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Food and Dining

Food: Ilocos Empanada

An empanada is a Spanish and Portuguese stuffed bread or pastry, also known as “impanata” in Italy. The name comes from the verb empanar, meaning to wrap or coat in bread. Empanada is made by folding a dough or bread patty around the stuffing. The stuffing can consist of many things such as meat or vegetables.

In Spain, empanadas are usually large and circular in shape and are cut into smaller portions for consumption, whereas in Portugal and South America empanadas are normally small and semi-circular (this type of empanada is commonly known as empanadilla in Spain).

Ilocos Empanada: Laoag-Batac version

Ilocos Empanada: Laoag-Batac version

Filipino empanadas usually contain ground beef or chicken meat, potato, chopped onion, and raisins (somewhat similar to the Cuban “picadillo”) in a sweetish wheat flour dough. Some Filipinos are not partial to the sweetish flavor notes and prefer empanadas that are closer to the Hispanic versions. There are doughy baked versions, as well as flaky fried versions. Often, to lower costs, potatoes are added as a filler.

However, empanadas in the northern Ilocos region are very different. These empanadas are made of a savory filling of green papaya, mungo and chopped Ilocano sausage (“longganisa”) and/or an egg yolk. Rather than the soft, sweet dough favored in the Tagalog region, the dough used to enclose the filling is thin and crisp, mostly because Ilocano empanada uses rice flour, colored orange with achuete, and is deep-fried rather than baked.

There are actually two versions of the Ilocos Empanada. One is the Vigan Empanada (in Ilocos Sur) and the other is the Batac or Laoag Empanada (in Ilocos Norte), better known as “the Ilocos Empanada” in terms of appearance and popularity, being sold in all of Ilocos Norte and including some towns in Ilocos Sur.

While the basic ingredients and the manner of cooking are the same, Vigan Empanada is thinner and paler in color compared to Batac/Laoag Empanada with the crust thicker and brighter in color (colored orange with achuete).