A fiesta of flavors sets Filipino cuisine heads and shoulders apart from the rest. Never one to shy away from the sweet, savory, or sour, it logically follows that we’d explore even the bitter aspects of food, too. For many, bitter food may often turn us away from the dining table almost immediately. But for those who know just what to do with some ingredients — and how to do them well — even bitter dishes can end up becoming your most favorite. This pinapaitan sa ampalaya may be just what you need to turn your opinion on bitter food all the way around.
The Philippines, and its cultures, are divided into regions spread across the three main islands. Each region, province, and people have dishes that are uniquely theirs, and uniquely delicious. Pinapaitan sa Ampalaya — as well as this dish’s original rendition — hail from the culturally rich region of Ilocos. Arguably one of the most popular parts of our country food-wise, Ilocano cuisine is very much alive across the nation. From hearty and filling to downright indulgent, it’s a well-known fact that Ilocanos really, really know what they’re doing with their food.
And Pinapaitan is definitely proof of that! Rich, sour, bitter, and spicy all at the same time, each bite will have you in for one long ride. Pinapaitan (or papaitan, as others call it) is the perfect stew for cold days, like the ones you’ll have in provinces up north. It’s definitely not one for the faint of heart, though, as it’s right up there with other strong dishes. One such example would be dinardaraan, which is the Ilocano take on another polarizing dish: dinuguan. In dinardaraan, pork blood, chili peppers, beef broth, and other ingredients come together in one pot. The result? A rich and savory stew the bravest of eaters will definitely enjoy. You should try it, too, if you enjoy this pinapaitan recipe!
What is Pinapaitan sa Ampalaya?
Generally, one retrieves the bitter agent of this dish from beef bile. This is found in the liver of the cow, which you’ll extract the bile from later. It’s the bile that typically gives pinapaitan its unique tangy and sour flavor, as well as its bright appearance. However, for those who find beef liver difficult to source out, fear not! This pinapaitan recipe we’re making today makes use of a handier, more accessible alternative.
Handier and more accessible, however, does not necessarily mean less polarizing. That’s right: we’re talking about the one and only bitter gourd, or ampalaya. Simply invoking its name can bring about such divisive and contrasting opinions, even within one’s own family! But for those who are able to cook it just right, ampalaya can be the secret to any stunning dish. Even just having it on its own with some scrambled eggs already make for a delicious lunch!
Ampalaya isn’t a stranger to Ilocano cuisine either. This crunchy green is a common guest in dishes like Pakbet Ilocano! Here, ampalaya is able to lend its intense flavor to a myriad of other veggies. With its numerous health benefits and easy ways to make it less bitter, we assure you that adding it to your pinapaitan will go off without a hitch.
Another departure from the original recipe worth noting is that pinapaitan typically makes use of goat meat. However, given that this can be quite difficult to find, using beef parts will do! Don’t worry: using beef organs doesn’t mean forsaking the delicious taste this pinapaitan has to offer. Just make sure, of course, that you’ve boiled and chopped them right before cooking!
While it’s easy to see why pinapaitan would be strange in the eyes of many, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! We guarantee that once you do, your mind just might change.
Let’s make this delicious pinapaitan sa ampalaya together!
The first step in making pinapaitan would be to prepare your 2 bitter melons by removing the seeds. Chop the veggies into small pieces after, though if a food processor is available to you feel free to use that instead. Next, after boiling 6 cups of water in a cooking pot, add in your ampalaya slices. Bring your water-bitter melon mixture to a boil for three minutes, then set it aside.
We will then take our wok or pan, then heat up 3 tablespoons of cooking oil. In it, you’ll sauté our minced garlic, ginger, and onion pieces. Wait until your onion softens before thus adding in your beef tripe, heart, and small intestine. For 5 to 7 minutes, cook this mix before adding in 4 ounces of pork liver slices. Now you’ll have to cook this for 1 minute, then pour 5 tablespoons of white vinegar into the wok. Bring your mixture to a boil.
The next step in your pinapaitan would then be to pour into the wok the water you used to boil the bitter melons. Do this while straining, then cover and let the liquid boil. Once it’s begun boiling, bring the heat down low and let your pinapaitan cook until all your ingredients are tender. Lastly, add your kamias and chili peppers and cook for the last 15 minutes.
Your flavorful and savory stew wouldn’t be complete without some fish sauce and ground black pepper to taste! Once you’re happy with the taste, you can now serve your pinapaitan at its best — piping hot. Share and enjoy it with the rest of your family!
Warm, comforting, and altogether, unique, this pinapaitan sa ampalaya is truly something else! We’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.
Pinapaitan sa Ampalaya
- 2 bitter melons
- 10 ounces beef tripe boiled and chopped
- 10 ounces beef heart boiled and chopped
- 4 ounces pork liver sliced
- 12 ounces beef small intestine boiled and chopped
- 5 chili pepper
- 5 kamias bilimbi
- 1 onion minced
- 3 thumbs ginger minced
- 5 cloves garlic minced
- 5 tablespoons white vinegar
- 6 cups water
- 3 tablespoons cooking oil
- Fish sauce and ground black pepper to taste
- Prepare the bitter melons by removing the seeds. Chop the veggies into small pieces. Note: you can also use a food processor for best results.
- Boil water in a cooking pot. Add chopped bitter melons. Boil for 3 minutes. Set aside.
- Heat oil in a clean wok or pan. Sauté garlic, onion, and ginger.
- Once the onion softens, add the beef tripe, beef heart, and small intestine. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes.
- Add liver. Cook for 1 minute.
- Pour vinegar into the wok. Let the mixture boil.
- Pour the water used to boil the bitter melons while straining. Cover and let the liquid boil. Set the heat to low. Continue boiling until all the ingredients gets tender.
- Add kamias and chili peppers. Cook for 15 minutes.
- Season with fish sauce and ground black pepper. Serve hot. Share and enjoy!
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