#7- Ilocos Norte – The Dragon Fruit Capital of the Philippines
Along the roads in Ilocos, we were struck by multiple stands selling dragon fruits, all over the place. The dragon fruit known as “saniata” to locals, is produced by Ilocanos all year round.
We learned that Dragon Fruit was started by a local entrepreneur named Edita Dacuycuy, who started growing dragon fruits in her backyard several years ago. She spread her passion to other farmers and has been instrumental to promoting dragon fruits in the area.
Today, she manages Refmad Farms, with her daughter in Burgos town, where tourists and locals can learn about dragon fruits and pick it off fresh off the trees.
Dragon Fruits are a beautiful fruit and packed with several health benefits. The fiber in dragon fruit helps with digestion. The fruit also helps regulate blood sugar spikes and lowers bad cholesterol. Dragon fruits are also full of antioxidants which help clear the body of cancer causing free radicals. And, the fruits are rich in Vitamin B1, B2 and C, which help repair tissues and keeping the skin healthy.
Ilocos Norte, hosts a Dragon Fruit Festival every July. If you are in the area at this time, don’t miss exploring the fresh fruits as well as other dragon fruit products like ice cream, jam, wine, vinegar, tea, cookies, pastries, soaps and more.
There is a unique variety of Ilocano food, from the healthy to the sinful, but all of it very delicious. One of the more popular and authentic dishes of Ilocanos is the soup based dish called the Dinengdeng (also called Inabraw).
Dinengdeng is very much similar with the more known Pinakbet. While Pinakbet is cooked with fermented shrimp, to make an authentic dinengdeng, the cook should use fermented fish instead. It is also soupy unlike Pinakbet which is more at the saucy side.
This staple bagoong based vegetable stew for the Ilocanos is best topped with grilled fish like milkfish and tilapia. The vegetables used can also be adjusted to your liking.
Here’s a sample recipe from My Filipino Recipes
Dinengdeng ng Ilocano Ingredients:
1 milk fish (bangus); fried or grilled 1 cup string beans; cut into 2" long 6 pieces okra 1 cup squash; cut in cubes 1 big ampalaya; cut in 2” rectangular lengths 1 onion; sliced 2 large tomatoes; sliced 1 cup jute leaves (saluyot) 1 root ginger; crushed Bagoong isda 3 cups water
Dinengdeng ng Ilocano Cooking Instructions:
In a casserole, bring water to boil. Add onion, ginger, and tomatoes. Let stand for 3 minutes. Season with bagoong and continue boiling for 5 minutes. Remove the scum that rises on top of the liquid and then drop the milkfish. Simmer for 5 minutes, and then add vegetables. Cook until vegetables are done. Adjust seasoning according to taste. Serve hot!
Photo from: http://pinakbetrepublic.blogspot.com