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This simple pinakbet llocano recipe combines flavors and textures from a variety of vegetables with crispy bites of pork. The wonderful flavors come to life with “bagoong isda”, an iconic Filipino sauce making it an easy meal to whip up for lunch or dinner.
What is Pinakbet?
Pinakbet also called “Pakbet” is a Filipino traditional vegetable dish. It consists of local vegetables like bitter melon, squash, sweet potatoes, eggplants, okra, and green beans combined with crispy pork.
The distinctive flavors come to life with “bagoong isda”, an iconic Filipino salted fish sauce.
Colorful and visually attractive, it can be eaten by itself or accompanied with a little bit of rice.
In this pinakbet Ilocano recipe , we use fried pork belly known as bagnet for the protein. And the medley of vegetables includes squash, round eggplants, okra, string beans and bitter melon.
The original pinakbet recipe uses “bagoong isda”, an anchovy sauce sold in jars.
History of Pinakbet Ilocano Style
Pinakbet originated in the region of Ilocos, but today it appears in many regional and seasonal varieties.
The word pinakbet is derived from the Ilocano word pinakebbet, meaning “shrunk” or “shrivelled”.
This pakbet or pinakbet vegetable dish is more than a regional cuisine. It is a symbol of the Ilocano palate.
It pays homage to the proud llocano farmers who struggle with the physical environment and from their land produce a much loved heart warming dish.
The Ilocano way of cooking pinakbet uses fish bagoong sauce and not shrimp paste or bagoong alamang.
The bagoong isda sauce is a thick fermented fish sauce typically made from a mix of anchovies and salt. It adds flavor to the dish which complements the vegetables and pork.
Typically, Filipinos pair pinakbet with fried fish and rice.
Pinakbet Ilocano vs Pinakbet Tagalog
As the popularity of pinakbet Ilocano grew, different versions started to emerge. Pinakbet Tagalog from Manila and the southern parts of the country also became popular.
While both are popular, they differ in a number of ways.
The Cooking Procedure
The original Ilocano pinakbet calls for cooking all the vegetables in a claypot, with water and seasonings. Everything cooks together until the vegetables have a shrunken appearance.
Cooking pinakbet Tagalog is a little more involved. It is not a one-step cooking approach. The recipe calls to first saute garlic with onions and then add the shrimp paste and vegetables.
The pinakbet ingredients
The Tagalogs and those from Pampanga love adding a lot of ingredients into their pinakbet. Chicharron, shrimps, squash, and other available ingredients are tossed in.
The llocano style version is simpler. All that is needed are tomatoes, garlic, eggplants, long beans, okra, winged beans, and other local vegetables.
Squash is not found in the original ilocano pakbet recipe, although it is commonly used and we have added it to this recipe.
The original Ilocano pinakbet uses traditional fish paste or bagoong isda for flavoring.
Whereas the Tagalog pakbet recipe calls for shrimp paste or bagoong alamang. In some cases sugar is also added to the Tagalog version.
Discovering Pinakbet Ilocano in the Philippines
The Ilocos region of the Philippines has one of the country’s strongest culinary traditions.
In collaboration with the Philippines Tourism Board, we had the opportunity to visit the region and explore the regional specialties.
Pinakbet or pakbet, one of the Ilocos popular dishes, quickly became one of our favorite dishes. Everywhere we went we made it a point to have the mixed vegetable stew.
What we particularly enjoyed about eating pinakbet in Ilocos were the tasty flavors in the local vegetables.
Baby bitter gourd or ampalaya, a new vegetable to us, had a sharp taste and loads of nutritional benefits.
The combination of flavors with fish bagoong isda sauce and the addition of pork and shrimp made pinakbet our go to meal.
This pinakbet Ilocano recipe is an easy vegetable dish to make at home. In this recipe we use fried pork belly or bagnet for crispy flavors and squash for additional substance.
Pinakbet Ilocano Recipe – How To Cook Pinakbet Ilocano
The combination of vegetables with pork and shrimp paste is what makes this dish so delicious and a true Filipino creation.
Simple to make at home, here are the ingredients for pakbet Ilocano.
Pinakbet Ilocano Recipe Tips
Fermented Fish Sauce or Bagoong Isda Substitute
Aromatic and packed with flavor, bagoong is an indispensable condiment for pinakbet and Filipino cooking in general.
The bagoong adds flavour and depth to the dish. In the Philippines, pinakbet Ilocano is made traditionally using bagoong isda, a sauce made with fermented fish like anchovies.
You can order anchovy sauce online and enjoy the bold flavors of the hearty Ilocano style pinakbet.
Where to Find Pinakbet Vegetables
You’ll find the ingredients for this pinakbet Ilocano recipe at Asian or Filipino supermarkets in your area.
Most of them will carry basic Filipino ingredients like bagoong, bitter gourd, small round eggplants and more.
If you do not have access to an Asian market locally, you can order anchovy sauce and other items online.
Cooking Tips For Pinakbet Recipe Ilocano
- To ensure all the vegetables are cooked right, start by cooking the more hearty vegetables first. For example, start with the squash, then the okra, bitter melon, eggplant, string beans, tomato, onions, garlic and ginger. Cover with a lid to ensure even cooking.
- If vegetables are more mature they will also take longer to cook.
- To wash out the bitterness from the bitter gourd, soak the slices in salted water for 30 minutes before cooking. They will taste less bitter.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: Get all natural pork belly raised without hormones delivered to your home. Snake River Farm offers 100% Kurobuta pork from Berkshire, a heritage breed of pigs. For your pinakbet recipe, enjoy juicy and flavorful Kurobuta pork raised on small family farms.
Pinakbet Ilocano Recipe – Step by Step How to Cook Pinakbet Instructions
Cook The Pork Belly
Start by boiling the pork belly with peppercorn for about 20 minutes. Once the pork belly has cooked and cooled down, prepare to fry it.
Heat oil in a frying pan and brown pork until crispy. Set aside and let it cook.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST RECIPE: Pork sisig is another favorite Filipino dish made with pork belly. Check our Pork sisig recipe for an easy-to-make crunchy pork sisig specialty dish.
Cut Up Vegetables For Pinakbet
Chop up all the vegetables for the pakbet recipe. Aim to cut up the pieces into similar sizes to ensure everything cooks evenly.
As you cut up the bitter gourd, please be sure to remove the seeds as well.
Boil water in a pot and add the anchovy sauce. Add the vegetables, starting with the squash then the okra, bitter melon, eggplant, string beans, tomato, onions, garlic and ginger.
Cook The Pinakbet Ilocano
Once all the vegetables are in the pot, cover and lower heat to simmer for about 15 minutes, until vegetables are cooked.
Cut up the bagnet or fried pork into slices and add to the vegetable stew and serve. Pinakbet is a complete meal on its own or you can add it as a side dish to a serving of rice.
More Local Food Experiences and Recipes
Claire, ex-engineer, is a digital nomad and content creator at Authentic Food Quest. Since 2015, with her partner, Rosemary, they travel the world in search of the best local food experiences. Their mission is to help you enjoy the best local specialties on your travels or via recipes in your home kitchen. Favorite country for food: Vietnam. Favorite local dish: Hainanese Chicken Rice. Favorite way to keep fit: Cycling. Claire is responsible for the website and the fun food & travel videos on Youtube. She is also co-author of Authentic Food Quest Argentina and Authentic Food Quest Peru, available on Amazon.