Empanada battle (Vigan vs Batac): and the winner is…

Batac vs Vigan
photos from foodsilkenhut.com and melovillareal


On the Yellow Corner: Vigan
On the Yellow Corner: Vigan (photo from here.)
On the orange corner: Batac
On the orange corner: Batac (cropped from a photo by blauearth)

While this popular delicacy is not an Ilocano original (It was introduced here by our Spanish colonizers), empanada has become as Ilocano as saluyot, marunggay, and baggoong. It comes from the verb empanar, meaning to wrap or coat in bread.

In the Ilocos dichotomy that is Norte and Sur, two versions emerged from two key locations: Batac and Vigan. It’s not the first time someone compared the two Ilocos empanadas, but I will be more upfront about my verdict.

This comparison results from a series of store visits, interviews with tourists and locals, online reviews, direct observation, and, of course, product tasting conducted this summer in various empanada stalls in Vigan, Ilocos Sur and in Batac, Ilocos Norte.

For purposes of this comparison, Batac Empanadas, particularly those sold at the young city’s Riverside Empanadaan, are considered as the Ilocos Norte standard. On the other hand, the Vigan standard are those sold at Plaza Burgos and stalls like Irene’s and Abuelita’s, which follow a common recipe. I have to make this clear because other variants have sprouted in both provinces, like the crispy empanada sold in Bacarra and the sweet empanada served at a stall in Laoag City, both in Ilocos Norte. Then there are the empanada variants sold at Insiang’s and Hidden Garden in Vigan City, and the Candon, Ilocos Sur version which, interestingly enough, looks every inch a poor clone of the Batac empanada.

How do we proceed with the comparison? Taste, I admit, is highly relative because one tends to prefer what she is accustomed to. This is evident in the response made by Malot Ingel, an anthropologist from Vigan.

Malot Ingel, well respected anthropologist from Vigan
Malot Ingel, well-respected anthropologist from Vigan

“Kahit nag-eexplore ako sa maraming iba’t ibang klaseng pagkain. I mean, kahit foreign food, halimbawa Italian, gusto ko rin naman ‘yun. Pero pagdating sa Ilokano food, napaka-conservative ko, na kung ano ‘yung alam kong lasa, mag-i-stick ako dun. Halimbawa, ang pipian ng Vigan, very particular ‘yan. Minsan nilalagyan nila ng butter to improve the taste supposedly, nagiging unacceptable sa’kin ‘yun. In the same way, kapag empanada, Vigan empanada lang ‘yung gusto ko. I mean, maraming beses ko nang nalasahan ang empanada ng Batac, sabi nila masarap, pero di ko matanggap-tanggap ang lasa ng empanada ng Batac.”

I fully understand Malot’s point, and this preference for what one has come to call her own is why I found it important to conduct interviews with people who are from neither of the two provinces. For proper disclosure, I am from Laoag but I tried to write this feature as objectively and balanced as humanly possible.

We’re now ready to dissect the two empanadas. Let’s get ready to rumble. Continue reading “Empanada battle (Vigan vs Batac): and the winner is…”





With or without egg

Meaty or meatless

Egg half done or fully cooked

Grated papaya and mongo beans stuffed neatly

Inside a crisp shell made of rice flour.

Orange, yellow, green, brown, white

Burst into flavorful hues

Vinegar or catsup, which condiment would you choose?

Push it with soda, beer or water

But, oh, does it matter?

And even as we enjoy this Ilocano delight

Of, by, and for us

We concede: burgers can be good, too, alright.

With diverse tones, thus.. In God, we trust

Over, Empanada we crave

And, hopefully, burp.

The best Crispy Dinuguan in this bloody universe

Laoag City’s Tina Tan, one of the country’s top lifestyle bloggers, wrote in her blauearth.com, wholeheartedly I hope, that I could also be a good food blogger. Yes, I love food and I love blogging, but I’d rather write about sweet stories in a society gone sour, or bring out the spice in a phenomenon that at the surface seems bland, or sprinkle a dash of salt on agents of tastelessness.

But, this time, just this time, in the spirit of Tina Tan, who is once again a contender in this year’s Philippine Blog Awards, let me write about food. And allow me to present one that Madame Tina (she doesn’t enjoy being called this way; says she is not a fortuneteller) has not written about.

It is the best crispy dinardaraan (dinuguan) in my universe. And it is to be found neither in the famous Dawang’s in San Nicolas, arguably one of the most expensive carinderias in the country, or at the top-rated La Preciosa Fine Dining Restaurant in Laoag.

Iglesia ni Cristo, Rizal St., Brgy. 1, Laoag City

Ironically, it is located almost in front of the Iglesia ni Cristo Church along Rizal St. in Laoag City, and is adjacent to Partas Bus Trans. To the uninformed, they don’t eat animal blood.  (I am referring to members of the Church, not the bus drivers.)

The dinardaraan’s meat is as crispy as it could get and is very tasty because it is laden with fried internal organs sliced thinly. I saw there some pork bara (lungs) which is okay with me because smoking, I’m sure, is not one of a pig’s vices. The timpla is swak na swak (an observation shared by MMSU’s Kat Aguilar who I asked to taste test), and the aroma, oh-so-tempting.

Blood is poured into these crispy tidbits just before serving

Okay, I must admit it is not a healthy food. Blood is one of the riches sources of bad cholesterol. Moreover, internal organs provide you with uric acid overload. But one must always strike a balance between quality and quantity. What for is a long life without sinful pleasures? On the other hand, what for is an orgasmic life if you’re gone too soon for a second round? Even my mom, 69, who suffers from diabetes, indulges in dinardaraan. “Sagpaminsan met lang (just once in a while),” she reasons out. My dad, 74, is a blood eater, too. Continue reading “The best Crispy Dinuguan in this bloody universe”



(For those who can’t understand Iluko, you may proceed to the second part, an essay in Filipino. I write in the vernacular once every year on a day in August.)

“Umabot sa 7.3% ang GDP growth rate ng Pilipinas”

7-3 man, ading, order ni Mang Isidro sadiay karinderya ni Nana Dionisia. Continue reading “Siyete-Tres”