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Heirloom recipes: Showcasing Ilokano cuisine heritage

The history of the Philippines is complex and rich.
From the pre-colonial period to the Spanish colonization and the Japanese and American occupation, to the people finally regaining freedom from foreign hold, the country has endured undeniable changes and absorbed many influences to its culture, architecture, religion, clothing, language, and food.
Perhaps one of the most popular ways to discover and learn about the rich history of the country is through the local food we serve at our table for our family, friends, guests, and other loved ones.
In Laoag City, Ilocos Norte, some Ilokano dishes took the spotlight during the Hapag ng Pamana: Philippine Food Festival held recently.
The food festival, which is a first for the city, is in partnership with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).
During the food festival, some local chefs, cooks, and restaurant owners demonstrated how to traditionally prepare some iconic Ilokano dishes from the province.
Pamela Aragoza, owner of La Preciosa restaurant, showcased how to cook dinengdeng and hi-bol.
Dinengdeng is a vegetable dish typically made from eggplant, okra, sitaw or snake beans, bitter gourd, tomatoes, bagoong or shrimp paste, and some type of fish, most commonly used is milkfish.
On the other hand, hi-bol, which according to Aragoza was invented and popularized in Laoag City, comes from the word “high voltage” referring to the high heat used to cook the dish.
This noodle dish uses lusay or fresh yellow noodles, beef stock, pinapaitan mix, ginger, onion, beef and some internal organs typically tripe, beef heart and tendon, topped with boiled eggs and chicharon.
“We rely on local sources, whether they’re backyard and farm produced, resulting in extremely flavorful and exquisite dishes. The salty, the sour, the bitter, and the sweet, these are the characteristics of Ilokano cuisine, never strange but always unique,” Aragoza shared.
Another dish that was showcased during the food festival was dinakdakan – made from grilled pork parts including ears, liver, and tongue tossed in calamansi dressing with onions, ginger, some aromatics, and optionally with spicy chili peppers.
In his demonstration, Chef Marco Paolo Dela Cruz shared that the authentic way to make dinakdakan is to use pig's brain slurry to mix all the ingredients together as opposed to mayonnaise. 
Lastly, Karle Nevin Dawang, owner and cook of Dawang’s Eatery in Laoag City, demonstrated cooking of their own recipe of paksiw.
Ilocos paksiw is made up of sautéed beef, and beef fat, papait or juice from the second stomach of the cow, stock, salt and pepper to taste.
“This is paksiw in its simplest form, this is the paksiw that my grandmother taught me. She explained that this way is the way they used to cook paksiw back in her day,” he shared.
Truly, food connects us in various ways not just with the people we have in our lives today, but also with our ancestors.
Like the Filipinos before us, ours might have been modernized, fused with different ingredients, or changed the recipes, but they still stand providing nourishment for our bodies. (JCR/AMB/EJFG, PIA Ilocos Norte)

Pamela Aragoza, owner of La Preciosa restaurant, demostrates how to cook dinengdeng and hi-bol during the Hapag ng Pamana: Philippine Food Festival in Laoag City.
Chef Marco Paolo Dela Cruz demonstrates how to cook dinakdakan during the Hapag ng Pamana: Fhilippine Food Festival in Laoag City.
Karle Nevin Dawang, owner and cook of Dawang’s Eatery, demostrates how to cook paksiw during the Hapag ng Pamana: Philippine Food Festival in Laoag city.

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Emma Joyce Guillermo

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