Pinakbet – Vegetable Stew Recipe
1 whole ampalaya (bitter melon), about 150 g sliced
into 4-cm pieces
125 ml cane (or white) vinegar
200 g pork liempo (belly), cubed
250 ml water
2 tablespoons oil
1 medium onion, sliced diagonally
3 medium tomatoes, sliced diagonally
1 bunch sitaw (snake beans), cut into 4-cm lengths
100 g okra, trimmed and sliced diagonally into 2-cm pieces
150 g squash, peeled and cubed
150 g small aubergines (eggplants), cut diagonally into 1-cm slices
½ head garlic, cloves peeled and chopped
¼ cup bagoong (shrimp paste)
Sprinkle salt on ampalaya and pour in the vinegar to remove some of its bitter taste. Let rest for about 20 minutes, then drain. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, simmer pork in water for 5 minutes until almost cooked. Remove pork from pan and reserve the stock. Heat oil in a frying pan and brown the pork. Set aside the pork and reserve the pork oil. Arrange ampalaya on the bottom of a large casserole or claypot. Add, in layers, the onion, tomatoes, sitaw, okra, squash and aubergines. Sprinkle crushed garlic over it, then top with the pork and pour in the reserved pork oil.
Combine bagoong and the reserved pork stock in a small bowl. Mix well then pour into the casserole or claypot. Let it simmer for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender but still crisp. Serve with rice and additional bagoong if desired.
Note: The trick to cooking pinakbet is not to stir the vegetables during the cooking process as this could make the dish bitter. Bagoong, fermented shrimp or fish paste, is the main flavoring for this dish.