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P is for Pinakbet

Today's letter is P.

Pinakbet.  What a chicken says when it wants to gamble? Nope.

Pinakbet. An Ilocano dish with eggplant, bittermelon, tomatoes, and long beans? Yep, that's it. If I happen to have kabocha squash and/or okra, I'll throw some into the mix, too. Depending on my mood, I'll make it with or without pork. On rare occasions, I'll go classic and add a bit of bagoong (fermented, finely ground fish or shrimp). I say rare because that stuff is very salty. Click here for a photo of what pinakbet looks like.

How do you pronounce pinakbet? I say pin-auk-bit.  But, you must realize that I don't have an Ilocano accent. Never had.

Pinakbet is one of my favorite dishes. When I was growing up, the mama cooked it often during the summer. Except for the onions and garlic, all the vegetables for the dish were freshly picked out of the daddy's garden. I have yet to eat a version that has topped or even come close to the mama's.  And, now, the mama's pinakbet is a lovely memory. The dish has too many ingredients to prep that the mama is tired before she starts cooking it.

A few weeks ago, I had a yen for pinakbet and decided to make it when I saw a decent looking Italian eggplant at the grocery store. This essentially is what I threw together, adding some veggies that the mama froze last summer. (Note: Because I don't use salt, I add a lot of garlic.)

  • about 1/2 pound of pork, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 5 garlic, minced
  • handful of chives, minced
  • 1 can of cut tomatoes (I would've used 3 or 4 medium tomatoes, if I had fresh ones)
  • 1 medium Italian eggplant, cut into 1-inch pieces (I think Japanese eggplant tastes better in pinakbet.)
  • 1/2  kabocha squash, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 pint size bag of frozen long beans, cut into about 2-inch pieces (probably equivalent to 5/8 pound)
  • 10 small frozen bittermelons 
  • Black pepper to taste
What I Did
  1. Brown the pork in a large sauce pan.
  2. Add the onions and stir until softened.
  3. Stir in the tomatoes, garlic, and chives. Also add black pepper to taste. Cover and simmer for a few minutes. (If I were to add bagoong, here's where I would stir in a solution made of about 1/8 teaspoon bagoong and 1/3 cup of water.)
  4. Add the eggplant and squash. (Also add the bittermelon, if everyone will be eating it.) Add a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water, if it looks like the food might burn. Cover the pan and simmer for about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the long beans, and gently mix everything together. Cover the pan and simmer for about another five minutes. I know the dish is done when the eggplant and kabocha are cooked.
  6. The husband cannot handle bittermelon, so I prepare the frozen bittermelon separately.  I microwave it with some of the sauce from the pan for about 2 to 3 minutes. I then mix the bittermelon into the mama's and my bowls of pinakbet. I will also add salt to the mama's portion.
For "real" pinakbet recipes with precise portions, check out this recipe with pork or this one with shrimp.

To read other "P" posts in Alphabe-Thursday, hosted by Jenny Matlock, head over to here. I hope you do.


  1. Interesting. Not sure what bittermelon or bagong are! Wish you had a finish product photo. I thought it was going to be some sort of casserole at first.
    My mother used to make all kinds of eggplant dishes.

  2. Sounds good but long to prepare ! So I would eat it but not make it, lol !

  3. I sahll look out for this on menus as I don't think I could find the tijme to make it. I do love how food from the past never fails to remind us of homely comforts

  4. Well, you put me to work. Stupid me... I didn't know what LLocano meant so I looked it up... It is an Austronesian language spoken by 9 million people in Northern Philippines. It's the largest spoken language in the US. How's that for my homework?

    I love your food. I'd try this sans the pork cause I don't eat meat. I love bittermellon and there is one store in town that carries them but I don't think they're organic. When I was macrobiotic, I never ate eggplant but now I'm on the Gerson therapy and they eat a lot of nightshades..... eggplant, potatoes and tomatoes. I don't use salt either but heavy on the garlic, too. No wonder you are so healthy, growing up eating Mama's cooking!!!! And now you know all those marvelous recipes.....
    Love and peace

  5. What an interesting recipe. It sounds yummy!


  6. I have certainly learnt a new word today. And how lovely that the original recipe came out of your daddy's garden!


  7. The dish sounds and LOOKS fabulous!!

  8. This sounds yummy... but what's a bitter lemon?.. and should I worry about my Anglo-Saxon digestive system if I consume it? **looks around nervously**

  9. I've never heard of it, but it looks quite good!

    I may just have to try it!

  10. it looks interesting and sounds intriguing ... i have seen most of those items at the grocers, now i know what some of them can be used for!

  11. I have never heard of this. Sounds quite interesting! I am just now posting my P post tonight. My family has had birthdays this week and I guess I just forgot...ha.

  12. Denise, click on the link on the second photo. When I do it right, mine does look like that. Honestly. Bittermelon is a bumpy green gourd shaped like a cucumber and really tastes bitter. Bagoong is a fermented paste of tiny fish or shrimp.

    Gattina, the preparing does seem to take twice as long as the cooking. :-)

    marisworld, if you ever find a restaurant that serves it, I'd sure like to know. :-)

    Manzi, I doubt many people who aren't Ilocano know about Ilocanos. :-) I didn't know that Ilocano is the largest spoken in the U.S....I wonder if you can grow bittermelon in your area. I believe that if it weren't for eating bittermelon almost everyday during the summer as a kid, I would've been diabetic by now.

    JDaniel4's Mom, they definitely taste good together. I wonder if I could make this dish into a casserole.

    Sue, it tastes even better as leftovers. Sometimes, I think I should just cook these dishes and serve them a day or two later.

  13. Maggy, you've turned me to a wonderful memory: the mama's cooking and the daddy's garden. Sweet.

    Judie, thank you!

    widdershins, if I remember correctly bittermelon is classified as a gourd. It truly is bitter, but it's a bitter I like. The husband can't handle it. He says the taste makes him gag and shudder. I don't think it bothered his tummy when he swallowed it. But it's been so long ago since he ate some.

    Rocky Mountain Woman, it tastes good, too.

    Jo, hmmm, you've given me an idea for a future post--veggies I've grown up with. :-)

    Permanent Posies, Happy Birthday to your family!

  14. OH! Thank you for sharing this and your other mom passed away in 2004, so I miss the fact that I could call her up and ask her about one of her recipes...she cooked by taste and not often with written specific ingredients.

    I am excited to go through your recipes you have shared!

    I am so glad that you stopped by! Have you been back to Hawaii since your "Parker Ranch and lemon meringue pie" visit? Please do come back any time. I look forward to your visits. I am following your blog now. Please follow back if you would like and to see more past art orders (in separate categorized albums, please become a "fan" of my art page.

    Blessings & Aloha!

  15. What a fascinating recipe. I totally cannot imagine this combination of flavors together, but I suspect it quite unusual.

    I've not tried bitter melon. I rarely see it at the stores I frequent. I suspect I might find it, though, at a Whole Foods!

    I'm bookmarking this for a time when I can concentrate on a recipe.

    Thanks for a particularly fascinating link on our little journey through Alphabe-Thursday's letter 'P'.


  16. PS&S, the mama was and still is the same way though she doesn't cook that much anymore. She's a creative cook. It wasn't till 20 years ago that I realized how much she liked to experiment with cooking, once she let go of everything has to be made a certain way.

    Jenny, I think if you skip the bittermelon, the dish wouldn't be so unusual. Maybe like a ratatoullie (however that is spelled). :-)

  17. You're making me miss the days when I could go out into my grandparent's garden and determine the menu for the day by what I found to be ripe.


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