I’ve never been to Ilocos, but a few of my favorite travel bloggers and my husband’s family photo albums (my father-in-law is Ilocano) have already shown me what to expect – and Balai Ilocos didn’t disappoint me.
I love how Nino Mendoza, part owner/manager of the BF branch, showcased his authenticity by displaying generations of his family up on the wall. He showed the humble beginnings of how Balai Ilocos was established.
Balai Ilocos was established last March 16, 2014. Mrs. Princess Aquino, Nino’s Mom (as seen in the picture) thought of opening an authentic Ilocano restaurant to help satiate Ilocanos or even non-Ilocano’s cravings in Manila.
So, if the northern part of Manila has Maginhawa Street, the south represents a village – BF Homes. This village has never failed to surprise my family in providing authentic restaurants. BF has emerged from simple living to modern living with diverse cuisines to satisfy our cravings.
Yesterday, we found an Ilocos-themed restaurant that will make you feel like you’re actually in Ilocos: Balai Ilocos: Home of the Authentic Ilocano Dishes and the best bagnet I’ve tasted so far!
It really takes someone authentic to unleash the true flavors of the dish. Just like this sumptuous and succulent bagnet, Nino explains that bagnet is not your ordinary fried pork belly and it’s definitely NOT lechon kawali. To cook Bagnet, you must boil it in pork stock and then fry it until the skin’s texture is like chicharon.
Back in the day when there was no way to properly store the meat, Ilocanos came up with the term bagnetin, which means to preserve. They would boil the pork first and then fry it until the skin was crisp and the meat was succulent. This is why bagnet is so tasteful and flavourful.
And, this is by far, the best bagnet I’ve tasted. I’m not a fan of bagoong (a staple condiment made of fermented fish and salt and best partnered with green mango), but this is an exception.
The second dish we tried was the famous pinakbet.
Pinakbet is a conventional Filipino dish made from mixed vegetables. My Ilocano-husband loved it because of the tangy flavor. As for me, I kept it real. I just ate the shredded bagnet on top and maybe two slices of squash. :)
I know you’re probably drooling or craving now, so I will stop talking now and just let you enjoy the rest of the Ilocano dishes we tried on the next page!
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