My father was Ilocano and my abuelita was Bicolana. Since they were raised in their hometowns, this had helped enriched the culinary treasure chest of the resulting generation. But our use of native words were so mixed up that sometimes, we presumed some Visayan terms were actually Tagalog. For example, when my brother Billy was in grade school at the Ateneo, his teacher asked the class about the Tagalog term of certain parts of a chicken. No other hand was raised when the teacher asked for the Tagalog word for 'gizzard'. Happy to be the only one who seem to know the answer, Billy waved his hand high and responded with pride: "Baticulon, Sir, " to the amused guffaw of the teacher. Baticulon of course is Visayan for "balun-balunan".
The Ilocano side of my family takes pride in cooking pinacbet in the traditional clan recipe.
My Ilocano background and my love for Italian food combine to make this dish interestingly flavorful.
This version minimizes use of cholesterol because it uses olive oil and cooked lechon sa kawali which had already rendered of some of its fat. I only use the small round ampalayas and small round eggplants. No squash, no okra for me, at least for this dish. Lots of tomatoes help neutralize the bitter taste of amplaya.
1/2 kilo cooked but still crispy lechon sa kawali sliced 1/2 inch thick and 3 inches long
2 big red ripe tomatoes halved then sliced (use more if using small or medium tomatoes)
1 8-oz can crushed tomatoes
8 big cloves of garlic; 1 big onion, halved then sliced
3 slices ginger, crushed slightly; small can of salted anchovy fillets mashed in its oil or, half a cup of strained bagoong isda
3/4 kilo small round ampalaya cut in half and pitted
3/4 kilo of small round eggplants, cut in half but cut only when about to be put in the pot
(For even cooking, best to use those thick bottom pots with efficiently tight lids, or better yet, use non-stick))
Heat a generous amount of oil, making sure it covers the bottom of the pot generously. Put in garlic, red ripe tomatoes, ginger in the hot oil and cook for 3 minutes. Put in halved ampalaya first, then the eggplants, cutting them in half just as you are about to add them. Pour in the canned crushed tomatoes and the mashed anchovy or bagoong isda. Put the lechon sa kawali over the mixture. (Canned crushed tomatoes should provide the liquid for cooking while the olive oil will give it a shiny appetizing finish.)
Cover the pot and cook over medium high but watch out that it does not dry up. After around 15-20 minutes, turn the mixture by tossing the contents without removing the cover. Cook another 15 minutes. (After this take a peek and use your common sense. If you think the eggplant and amplaya is not cooked through, then add a few more minutes)
Turn off the heat and keep covered for 10 minutes.