ILOCOS NORTE, Philippines – Ilocos Norte is not only visited for its pristine beaches and historical churches – it also is home to famous, mouthwatering snacks that truly symbolize the history and rich culture of the Ilokanos.
Unfamiliar with Ilokano fare? Here we list down some of the province’s popular merienda picks for you try out, if you find yourself in the region!
The Ilocos empanada is popular as an afternoon snack in Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur. The word empanada is said to be derived from a Spanish term that means to wrap and coat in bread.
What makes this version different from other empanadas is its bright orange half-moon-shape, and its stuffing of Ilocos longganisa, eggs, green papaya, and parboiled mung beans (monggo). It is deep-fried in boiling oil, until super crunchy.
However, there are differences between the Batac and Vigan empanadas, the two kinds of Ilocos empanada. The latter version is thinner and the orange color is more subtle than the other. However, both versions are loved by locals and tourists, who prefer to dip them in sukang Ilocos (local vinegar) or banana ketchup.
Where to find the best ones: Glory’s Empanada in Batac Riverside Empanadaan (Batac Empanada) and Irene’s Empanada in Salcedo Street, Vigan, Ilocos Sur (Vigan Empanada).
Pinakbet is a popular Ilokano dish that consists of different vegetables such as eggplant, tomatoes, squash, okra, ampalaya, and long beans. These vegetables are accessible and grown in people’s arabyanthe Ilokano word for backyard.
In recent years, different restaurants in Ilocos Norte have incorporated the taste and ingredients of pinakbet into their pizzas. Locals and tourists, especially vegetarians, have been enjoying this snack when they go to Ilocos.
Where to find the best ones: Herencia Café in front of Paoay Church and Saramsam on Rizal Street, Laoag City.
According to the Museo Ilocos Norte website, tupig is traditionally popular during the Christmas season in Ilocos Norte, because during the holidays Ilokanos always return to their ancestral homes, and this local delicacy serves as their “treasure chest of heirlooms and memories.”
“Tupig is a treat that is served to friends, relatives, and Christmas carolers – as a sign of gratitude for their holiday greetings and to wish them well in the coming New Year,” it added.
But don’t worry, tupig is available any time of the year.
Originating in northwestern Luzon, tupig is a pastry made from glutinous rice (diket), coconut milk, molasses, and sesame seeds. Some towns wrap and cook it in bamboo tubes, coconut leaves, and coconut shells. It is usually grilled over charcoal.
Where to find the best ones: Sarrat, Ilocos Norte.
Just like tupig, dudol is mostly served during celebrations. It is a local treat during Guling-Guling Festival in Paoay, and there is even a dudol cook-off during the festival.
Nonethelessdudol is also available any time of the year.
Made from coconut milk, anise, sugarcane, and rice flour, it is an Ilokano native delicacy with very Asian roots.
Dudol is a popular rice cake in some countries, such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and Southern India. It is believed that before the arrival of Spaniards in the Philippines, Malay and Indian settlers on the coastal towns of Ilocos Norte and Sur introduced the locals to it.
Where to find the best ones: Paoay, Ilocos Norte.
The Ilokano version of biscocho is just baked leftover bread. According to Tourism Ilocos Norte, it comes in two forms: a toasted and crunchy biscuit, and a soft and chewy version.
Pasuquin biscocho is not sweet and has the aroma and flavor of anise. It is said to be a must-try when you visit Ilocos, as they tag it as the “Pride of the North.”
Where to find the best ones: Pasuquin Bakery in Brgy. Poblacion 3, Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte.
The Ilocos Miki is a popular chicken noodle soup found mostly in the streets and food courts. Museo Ilocos Norte said that the local miki “distinguishes itself from other Filipino variations by the type of egg noodles it uses.” It is made of chicken broth, rice noodles, atsuete, and is mostly topped with boiled egg, bagnet, and chicharon.
It is believed that it has been around since the Chinese migrated to the province. It is also served during birthday celebrations and lamay (wake).
Where to find the best ones: Batac Riverside Empanadaan in Batac City and Seachells Pagmiryendaan in Brgy. 28, Laoag City.
The Ilokano snacks listed here are just some of the favorites among locals, and there are other beloved meriendas you should try when you visit Ilocos Norte. – Rappler.com
Edmar Delos Santos is a Rappler intern under the Life & Style and Entertainment section.