Thursday, August 11, 2011

Veggies from the Sidewalks in Tuguegarao

So someone called me the night before I was to leave Tuguegarao, and begged for those Ilocano sili.

I thought, sili? I've heard Ilocanos put sili into their pakbet and most anything cooked, but I thought so do we, though not in pakbet. But I know its value - rendering dishes fragrant and spicy - and put it in anything that could benefit from it. So what's the deal about it in Cagayan?

Turns out it was a big deal. Because sili in Cagayan is not your usual siling pansigang, long light-green things that turn into smoking jalapenos when over-cooked.

No, sili Ilocano are short, not an inch longer than your index finger. And, wondrously, tame. So tame that you can eat it by itself - inihaw or steamed - even though your tolerance for heat is sub-zero.

So I must have bought half-a-kilo of sili to bring home, and proceeded to put it in everything, including pakbet, for the good part of a month. And my husband said, what's the point of a sili when it's not hot?

Good point. Or maybe, no point. No point, at all.

I didn't have time to go to the market in Tuguegarao, so I just took a stroll downtown to see if there was any sili for sale along the sidewalks. And so there was, and a host of other manangs were selling other things, besides. Like ingredients for pakbet grouped together, but each kind sold separately.

In Pangasinan you could get pakbet all grouped together, too, and sold together besides. There's even a version peeled and sliced and already packed in a plastic bag, though I stay away from those since they may be from vegetables past their prime.

Then there was the bag of dayap I bought wholesale, sold beside plastic bags of live beetles for frying or stewing in an adobo.

More beetles, and gourds. Upo and patola - bottle gourd and sponge gourd, in tiny samples.

My kind of vegetables. Julienned labong - bamboo shoots - and saluyot, normally sold together because they are each other's perfect mates. Note that the saluyot have been uprooted, which I know is not unusual in these parts, because that's how we prefer them, too, in Pangasinan. Unlike in Metro Manila, and also in Cavite, where saluyot are sold cut from the stems.

That blue pail contained the flesh from tiny shells that I'm not familiar with, and couldn't catch the name of, as the vendor spoke only Ilocano.

Bisukol, the common edible brown snails I grew up eating in Pangasinan, the sight of which made me long for my childhood. I sorely miss bisukol, and sore that I couldn't bring them home to cook.

My companions during the trip to Cagayan were whooping with joy upon finding a grill/bar near our hotel that served grilled things the previous night. We ordered all the grilled vegetables, which averaged Php10-15 per serving of about five pieces. In the middle were the not-hot sili. Default dip was fish bagoong squeezed with kalamansi.

We had the vegetables with grilled pantat, local catfish, which were small and not fatty but very, very tasty. And that made for the best meal during my stay in Cagayan.

Related Posts
Labong tan Saluyot

My Cagayan Valley Trip
Crown Bakeshop
Pancit Cabagan/Batil-Patong
Pastillas at Chicharabao
Cagayan Valley Road Trip


Anonymous said...

Sarap naman yan .. I miss that inkalot ya pantat (hito) ya isambong ed pakbet. Amay sili masamit ya ilaok ed pising, tinola. N owalay antam ya panluto ed patola aside from laokan na misua pakishare naman. Maraming patola at opo so aborbor ko diman garden ed beneg na abong.

Kai said...

Weehee Manong Bert, I hate patola, hahaha! Pero walay naakan kon dinegdeng ya walay akalaok ya patola - talon, okra, palya, alugbati tan patola, sinabawan tan inasinan. Masamit!

Anonymous said...

I can't believe na you hate patola. Atan so namiss ko no winter, kasumpal mo ya man-alis na snow ed driveway kaloob mo ed abong walay ampetang ya sabaw .. patola with misua. Wala met so nasaliw ed asian grocery pero no maminsan aliwa so taway to ta abayag la ya aborbor. Karuman sinubuk koy manluto (trial). yes one of the ingredient is patola. I don't know how to name it .. I did eggplant parmesan. Instead of all eggplant as ingredient. I cut half the supposed quantity of eggplant and subtituted it with "patola". The taste result? I am not telling you ... you have to try it to find it out.. and make your assesment

Kai said...

Manong Bert, it has something to do with childhood biases. The smell of patola and eggplant was disagreeable when I was a child, and I sort of never outgrew it, although I can eat eggplants now, hehe.

I'm guessing your eggplant-patola parmesan went great, as I think the patola provided a different texture and sweetness to the dish.

My suki vegetable vendor gave away three large zucchini last weekend and I was planning to make ratatouille. Now I'm thinking maybe adding patola would be nice.