Vigan at night

Ilocos On A Plate: Northern Delicacies You Have To Absolutely Try

When I travel, I always make sure to try local food, since nothing beats having a great meal with friends and family as a way to bond. I’ve always done this, and my recent trip with my family to Ilocos was no different. For your convenience, I’ve gathered and sampled several Ilocos delicacies I think you should try when going on your first trip up north.

1. Bagnet

Bagnet - Vigan

Bagnet – Vigan

Bagnet is a deep fried pork dish submerged in boiling oil several times until it becomes crispy all over.  While I think it is cooked in almost the same way, bagnet is much, much better than your average lechon kawali or crispy pata.  It’s usually served with a dipping sauce made of fish bagoong (thick fish sauce), tomatoes and red onions, or a dipping sauce of soy sauce, vinegar and chili.

Bagnet is practically available in every restaurant you run into once you hit Ilocos.  Even Max’s in Laoag serves bagnet (and the taste is pretty authentic).

We ordered bagnet in almost all the restaurants where we ate in during our trip.  Try the bagnet in Cafe Leona (Vigan) or Herencia Restaurant (right in front of the Paoay Church).

2. Pinakbet

Bistro Candon - Pinakbet

Bistro Candon – Pinakbet

Pinakbet or Pakbet is a classic Ilocano vegetable dish stewed in fish bagoong.  Native vegetables, like okra, string beans and camote are typically used.  Pinakbet will normally have a thick rich sauce which goes very well with plain rice.

Chef Nic Rodriquez’s Bistro Candon (in Candon, Ilocos Sur) is famous for its pinakbet (which you really should try if you get the chance).  Bistro Candon’s version is cooked the traditional way – vegetables are layered and stewed in a clay pot with fish bagoong for flavor. (Notably, the bagoong does not overpower the taste of fresh native vegetables). For added texture, they also top it with bits of bagnet.

Bistro Candon - diningding

Bistro Candon – diningdeng

Bistro Candon’s diningdeng (sometimes called inabraw) is also a must try.  Diningdeng is very similar to pinakbet except it takes the form of a vegetable soup with fish bagoong.

3. Vigan Longganisa

Vigan Longganisa - Paoay

Vigan Longganisa – Paoay

Like the bagnet, you can order Vigan longganisa in almost all food places in Ilocos.  This type of longganisa is seasoned with pepper and garlic and is not sweet.  It is best eaten with a bit of sukang Ilocos.  I’ve yet to encounter a dish of Vigan longganisa I did not like, but the ones I tried in Herencia Restaurant were particularly good.

4. Ilocos Empanada

Empanada - Vigan - Irene's Vigan Empanada

Empanada – Vigan – Irene’s Vigan Empanada

Ilocos empanada is a deep fried stuffed pastry filled with monggo sprouts, egg and Vigan longganisa.  It is best eaten with a lot of sukang ilocos.

There are two kinds of Ilocos empanada, depending on the thickness of the pastry crust used.  The Ilocos empanada with a thicker pastry crust is more common.  I tried one in front of the Batac Church, which was pretty okay.

Empanadas with thin pastry crusts are usually sold in Vigan, and I must say I like this version more.  Irene’s Empanada (in Calle Crisologo) serves a mean version which you should try.

5. Ilocano Pizza

Vigan Longganisa and Pinakbet Pizza

Vigan Longganisa and Pinakbet Pizza

Obviously, Ilocano pizza is not a traditional Ilocos delicacy.  But it is gaining popularity and it’s a must-try for me.  The Vigan longganisa and pinakbet pizza at Herencio Restaurant (which claims that it created the pinakbet pizza) in Paoay is very good (except for the fact that it had ampalaya). The fish bagoong, surprisingly, went really well with the cheese.

One thought on “Ilocos On A Plate: Northern Delicacies You Have To Absolutely Try

  1. bmarie26

    Best bagnet for me is at Eagle’s Nest, Kusina Ilocandia or Bistro Amarillo at Hotel Salcedo.

    Best empanada for me is Double Longganisa, One Egg, Papaya Only (no monggo, dip in ketchup) at Bolo’s Empanada in San Nicolas.

    Best Pinakbet Pizza is at Saramsam Cafe.

    Must try: Crispy Dinuguan at Dawang’s at San Nicolas.

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