Ilocano Pinapaitan

There is another popular dish that originated in the Northern-most Philippines, locally called Ilocandia, which is popular in most part of the country, although maybe another not for the faint-hearted.

The dish: pinapaitan.

Pait is Tagalog for bitter, that’s where the name of the dish was derived. Pronounce it pa-it, like the pa in park, and the it in bit. Pinapaitan literally means “made bitter”, that speaks of the dominant taste.

It is actually beef innards (liver,intestines,stomach) and some lean muscles, stewed in a bitter broth. The broth is made bitter by adding cow bile.

Well, bile is the popular choice. But here again, there’s another Ilocano secret only the old of elders use: they prefer the juice of the cow’s cud to bitter the broth.

In case you don’t know yet, cows has 4 stomach (or 1 stomach with 4 chambers, or, as other say: 2 stomachs with 1 having 3 chambers). Cows swallow the grasses whole initially, deposit it in 1 chamber. Then later, they regurgitate the grass and chew it again, then swallow again, in to another chamber they call “true” stomach (you can research the function of the other 2 stomachs). The rechewed grass is called gut. That is what is squezzed and used to bitter the broth.

The bitterness, compared to bile, is the same but it disappears quickly after eating. If bile is used, the bitter aftertaste lasts longer.

I had this “instant pinapaitan mix” that has been in my stash of ingredients for sometime, I don’t know why I have put off using it. Because maybe of the bitter dishes I made recently, I finally decided to try.

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I know I can’t buy cow’s innards, or maybe I just don’t know where to buy, so I settled myself with plain lean beef. I wasn’t so lucky that I only found 2 portion of thinky sliced beef at the supermarket, I took it anyhow. It will do, I guessed.

The instruction say I’d need to add green chili. I thought also of using a little fresh spice like ginger, union and garlic to perk up the flavor- instant mix like this usually won’t give you that fresh flavor of spices, and it’d be a bit more natural seeing the spices in the dish. Kind of not too much “instant”.

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Following the instructions further, I boiled the beef until tender. It’s not told but I included the spices when boiling the meat. Put the mix, simmer…While cooking, there’s noticeably the absence of pungent waft caused by the innards being cooked.

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That was it. Pinapaitan!

Verdict: Flavour is too bland, yes because I only used lean meat. The little ginger I added is just right, if I did not add ginger maybe it’s a lot more bland. It came to me too late that i also should have added some crushed peppercorns. Taste: bitterness is medium, not too offensive to those not used to bitter foods. Too sour, for me. On first taste the sourness is a little overpowering ( the mix has lemon in it). It’s also kind of hot, although I’m not sure if caused by the green chili, even though I did not slice them.

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