Pinakbet is a regional specialty from Ilocos which has become ubiquitous to a national dish with varying distinctions depending on the ingredients. A key ingredient is either bagoong alamang (fermented shrimp paste, which I prefer since it’s easier to find in any Asian grocery store), or burong isda (fermented fish sauce, akin to fish sauce but different in appearance). Cooking the vegetables in succession at the right doneness and allowing the liquid from each vegetable to cook the dish into a stew is what makes the recipe successful. This dish can be vegan without the addition of either key ingredient.

Pinakbet Recipe

Serves 2-4


4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small red onion, medium-dice
1/2 lb pork belly or shoulder, cut into 1-inch pieces, optional
1 tbsp shrimp paste or red miso*
4 Roma tomatoes, quartered
2 cups vegetable/chicken/pork broth or water
2 cups squash, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large Japanese or Chinese eggplant, cut 1-inch thick
1 large bitter melon, seed part scooped out and cut into 1-inch pieces
8-12 okra, trim ends and cut in half lengthwise
2 cups long beans, cut into 1-inch pieces

*Shrimp paste and pork can be omitted; substitute white miso paste in replacement of either or both.


  1. Heat oil in a casserole or medium saucepan.
  2. Sauté garlic until lightly brown and add red onions next. Cook until translucent about 3-4 minutes on medium-high heat.
  3. Remove garlic and onion then sear pork belly/shoulder until browned on all sides.
  4. Add shrimp paste if using and sauté for about 2-3 minutes.
  5. Return garlic and onion mixture then add tomatoes. Crush the tomatoes while cooking and add broth/liquid once tomatoes are crushed. Place lid slightly cracked and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until pork is slightly tender.
  6. Add squash and cook halfway through: depending on the size of the cut, it may take between 3-5 minutes on medium-high heat. Add the rest of the vegetables and simmer until tender but slightly crisp for another 3-5 minutes.
  7. Season to taste and serve hot with white rice.

Recipe by Rafe Vencio, Amboy Urban Collective/ Photography by Laura Petrilla

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