Pinakbet is a local Filipino dish complete with a variety of indigenous vegetables cooked in a big pot and seasoned with bagoong or fish sauce. Pinakbet originated in the Ilocos Region (Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union and Pangasinan) which is prepared specifically by true blooded-Ilocanos. Pinakbet is a popular Ilokano dish, from the northern regions of the Philippines.The basic vegetables used in this dish include native bitter melon, eggplant, tomato, okra, and squash.The original Ilokano pinakbet uses bagoong, of fermented fish, while further south, shrimp paste is used. They also add pork meat, lechon, or even chicharon.
The local dish is a mixture of eggplant (either small, green round-shaped or slender purple in color), okra, bitter gourd (the small mature ampalaya), garlic, onions or shallots (locally termed as lasona), tomatoes, lima beans, string beans, green chili, and sigarillas. The Ilocanos do not place squash (kalabasa) unlike other ethnic groups cooking pinakbet. The squash distorts the taste and aroma of the vegetables, which are uniquely delectable and sumptuous. The variations in the vegetables came because of their availability and the inter-marriages that happened in the course of cuisine development.
The pinakbet is one of the Filipino dishes that reveals a story of Filipino life and culture. During the early days, vegetables harvested in one’s own farm signify openness and warmth. It provides an atmosphere of freshness and willingness to share. It gives an opportunity to discuss with other families or farmers the manner of vegetable production including the varieties used and management followed. In short, the start of production until the vegetables are cooked and served is already associated with the farmer and his/her family’s as industry and generosity. Ilocanos may be questioned on their generosity but they really spend and share whatever they have that is worthy and valuable.
In addition, pinakbet is served during the farming season. The activities include land preparation, irrigation, fertilization, crop protection management, and harvesting. No household will miss serving the dish because it is believed to provide strength and vitality to the farm workers. If the farm is rich with hito (African Eel) and dalag (Mudfish), for sure the pinakbet would be sumptuous thus encouraging the farm laborers and neighbors to go and help in the farm activities.