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Philippines Exotic Foods - Flavorful Dishes From Northern Luzon

Updated on April 1, 2012

Northern Philippines is predominantly Ilocano country

Ilocanos are known for their stoic demeanor and their ability to weather the tribulations brought about by a rather arid environment. Because of this, they are also known for being thrifty, which in many ways is reflected in the frugal and rather spartan cuisine of the region.

Certainly, a bitter and sweet quality in the food is apparent. This is best seen in the rather peculiar way by which Ilocanos love the bitter gourd or ampalaya, a vegetable staple known for bitterness; and the papaitan, a dish which makes use of bile as a flavoring. However, there is more to the region's cuisine, and credit for this goes to the Ilocano himself who is by nature afflicted with a certain wanderlust.

Because of this adventurousness, Ilocano cuisine has been enriched by the addition of new ingredients, vegetables and cooking styles. This doesn't mean that original Ilocano dishes have been compromised though, as some of these have traveled well into the kitchens of other regions. An example of this would be the pinakbet, which could be found being served from north to south of the country.

Most recipes in this section are already familiar to most Filipino cooks. However, care was also taken to differentiate some of the cooking styles. This is apparent in the pinakbet recipe which has become acceptable to most Filipinos because of the addition of squash - an innovation which some say was introduced by the cooks of Vigan. The fact remains, however, that the recipes included are simple and not at all elaborate - which are the hallmarks of Ilocano cuisine.

Pagudpud Beach
Pagudpud Beach


  • 1/4 kilo seaweed
  • 3 tomatoes, sliced

Place the seaweed on a plate and remove impurities. Place under running water to wash thoroughly. Place in the refrigerator to chill.

After a few minutes, slice the tomatoes. Mix with the seaweed and serve immediately.

Note: The potpotlo seaweed is different from the more common ar-arusip seaweed. It is not as grape-shaped as the latter and has seemingly branching leaves.


  • 1 kg. bell pepper (sweet variety)
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 onions, quartered
  • 1/4 cup fish bagoong (fermented fish)
  • 7 pcs. calamansi

Grill the bell pepper until it is tender. Halve and remove seeds and core. Place on a platter along with sliced tomatoes and onions. Serve with the bagoong and calamansi mixture as dressing (or dip).


FIRST IN, FIRST OUT. When cooking, always remember to slice first the first ingredient that will be cooked. When cooking sinigang, slice the pork and beef first, as these should be boiled to tenderize. All other ingredients should follow depending on the amount of cooking time needed.

Bangui Windmills
Bangui Windmills


  • 1 cup rice washing
  • 2 cups squash, cubed
  • 4 medium-size tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 cup patani (local beans)
  • 2 cups malunggay fruit, skinned then sliced into 1/2-inch lengths
  • 2 medium-size eggplants
  • 1 ampalaya (bitter melon), sliced into squares
  • 1 bangus (milkfish), fried or broiled

Pour the rice washing in a pot. Add the squash, tomatoes and patani. Bring to a boil.

Allow the vegetables and rice washing to simmer for 5 minutes more. Add the rest of the vegetables. Adjust the seasoning if needed. Allow to simmer for several more minutes.

Add the fish. Simmer for 2 more minutes.


  • 2 tbsps. cooking oil
  • 1 tbsp. finely minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 kg. pork, diced
  • 1 thumb-sized ginger, sliced
  • 5 ripe tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 cup shrimp paste (bagoong alamang)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 eggplants, sliced
  • 2 cups squash, sliced
  • 1/2 cup boiled squash, mashed
  • 5 pcs. okra
  • 1 bundle sitaw (string-beans), sliced into 3-inch lengths
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a pan and saute the garlic and onion. Add the pork and saute some more. Stir for a few minutes. Add the ginger and the tomatoes and cook for 10 more minutes.

Add the shrimp paste and stir for a few minutes. Add the water and mashed squash. Allow to boil.

Add the eggplant, squash, okra and sitaw. Allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Old Cathedral In Vigan
Old Cathedral In Vigan


  • 1 kg. kuhol (snails, the edible type!), washed and cleaned
  • 2 bundles kangkong, leaves separated and stalks sliced into 3-inch lengths
  • 1/2 cup fish bagoong (fermented fish), strained to remove impurities and mixed with;
  • 1 1/2 cups rice washing
  • 1 onion, sliced

Place the snails in a pot along with the kangkong stalks, bagoong mixed with rice washing and onions. Boil for 12 minutes.

Add the kangkong leaves. Allow to simmer for 8 more minutes. Mix. Season to taste and serve immediately.


  • 2 tomatoes, sliced
  • 5 pcs. string beans (sitaw), sliced into 2-inch lengths
  • 4 small ampalaya, halved
  • 2 cups squash, cubed
  • 2 eggplants, sliced into rounds
  • 1 medium-size fish (e.g. bangus), broiled
  • 2 tbsps. fish bagoong (fermented fish), strained to remove impurities

Place all the ingredients in a pot. Cover the pot and cook until all the vegetables are tender.


  • 2 tsps. cooking oil
  • 1 small garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 kg. pork intestines, boiled and sliced crosswise
  • 1/2 kg. pork meat (lean), boiled then diced
  • 1/2 kg. pork liver, diced
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 1/2 cups pig's blood, strained to remove curdled blood
  • dash of black pepper
  • 2 tsps. salt

Saute the garlic and onions in cooking oil. Add the intestines, pork and liver. Stir-fry for 5 minutes.

Add the vinegar and the blood. Bring to a boil. Occasionally stir to stop the blood from curdling.

Simmer for 25 minutes. Season with black pepper and salt. Simmer for 10 minutes more. Serve hot.

Note: The blood might dry up during the cooking process. To prevent this, just add more water while cooking.

Old Church In Paoway
Old Church In Paoway


  • 1 whole chicken, cut into serving pieces
  • 1 head garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. achuete, mixed with water and color extracted
  • 2 tbsp. patis
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 4 tbsps. rice flour (about cup ground rice)
  • cooking oil, for frying chicken
  • vegetables like sitaw and pechay are optional

Brown the rice flour in a pan and set aside. In another pan, brown the chicken pieces in hot oil and set aside.

Using the same pan, saute the garlic and add the chicken pieces. Season with patis before adding the chicken broth. Add the achuete extract. Allow to boil until done.

Note: Vegetables like sitaw (string beans) and pechay may be added if desired.


  • 1 cup pig intestines, cleaned, boiled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 cups finely chopped chicken meat
  • 1/2 cup sliced onions
  • 1/2 cup vinegar (Sukang Iloko)
  • 1 head garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup chicken blood, mixed in 1 cup water
  • 1 laurel leaf
  • oregano leaves
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste

Saute the garlic, onion and tomatoes. Add the finely chopped chicken meat and the intestines; mix. Cover and allow to cook for a few minutes.

Add the vinegar, salt, pepper, laurel leaf, oregano and allow to simmer until the meat is tender.

Add the chicken blood diluted in water and allow to simmer for 10 more minutes. Serve hot.


  • 1 young goat
  • salt and pepper

Roast the goat.

After roasting, use a sharp knife to separate the skin from the meat. Remove the lean meat, intestines (big and small), liver and pancreas; set aside.

Get the bile or bitter liquid from the intestines. Strain very well to remove impurities; set aside.

Slice the lean meat, liver and pancreas into squares and place in a bowl. Add the papait (the bile or bitter liquid) and season with salt and pepper.

Cobblestone Streets In Vigan
Cobblestone Streets In Vigan


  • 1 cup pig intestines, washed, boiled and finely chopped
  • 1 cup sliced tomatoes
  • 2 cups finely chopped chicken meat
  • 1/2 cup sliced onions
  • 1/2 cup vinegar (Sukang lloko)
  • 1 head garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup green peas
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Saute the garlic, onion and tomatoes. Add the chicken meat and intestines and mix. Cover and allow to cook for a few minutes.

Add the vinegar, salt, and pepper. Allow to simmer until the meats are tender.

Add the green peas and bell peppers. Continue to simmer for a few more minutes.


  • 2 pcs. medium-size catfish, cleaned, washed and whiskers removed
  • 1 bundle lemon grass (tanglad)
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • salt to taste
  • 1 cup vinegar (Sukang lloko)
  • 1 thumb-size ginger, sliced
  • pork lard

Line a wok with the lemon grass. Place the catfish on top. Add the onion, ginger, salt and vinegar. Allow to boil until half-done.

When half-cooked, add the pork lard and allow to boil for another 10 minutes.


  • 1/2 kg. pig ears, or pig snout, or pig skin (variety meats)
  • 1/2 kg. pork
  • salt
  • pepper
  • garlic
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup calamansi juice
  • mayonnaise or pig's brain, boiled then mashed

Boil the pork cubes in water with salt until tender. Remove from water when cooked; set aside.

Meanwhile, grill the variety meats until tender but not crispy. Slice the variety meats into 1/2"-wide and 1"-long pieces.

Place pork cubes and grilled variety meats in a bowl. Add the garlic, minced onion, lemon juice and mayonnaise (or mashed pig's brain, if you want the dish to be traditional). Mix well and serve immediately. (Note: For a spicier dinakdakan, add chopped bird's eye chili).


SOURING INGREDIENTS. Cooking sinigang but don't have tamarind to sour it with ? Don't fret. Souring ingredients like camias, batuan and santol - all of which are sour fruits - can be used. If these are not available, leaves and blossoms can be used instead, such as the young and tender alibangbang leaves (bauhinia), mango leaves and young tamarind blossoms.

Old Church In Vigan
Old Church In Vigan


  • 1 cup flour, sifted
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 7 bananas (saba variety), sliced lengthwise about 1/2-inch thick
  • cooking oil, for deep frying
  • brown sugar, for sprinkling

Mix all the dry ingredients. Add the rest of the ingredients except the bananas. Blend until the batter is smooth.

Dip the banana slices into the batter and deep-fry the bananas until golden brown. Drain and sprinkle with brown sugar before serving.


  • 2 cups flour, sifted
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • cooking oil
  • syrup for dipping

In a bowl, mix the flour and the salt. Add the milk and the egg; mix well. Knead the resulting dough until smooth.

Roll dough into long strip about an inch in diameter. Cut the rolled dough into equal portions.

Place portions into the back of a fork and press. Roll the dough away from you to form a cylindrical shape. Seal the ends with some water.

Deep fry until golden brown. Drain and dip in syrup.


  • 2 cups glutinous rice, soaked overnight
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup young coconut, shredded into strips
  • banana leaves, passed through flames to wilt

Grind the rice until fine. Transfer the ground rice to a cheese cloth. Tie the end of the cheese cloth. Press to remove excess water. Place the ground rice on a tray to dry a little.

Add the sugar and young coconut. Mix well. Add water to form a soft mixture.

Place 3 tablespoons of the mixture, form into a cylinder and place in banana leaves. Flatten a little before broiling over hot charcoal.

The tupig is done when the filling is brownish and chewy in consistency.


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    • profile image

      rhena 5 years ago

      wow i like inabraw !!!

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      Ilokana 6 years ago

      Bagisen and calasiao puto, the best! Missed ko to!

    • monk3ybidzness profile image

      monk3ybidzness 6 years ago from Antartica


    • kerlynb profile image

      kerlynb 6 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^

      Inabraw - I LIKE ;)