Friday, April 13, 2012

Ilocos empanada, a delicious memory of childhood

I was accompanying my husband in HLURB in Quezon City when I saw a stand in the corner that said Farinas Ilocos empanada. What? Ilocos empanada here? Really?! Got to have one of those, I told myself. So I badgered my husband and made him promise that we we'll stop there after his meeting. Okay, okay, he said as if to say, anything to stop your nagging. I smiled.

I have lived in Ilocos for more than ten years. I spent my elementary days in Laoag. Yes, a young Tagalog (a mix of Batangas and Bulacan genes) in the land of the North. But I adapted well, my classmates have been quite nice, teaching me Ilocano words, giggling as they taught me the cuss words first.

I also learned to appreciate pinakbet with crushed chicharon, and my favorite Ilocano dish, Igado, those strips of pork with liver, green peas and bell pepper. I love Igado so much, I googled its recipe once and tried to make it at home. It wasn't exactly a hit but I tried. Then tried it again. And the next time, it was alright but not as authentic as the Ilocano kind but close enough.

Going back to the Naimas (delicious) Ilocano empanada, I remember this orange colored empanada as a treat I’d often see at night in the town plaza of Laoag, hawked by vendors lighted only by a lampara, cooked in a kawali and sizzled in oil. It had been a while since I’ve eaten this empanada again. I’d only have the chance to sample it when my father brings some of it from Ilocos as pasalubong, together with the equally awaited Ilocos longganisa or if I’m lucky to find it in a food bazaar like Mercato Centrale.

But here in Kalayaan Ave.,Quezon City, it has its own stand where I can go back to if I have a craving for it. Yes, there’s a God Plus, they also sell Ilocos longganisa, bagnet and sukang Iloko. Wow, that’s amazing! Pardon my enthusiasm but I have always loved the flavors of Ilocos. Maybe because I spent my childhood there and Ilocos not only reminded me of good food but also of scenic beaches like Pagudpud when it wasn’t popular then and the sand dunes of Suba beach where my sister and I played in. I miss the furious waves of Suba, so unlike the calm beaches of Batangas, it had a character of its own, feisty and unpredictable.

Meantime, while crunching on the empanada inside the car, my husband reminded me not to spill the sukang Iloko I generously steeped the empanada in. Yes, dear if I’m not too busy reminiscing and enjoying the empanada of my childhood, I will remember that, promise. Meanwhile, let me have this moment of gustatory reverie. And what do you know, this Ilocano empanada does taste authentic. But I’m not surprised though, the Farinases are quite popular in Ilocos so I gather their ingredients could only been sourced in Ilocos. It tastes almost or the same as the one I’ve always eaten as a child.

Inside the orange deep fried shell is a luscious combination of mongo sprouts, garlicky Ilocos longganisa bits and softly cooked egg portions. It is filling and creamy that if you lightly pour a portion of musky Ilocos vinegar, the gratifying result is a mouth-watering medley of contrasting textures and flavors. Definitely, one of my favorite snacks. But I warn you, you can’t have too many or you’ll get dizzy like me. Imagine deep fried goodness of eggs and meat. Yum!

I’ll definitely go back here and buy some of their longganisa and bagnet. And of course, bring home a bag of their crunchy and luscious empanada too. My sister was so excited when I mentioned it the other day that she grabbed my arm and said, "Don’t you dare bring me pizza when you visit me next time, bring me the Ilocos empanada or else" J

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