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Pinakbet is a traditional Filipino dish that is a staple in households across the Philippines. It’s a savory vegetable stew made with a variety of local vegetables, pork, and bagoong (fermented shrimp paste). The vegetables often include bitter melon, eggplant, okra, squash, and string beans, but the selection can vary based on what’s in season or personal preference. The bagoong adds a unique umami flavor that makes this dish distinctly Filipino.
Pinakbet holds a significant place in Filipino cuisine. Originating from the Ilocos region in the northern part of the Philippines, it’s a reflection of the country’s agricultural tradition, making use of locally grown, seasonal vegetables. The use of bagoong, a fermented seafood paste common in Filipino cooking, showcases the country’s coastal influences.
Today, Pinakbet is enjoyed all over the country and is often served as a main dish for lunch or dinner in both everyday meals and festive occasions. It’s a beloved dish that truly embodies the flavors and spirit of Filipino home cooking.
Explanation of Key Ingredients
- Pork: Adds a savory flavor to the dish and makes it more filling. You can use any cut of pork, but pork belly or shoulder are commonly used because they’re flavorful and become tender when cooked.
- Bagoong: This is a fermented shrimp paste that’s a staple in Filipino cuisine. It gives the Pinakbet its unique, umami flavor. You can find it in Asian grocery stores or online.
- Vegetables: The vegetables used in Pinakbet are typically local, seasonal vegetables. Bitter melon, eggplant, okra, squash, and string beans are commonly used, but you can also add or substitute other vegetables based on what’s available.
- Tomatoes, Onion, and Garlic: These are the base flavors for many Filipino dishes, including Pinakbet. They’re sautéed in oil to bring out their flavors before the other ingredients are added.
Remember, the beauty of Pinakbet lies in its flexibility. Feel free to adjust the types and quantities of vegetables based on what’s in season or your personal preferences.
- 1/2 kilogram (1 pound) of pork, cut into small pieces
- 2 tablespoons of oil
- 1 onion, sliced
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 tomatoes, sliced
- 1/4 cup of bagoong (fermented shrimp paste)
- 1 bitter melon (ampalaya), sliced
- 1 eggplant, sliced
- 6 okras
- 1/4 squash (kalabasa), cubed
- 1 bunch of string beans (sitaw), cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1-2 cups of water
- Salt and pepper to taste
Preparation of Vegetables
- Rinse all the vegetables under cold water to remove any dirt or debris.
- Slice the bitter melon and eggplant into approximately 1-inch thick slices. For the bitter melon, you'll want to remove the seeds and white pith from the inside as they can be quite bitter.
- Trim the ends off the okra.
- Peel the squash and cut it into 1-inch cubes.
- Cut the string beans into 2-inch pieces.
- Heat the oil in a large pan or pot over medium heat.
- Add the pork pieces to the pan and cook until they are browned on all sides. Remove the pork from the pan and set it aside.
- In the same pan, sauté the onion, garlic, and tomatoes until they are soft and fragrant.
- Add the bagoong to the pan and stir it into the onion, garlic, and tomatoes. Cook for a couple of minutes until it is well combined.
- Return the pork to the pan and add the water. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 15 minutes.
- Add the squash to the pan and cook for another 10 minutes, or until it starts to soften.
- Add the rest of the vegetables to the pan (bitter melon, eggplant, okra, and string beans). Stir everything together, then cover the pan and let it cook for another 10-15 minutes, or until all the vegetables are cooked to your liking.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Pinakbet is traditionally served hot, straight from the stove.
- It’s typically served as a main dish and is best enjoyed with a side of steamed rice, which complements the savory flavors of the stew.
- You can garnish the dish with fresh cilantro or green onions for added color and flavor, although this is not traditional.
- Beverage: A light beer or a glass of white wine pairs well with Pinakbet. For a non-alcoholic option, a glass of calamansi juice or iced tea would be refreshing.
- Side: As mentioned, steamed rice is the traditional side dish for Pinakbet. The mild flavor of the rice balances the strong, savory flavors of the stew.
Pinakbet is a traditional Filipino vegetable stew that’s packed with flavor and nutrients. It’s made with a variety of local vegetables, pork, and bagoong (fermented shrimp paste), which gives it a unique umami flavor. This recipe walks you through the process of preparing and cooking Pinakbet, from preparing the vegetables to cooking the stew.
Enjoy your homemade Pinakbet and savor the rich, savory flavors of this traditional Filipino dish. Whether you’re familiar with Filipino cuisine or trying it for the first time, Pinakbet is a delicious and nutritious dish that showcases the vibrant flavors of the Philippines. Don’t be afraid to adjust the recipe to suit your taste and make it your own. Happy cooking!