Pinakbet, a mixed vegetable stew seasoned with bagoong, can be made with whatever vegetables you have on hand. But to make our best-ever pinakbet, we have some tried-and-tested tips for a balanced, well-textured dish.
- Use pork belly for a fatty cut that stays tender as it cooks. And for extra flavor, cook your vegetables in the pork's rendered fat.
- Pinakbet usually calls for red onions, which can taste overwhelming. Use sibuyas Tagalog, or lasona, for a milder, slightly sweet flavor.
- Did you know that round ampalaya tastes less bitter than the long type? Soak them in a brine to draw out its bitterness further.
- Ilocano pinakbet uses kamote (sweet potato) instead of squash. Try it out for a less sweet dish.
- If you can find it, season your pinakbet with bagoong isda or bagoong monamon: it has a distinctly salty, fishy umami and a milder flavor than bagoong guisado.
- 5 round ampalaya, sliced and deseeded
- 1–1 ½ tbsp oil
- 150g pork belly, thinly sliced
- 6 lasona (shallots)
- 6 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 ½ tbsp thinly sliced ginger
- 4–5 tomatoes, cut into wedges
- 3–4 tbsp bagoong isda
- 4 round eggplants
- 1 ½ cup kamote (sweet potato), quartered
- 4 tbsp water
- 1 bundle sigarilyas (winged beans)
- 2 cups okra, sliced diagonally
- 1 cup string beans
- 2 bundles squash blossoms or flowers, cleaned
- freshly cracked pepper, to taste
- 1 cup crushed chicharon, divided
Brine ampalaya: Add ampalaya, 2 cups water, and 3 teaspoons of salt to a bowl. Soak ampalaya for at least 10 minutes.
Cook pork and aromatics: Add oil to a deep pan or pot over medium heat. Add pork belly. Cook, stirring frequently, until browned and some of its fat has rendered out. Remove pork from the pan and set aside. Add shallots, garlic, and ginger to the same pan and cook until slightly aromatic, about 30 seconds.
Cook vegetables: Reduce heat to medium-low. Add tomatoes and cook until it releases its juices. Add bagoong isda, ampalaya, eggplant, kamote, and water. Cover the pot and cook for 5–8 minutes. Without stirring, add the sigarilyas, okra, and string beans. Cover the pot again and cook for another 3–5 minutes.
Finish: Add squash blossoms and season with pepper. Gently mix in cooked pork belly and 1 cup chicharon. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with ½ cup crushed chicharon.