Here is another testimony to my Ilocano root. Being a grandson of a wonderful lady whose bloodline hailed from the province of Ilocos Sur, I was raised and grew up learning and, somehow, exemplifying many of the customs and traditions, and the way of life that are intrinsic to the people of the Northern Philippines. This cannot be denied by my penchant for some of the native Ilocano cuisines and delicacies. Our kitchen remains a talking cupboard of all the indigenous condiments and the local seasonings that my lola used to hoard. My lola has already passed away for more than five years now. Eventhough she is gone, it has been my habit to replenish her “potion” jar with her most loved stinky-smelling bugguong (fermented fish sauce). I do not know, It became part of my system already. Anyway, that fetid sauce is still proven useful to a number of my cooking preparation. My fondness to vegetarian and pescetarian dishes (though I am not really a conformist) is one my lola’s greatest legacies that I would never wish to trade for anything else.
|A deconstructed frittata|
In one of my previous blog posts, I was able to showcase how to cook Dinengdeng/ Inabraw (Exotic Vegetables simmered in fermented fish sauce), one of the famous and most well-loved Ilocano vegetable dish that my lola taught me. A couple of days ago, there were abundance of fresh long Japanese eggplants (aubergine in British) in our local market. I bought several pieces in a whim and instantly pictured in my mind an equally-loved and also one of lola's personal favorite Ilocano dish called Poqui-poqui or Poki-poki. For some reasons, the name may sound smutty if literally translated in Tagalog, especially to someone who is mentally exploited or green-minded. Other Ilocano terminologies like warek-warek, kabatiti and utong are just part of the normal everyday conversation but may seem naughty for unfamiliar ear. If you are a fellow Pinoy, you may already know what I am talking about but to give my non-Filipino speaking friends some hint, those italicized words are actually terms baptized to a number of Ilocano vegetables and dishes that when interpreted verbatim in Tagalog dialect, would give a sexually-suggestive connotation. To prolong your agony some more, I am leaving you a little research job to find out their exact translations. These evocative vocabulary and phrases, though unclear as to their origin, are just among the by-products of the multifaceted and rich culture of the Ilocanos.
|The Japanese eggplant is the common variety used for poki-poki dish|
Poqui-poqui or poki-poki is a healthy and tasty Ilocano dish made from the flesh of the grilled eggplants, traditionally sautéed in garlic, onion, tomato and black pepper, and combined with lightly beaten eggs. It is quite similar to frittata because of the addition of egg. Poqui-poqui is loosed and squishy, and has a mushy texture, in contrast to its Italian counterpart which is rather firm and omellete-flat. A deconstructed frittata indeed.
|It is not an aphrodisiac but the literal Tagalog interpretation of the name is quite naughty and suggestive|
The grilling of the eggplant produces that distinct aromatic taste but since I would rather have mine quickly boiled until the skin slightly softened to peel, I added some minced meat and infused additional spices like paprika, curry and cayenne to compensate for the smoky flavor. It is another experimental tweaking of the old dish I have grown up with which turned out a success. It is great to be served as starter with bread or as side dish to fried tuyo (dried salted fish) and roasted meat. Another righteous meal that you can prepare for your family on Good Friday. Just do not forget to omit the meat ingredients and you are all set for breakfast or snack. Though the appearance of the dish is not as visually appealing as the usual torta, it is packed with fantastic flavors that once you start to pop, you surely cannot stop.
Spiced Up Poqui-Poqui/ Poki-poki
Number of Servings: 4 to 5
- 4-6 pcs. long eggplant
- ½ lb. ground beef or pork (optional)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 3 small tomatoes, chopped
- 1-inch turmeric, grated
- ½ tsp. yellow curry powder
- ½ tsp. paprika powder
- ½ tsp. cayenne powder
- ½ tsp. ground black pepper
- ½ tbsp. patis (fish sauce)
- ½ tsp. salt
- 3-4 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 pc. small tomato for garnish (optional)
- 2 tbsps. vegetable oil
- Boil or grill the eggplants until the skin is brown or charred and soft enough to peel. Allow to cool.
- Remove the skin and coarsely chop the flesh of the eggplants. Further shred the vegetable fibers using a fork. Set aside.
- In a saucepan, heat the cooking oil. Sauté the garlic, onion and tomatoes until very fragrant.
- If adding some meat, toss them in at this point. Cook until the color turns light brown.
- Add the eggplant and turmeric. Mix well until well blended.
- Season with curry, paprika, cayenne, black pepper, salt and patis. Mix thoroughly until all the ingredients are incorporated well.
- Create a hole in the middle of eggplant mixture and gradually pour in the eggs. Stir gradually until the egg is cooked but the eggplant is still mushy.
- Remove from heat and garnish with sliced tomato. Serve with bread or steamed rice. Enjoy!
TIPS FROM ENZ:
- If you are the purist type, you can stick to the traditional grilled eggplant minus the meat and spices. I usually boil the eggplant then add spices to enhance he flavors and to compensate the smoky aroma of grilled eggplant.
- Poqui-poqui can be served as side dish, main dish or even as dip for crackers and fillings for pita bread.