Vegetables are the trademark of Filipino cuisine. The Philippines is an agricultural country that focuses mainly on grains, seafood, and crops. In pre-colonial Philippines, villages had their own plots of land where they grew their own food. Every family grew crops in abundance and shared it to their neighbors. Such was the simple life of the Filipino ancestors.
One dish that embodies this culture of the Filipinos is pinakbet. According to history, pinakbet is most commonly served during the harvest season. Vegetables are freshly gathered for cooking and gives sustenance to the farmers as they work for most of the day. The dish originated in the Ilocos region and the name "pinakbet" is derived from the Ilocano word "pinakebbet" which means "shrunk" or "shriveled". It describes the way the vegetables look when cooked.
Traditionally, pinakbet is cooked in clay pots which is believed to enhance the flavor of the vegetables. The original Ilocano pinakbet recipe also omits squash in its vegetable list. However, cultural changes over time incorporated the brightly colored vegetable to give some vibrancy to the dish. Pinakbet is then flavored with bagoong and grilled pork or fish. It is simmered lightly, not overcooking the vegetables.
There's a variety of vegetables you can put in pinakbet. The usual mix are eggplants, bitter gourd, okra, squash and string beans or lima beans. Whatever vegetables you have available, it's always welcome in a pot of pinakbet.
A similar recipe can be found in Kawaling Pinoy. Ingredients can be sourced from My Tindahan. Image from Kawaling Pinoy.
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