Pinakbet Tagalog is nutritious and delicious! A colorful combination of local vegetables, pork belly and shrimp paste, this classic Filipino stew is perfect as a main course or side dish with fried fish or grilled meats.
One of my favorite childhood memories was a weekend when my brothers and I sat down to dinner at our mother’s pinakbet. I’m sure, like most typical kids, we’d prefer spaghetti or BBQ chicken to this spicy vegetable stew if we had the choice, but we devoured our food like there was nothing else we wanted to eat.
What is Pinakbet
Pinakbet or Pakbet is a Filipino vegetable stew from the Ilocos region. Its name comes from the Ilocano word pinakebbet, which means “wrinkled”, referring to the fact that the vegetables are simmered in a saucepan over low heat until they “shrink”.
The dish uses local produce, root vegetables and beans that are available and plentiful in the area, such as okra, ginger, tomato, eggplant, ampalaya, sitau, siling duvag and camote. It is traditionally seasoned with bagoon monamon, a condiment made from fermented fish. Other ingredients such as diced pork, crispy baguette, shrimp, or pre-cooked fish are added for flavor.
While Pakbet originated in the northern part of the country, the Tagalog version of Pinakbet is also popular in the southern areas. This regional variant has its characteristic flavor of bagung alamang or shrimp paste instead of bagung isda and usually includes calabash for sweetness.
To ensure even cooking, cut the ingredients to the same size, for example, long beans of the same length, pork belly of the same thickness.
Add the vegetables to the pot depending on how long they cook. Stronger foods such as calabash and sitau come first, followed by eggplant, bitter melon and okra, which take less time to soften.
The recipe below uses pork belly, which has a good meat to fat ratio for flavor and texture. Leaner cuts like Boston bum as well as other squirrels like bagnet or kawali lechon, shrimp. and fried or grilled fish are also good options.
To reduce the “fishy” taste, cook the shrimp paste for a few minutes until it begins to brown.
How to serve and store
A hearty and filling assortment of vegetables and meats, this Tagalog pinakbet is a complete meal on its own, but can also be used as a side dish with grilled fish or meat and steamed rice.
To store, let cool completely and transfer to an airtight container. Refrigerate up to 3 days.
To reheat, place in a wide saucepan and heat over medium heat until fully heated through.