!

  41. My foster parents in Texas are also Ilocanos. They usually put “parda” in their pakbet, and instead of bagoong, they use left-over fried fish, which makes our pakbet very, very tasty! I learned to love pakbet through them. I love pakbet, I love Ilocanos! =)



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