I have been spoiled with delicious home cooking ever since I was a kid! My parents make the BEST Filipino food and I was lucky to have yummy, nutritious and home cooked meals almost everyday growing up :) Here's a pic of my family at my Dad's 60th birthday, as you can see this is what a typical Filipino party food table at our house looks like!! ALWAYS SO MUCH FOOD!!!
So, I thought it was time that I try to make some of my family's Filipino dishes! I try to cook Filipino dishes once in awhile but honestly I haven't attempted many of the recipes yet, which is why I was inspired to start a #FilipinoFoodSessions feature on my blog. Hopefully it will inspire those of you who haven't had a chance to try Filipino cuisine to get out there and try some :) With the up and coming Filipino food movement, there are now more restaurants dedicated to serving Filipino recipes. However, it's always best home made if you ask me ;)
Some background on this particular dish: Pinakbet! (The following info is mostly from what I know/what my family tells me, I'm no Wikipedia lol). So, this is a dish full of veggies that uses anchovy sauce (or what me and my sister call "the brown sauce") to flavor the dish. There are many versions of how to make pinakbet, it depends on where you grew up/live in the Philippines. My parents are Ilocano so we grew up on a lot of Ilocano dishes. However, when my dad taste-tested my dish he pointed out that the TRUE Ilocano version of Pinakbet should only have bitter melon (ampalaya), eggplant and okra. In my recipe I added string beans and squash... so therefore it is not the true Ilocano version. OOPS, I had no clue about these little intricacies lol! Either way, this version of "Pinakbet" is still really delicious and tasty!
For those of you who aren't accustomed to eating Filipino food, you may see some 'exotic' veggies in this recipe. I've created a little illustration below to educate you on these veggies/ingredients :) The graphic below shows you what each veggie looks like (pre and post prep)... note the butternut squash is probably not the authentic type of squash used in Pinakbet, but it's what I used!
Ampalaya (Bitter melon) - The ampalaya has a very bitter taste, so this may take some getting used to if you are not accustomed to this type of flavor. However, Filipinos really love this veggie!
Eggplant - The eggplants used in this dish are the skinny eggplants or what are normally labelled "Chinese eggplants" at your grocery store. Filipinos normally don't use the big Italian eggplants for cooking.
Okra - This is one of my fave ingredients! Okra is used a lot in southern/soul food so most people should be familiar with this.
Anchovy paste - The "brown sauce" below has a strong smell, but don't let that scare you... It's the magic flavor ingredient in many Filipino dishes :)
Pork belly - The other important ingredient in this dish is the pork belly, which is browned, before adding the veggies, to up the flavor profile of the dish even more!
Keep scrolling for the step by step recipe, hope you enjoy my first #FilipinoFoodSessions feature :)
As with most Filipino dishes, Pinakbet is served with a generous scoop(s) of white rice :D
BTS: I asked my dad to send me his recipe so I could attempt to cook it... and this is all I got (see his msg below) lol! Like most traditional home cooks, no measurements, times or temperatures were provided ;)
Serves 8 - 10
1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 strips (1/2 inch thick) of pork belly, cut into strips
1 1/2 - 2 cups of water
3 medium-large tomatoes, chopped
3 medium sized eggplants cut into rounds, on a bias
3-4 cups of chopped string beans (cut into 3 inch long pieces)
20 pieces of okra
1 large ampalaya (bitter melon), seeds removed and cut into half moons
1/2 butternut squash cut into cubes
4 tbsp anchovy sauces (the "brown sauce")
Salt to taste
1. Sautee the pork belly in the oil and garlic until browned, this takes about 8 - 10 minutes. Once the meat is browned, add 1.5 cups of water along with the chopped tomatoes.
2. Once boiling, add to the pot the anchovy sauce and mix to combine. Then add all of the chopped veggies and mix to combine, leave on medium-low heat and cover for about 10 minutes. Make sure to check every few minutes to ensure the veggies don't get overcooked. Tip: Be gentle when stirring! The okra tends to get pretty fragile and can open up fairly easily.
3. Taste the sauce and add more anchovy paste and/or salt to your preference. The veggies should be soft (but not too soft) & cooked through at this point. So once you are good with the flavor and the veggies are cooked through, the pinakbet is done! Serve with white rice & devour and enjoy your taste of the Philippines :)