July 21, 2015

vegetables for pinakbet

It's not often that we're able to stop by a bigger Asian grocery and produce market so when there's an opportunity, we rarely miss it. I like to browse the merchandise along the aisles. There are so many interesting items and I always enjoy my time there. Fresh Asian vegetables are also available and buying some of my favorites has always been a special treat for me. In Manila, these vegetables are very common at the local market.

This unique mix of vegetables was exactly what I needed to make a Filipino dish called pinakbet. It's a popular vegetable dish in the Northern Philippines particularly the Ilocos region. There are many variations using different eggplant varieties and other vegetables. One of the key ingredients used to season this dish is bagoong, a type of salty paste made with shrimp or fish. I had to replace it with patis (fish sauce) so my husband will have no problem with the pinakbet (he's very allergic to shrimp).

It has crossed my mind many times that pinakbet, shown above and below, may be the Filipino version of ratatouille, a French vegetable stew that also uses a variety of vegetables.

I also bought a bunch of garlic chives, sold cheaper at this Asian market than at regular grocery stores. A good amount went into these Asian potstickers, shown below. I made them many times before without the chives, even if the recipe required it. They were not just expensive at the grocery but they were hard to find sometimes. The chives definitely added more authentic flavors to the dumplings.

Asian potstickers with garlic chives

our complete meal ~ pinakbet and Asian potstickers
served with steamed rice
For the recipe,
PINAKBET (Filipino vegetable stew)

For vegetarians, the pork is optional and the patis or fish sauce may be replaced with salt.

canola or vegetable oil for sauteeing
1/2 lb lean pork cubes
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1/2 cup onions, thinly sliced
1 cup tomatoes, sliced
2 cups kalabasa (or butternut or acorn squash), cubed
2 cups yard long greens (or green beans), cut into 2" pieces 
1 medium ampalaya (bitter gourd), seeds and all white core removed then sliced thinly (the white core inside is the most bitter part)
1 medium Japanese eggplant (or other variety), cut into 2" long pieces
about 2 cups fresh baby okra

Prepare the vegetables and set aside. The ampalaya or bitter gourd slices may be soaked in salted water for a few minutes to get rid of too much bitterness. Stir-fry the pork cubes until well browned. Transfer to a plate. Add more oil to the pork fat left in the pan. Sautee the garlic, onions and tomatoes until very soft and onions are translucent. Return the pork to the pan and add the squash. Season with patis (fish sauce) and ground pepper. Salt or bagoong (shrimp paste) may be used instead of the fish sauce. Add a little water to create steam. Cover the pan and simmer until squash is half-cooked. Toss in the the rest of the vegetables, add more water if needed and simmer until tender. Serve with rice.

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