My father’s from Ilocos Sur in the northern part of the Philippines and pinakbet, or pakbet, is one of his specialties. It’s also one of my favorite Ilokano dishes that he makes on a regular basis. Most recently, I watched as he made a pot full of Filipino vegetables at home and wrote down the recipe he’s had in his head ever since I was young.
I love how easy this recipe is to cook. The challenge is to find an Asian grocery store that carries all the vegetables, but you can surely substitute as long as you have the shrimp paste handy. Speaking of shrimp paste, or what we call bagoong, my father has tried every brand available out there, but has only been happy with Kamayan Sauteed Shrimp Paste. Because it’s cooked, it has a darker brown color compared to the usual pink shrimp paste and it’s less fishy and salty. Once you have all your vegetables in one pot, all you need is the shrimp paste and a few minutes to stew it in water.
1 bittermelon, halved lengthwise, seeded, chopped
2 Japanese eggplants, chopped
1 pint of okra
1 small squash, harder skin removed, chopped
1 bunch Chinese long beans, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
1/4 cup of Kamayan sauteed shrimp paste
1 pound shrimp, shelled, heads on
1. Put all vegetables in a large Dutch oven. Top with dollops of shrimp paste. Add 1 cup of water and let simmer, covered. When water is simmering, mix everything together, making sure that the shrimp paste gets distributed.
2. Cook for about 20 minutes or until squash is tender, adding a little bit of water to keep the stew from drying. Add shrimp during the last five minutes of cooking. Add more shrimp paste to adjust taste.