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Pinakbet with Gata (Vegetables Cooked with Coconut Milk)

We have taken liberties in the use of the word ‘pinakbet,’ that originally Ilocano dish which is known not only for its stark simplicity but also for being tasty and healthy. That this is inspired by that classic Ilocano favorite, though, is unmistakable. Taking a cue from the Bicolanos, which of course we are not, we have tweaked the original pinakbet a bit by adding coconut milk and lacing it with chili. Those who are not particularly fond of ampalaya (bitter gourd) may be surprised to find that it can be not so bitter, after all.


1 long slice liempo (pork belly), cut into small pieces
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
1 medium sized onion
1 ampalaya (bitter gourd), halved and slice into small half-rings
5 pieces okra, sliced whole into smaller pieces
¼ medium sized squash, peeled and sliced into small pieces
1-2 eggplants, slice diagonally into small pieces
string beans, sliced into 1 ½ inch strips
1/8 kilo shrimps, more if desired, shells removed and cut into small pieces
1-2 pouches coconut powder dissolved in 2-3 cups of water (grated coconut is just as fine)
3-4 siling labuyô (red chili)
3-4 spoonfuls bagoong alamang (shrimp paste)
2 cups water


1. Fry shrimps in a pan until somewhat crispy. Set aside.
2. Boil liempo in half a cup of water in a large wok until the water fully evaporates. Once the water has evaporated, keep stirring until the lard has been drawn out and the pork has become golden brown and crispy. Set to one side of the wok.
3. Sauté first the garlic in the lard until golden then add the onions.
4. Add the shrimps back in and stir everything together to blend.
5. Add the shrimp paste and chili and keep stirring to blend.
6. Add the squash and string beans and stir to blend. Stir occasionally for a couple of minutes.
7. Add the okra and the bitter gourd and stir to blend. Stir occasionally for a couple of minutes.
8. Add the 2 cups of water, bring to a boil and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Stir occasionally.
9. Add the coconut milk, bring to a boil and simmer for a minute or two. Stir occasionally.
10. Turn off the heat.

Makes 5-6 servings.

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