Surviving on coffee and laughters

Thursday, July 29, 2010

7107 Islands: Bagnet, Pakbet, and Sudden Death

When someone asks me what I want to do for the weekend, I only have one thing to answer: EAT! Street food, hole-in-the-wall diners, posh restaurants, whatever! As long as it is good food, I am game! So when we scored good airfare from Manila to Laoag via Cebu Pacific, you already know what I am thinking of. Yuuuuuuuuuum.
When we arrived in Vigan at 10:00 PM, we were devastated to find out that NO restaurants were open at that time. Even the restaurant of our hotel was about to close. However, sensing the extreme hunger we were feeling, the hospitable staff of Grandpa's Inn opened their kitchen to us.

And boy, we were so glad that they did! Kusina Felicitas, one of Grandpa's Inn's restaurants, offered us heartwarming dishes of authentic Ilocano cuisine. Thus, we never even tried other restaurants during our overnight stay there!

Here is a list of everything we devoured for dinner, breakfast, and lunch (in that order) in Kusina Felicitas:

My partner does not like eating Tinola, a really good clear soup with chicken as the primary ingredient. I, on the other hand, adore Tinola so when I saw the words "hot and spicy Tinola-like dish" on the menu, it was a go - despite numerous complaints from him. At P140 ($3), the serving is good enough for two. Although the soup base is not as spicy as I want it too, it is definitely worth more than it is priced. I love how citrus-y it tasted without being overpowering. I love how tender the chicken meat is and how the vegetables were still crunchy.

Who would not go into an Ilocano restaurant and forget about Bagnet? Bagnet is the meat of pork, fried, dried, and fried again to make it crispy yet moist and  tender. It has thin strips of fat in between layers of meat which melt in your mouth right after that crunch.

Bagnet is best paired with bagoong (shrimp paste), onions, and tomatoes. At P160 ($3.5), the serving was not that big. My partner gobbled up three quarters of the plate and I was left with two chops, I think. But they were hell good!

In the Philippines, when a hotel says that breakfast is included, it would most likely be a SiLog meal. SiLog means SInangag and itLOG, or fried rice and egg. Tap, in this case, means tapa, a type of beef jerky boiled in vinegar, sugar, lots of garlic, pepper and some soy sauce. Unless it states that American breakfast is available, this would most likely be your choice. While I had Tapsilog, my partner had Longsilog. In this case, Long stands for Longganiza, ground pork seasoned with salt, sugar, vinegar, pepper, and lots of garlic. Wash it down with fresh fruit juice early in the morning and you have enough energy to last a long time.

My mom told me to never miss the chance to order Pakbet when I am up north basically because vegetables here are almost always fresh. And she is right. Pinakbet is basically a variety of vegetables, usually string beans, eggplant, squash, and bitter melon. The trick to good Pinakbet is to use good quality shrimp paste while you saute the garlic and onions. I love how the vegetables are still fresh to the taste without tasting under cooked or raw. The flavors are fantastic especially since it was served warm. The dish set us back P90 ($2) but the serving was definitely big, good enough for two to three persons.

Okilas Dinardaraan
Dinardaraan is the Ilocano term for Dinuguan, a thick soup with pig's blood. Now, before you scowl, I have to tell you that I really do not eat Dinuguan because it scares me - thick, black sauce with morsels of meat that I cannot identify. But Okilas Dinardaraan is different. Okilas, I suppose, is pork crackling or chicharon. The pork crackling was served with a dip of Dinardaraan, a thickened, reduced version of the original dish. I was wary to try it at first but one bite and I knew it was love. <3 This dish cost us P90 ($2).

Yes, we were two happy tummies and I would gladly endure an 8-hour bus trip (if there are no cheap flights) just to sink my teeth into these dishes once more... the Bagnet especially.



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