Friday, May 08, 2009

Ilocos empanada! Dissecting the Batac and Vigan empanada

Ilocos empanada is one of my favorite Philippine snacks. Every time I go to Ilocos, I make sure to get my share of Ilocos empanada, especially the one in Batac, which is reputably where the best empanada is served.

The Ilocos empanada is actually of Spanish and Mexican origin. Notice how it's similar to the taco? The basic empanada has a rice flour or galapong crust with grated green papaya inside. The longaniza, egg and bean sprouts were later added. There are actually two varieties of Ilocos empanada, the one in Batac (which is the same one served in Laoag), and the empanada served in Vigan. So what are the differences?

1. On the crust, the crust of the Batac empanada is orange because of the achuete. The Vigan empanada has no coloring and is thus lighter in color.
2. The crust of the Vigan empanada is thinner and crunchier. While the crust of the Batac empanada, while crispy as well, is a bit harder the chew. While many people prefer the crunchier Vigan crust, I noticed it retains more oil.
3. The Batac empanada uses the entire egg. In Vigan, many stalls remove the egg white (this practice maybe had something to do with building churches since egg white was an important building material at that time).
4. Longaniza types are also different. The Batac empanada uses the saltier Laoag longaniza. While the Vigan empanada uses the vinegar-seasoned longaniza of Vigan.
5. Many Vigan empanadas do not have bean sprouts, just the grated green papaya.
6. The differences in vinegar also add distinctiveness to the two varieties. I noticed the Vigan vinegar is very strong with an alcohol-like fermented taste. The Laoag vinegar is really sour and usually has siling labuyo added to it when served in the stalls. I personally prefer the latter.
7. In Vigan, they still use banana leaves to fold and seal the empanada. In Batac, it's already plastic.

The Batac empanada has a lot of variations. There's the ordinary empanada (just the papaya, bean sprouts and egg), ordinary eggless (just the vegetables), special empanada (with longaniza and egg), special eggless (with longaniza but no egg), special w/o mongo (everything except bean sprouts), jumbo empanada (with hot dog), double special (double longaniza and one egg), double egg (one longaniza and two eggs), and the heaviest of them all, the double double (double the longaniza and egg). They even serve just the crust which they call pinais.

In Vigan, one variation we got to taste was the one with cabbage served at Abuelita's Restaurant. I'm looking forward to my next serving of Ilocos empanada!
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