Pakbet or pinakbet is probably the most famous Ilocano dish. It is also one of the very first dishes that I learned to cook at age… 8 or 9? I forgot. I did overcook the vegetables a few times before Dad finally told me they don’t have to be always overdone. Well, they ate my pakbet delightfully during those times, maybe just to show some appreciation.

Below is based on my sister’s recipe though it isn’t exactly how our Ilocano dad cooks it. I already have a habit of frying the garlic before the pork which, in dad’s case, is the other way around. With the bitterness of ampalaya or bittergourd, my sister gave me an advice on how to get rid of it. Different from what dad taught us, which is to salt it for about 10 minutes. Ate instructed me not to stir once this vegetable is added to the cooking pan. She did just that when she visited us here in Beijing few months ago and proved her point. She said she got the trick from a friend who said the vegetable is a common ingredient in their household cooking.

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