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The Filipino dish pinakbet is a medley of several native ingredients, some of which are more globally embraced than others. Served over rice, this entree blends a fatty type of deep-fried pork called chicharron with a sauce made from fish or shrimp paste. What give the dish its vibrant color and taste, however, are the vegetables — from standard fare like tomatoes and eggplant to more exotic ingredients like bitter melon and ginger.
Any type of pork can be used as the protein for pinakbet, from extra pork chops to leftover slices of tenderloin. Filipino chefs most often use chicharron, though, due to the fattiness and saltiness it brings to the dish. It is cooked with oil until fully seared, then set aside for addition at the end of the meal.
In the same skillet, chunks or slices of vegetables like tomatoes, green beans, eggplant, okra, ginger, onion, bitter melon and garlic are slightly caramelized too, and then added to a large pot or pressure cooker. Added right behind them is the seared pork and enough water to coat the bottom of the pot and create abundant steam. Into the water goes just a little shrimp or fish paste, bagoon alamang or bagoon isda, respectively. This is usually stirred into the water before it is added to the vegetables in the pan. Salt and pepper also are added to taste.
After covering the pot or pressure cooker, the pinakbet is allowed to stew for at least 15 minutes. This should cook all of the vegetables completely through and fully combine the flavors. Chefs will add enough water so that it does not completely evaporate before the vegetables are fully cooked, leaving a flavorful sauce to complement the other ingredients.
Once the pinakbet is finished cooking, scoops of white rice are placed on plates or in bowls, followed by generous helpings of meat and vegetables. Variations of pinakbet abound, with the vegetables being where the greatest deviation occurs. Many cooks just use what's fresh and readily available, filling up the chunks to the very top of the pan before the stewing begins. Some do not even bother to sear the vegetables, merely placing them in the pot to boil. Experienced chefs also commonly blanch the vegetables in cold water before introducing them to the heat, which helps them to retain their individual flavor and texture.
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