Where to Eat in Ilocos: Irene’s Vigan Empanada

On our trip to Vigan, we asked our driver/tour guide Kuya Henie where we could get a good Vigan empanada. He immediately suggested Irene’s Empanada along Calle Crisologo. Since he’s a local and we trust his judgment, we decided to have our merienda at the place. (If you’ll be looking for it, note that the stall also goes by the name Brick House Diner’s.)

irenesviganempanada

Their specialties are empanadas and okoy, but they sell rice toppings too of popular Filipino viands like tapa, tocino and of course, longganisa. Notice that Vigan Empanadas are paler in color compared to those in Batac and Laoag. I believe the fillings are the same across the board (longganisa, egg and papaya), but Vigan Empanadas do not use atsuete, thus they don’t turn bright orange.

irenesviganempanada

We got what we came for and ordered Irene’s Special Pork Empanada (35PHP). The empanadas served to us were freshly cooked — we can tell because they were still warm and very crispy. They were served with a small container of Ilocos vinegar, which complemented the empanada very well and gave each bite an extra kick. I noticed the vinegar tastes different than what I’m used to: it’s not overwhelmingly sour and quite garlicky, which I liked. I also appreciated that the empanadas were served on ratan plates (with a banana leaf even!) and not just on haphazard paper plates.

irenesviganempanada

My verdict? I really loved the meaty flavor of the empanada here at Irene’s! They don’t skimp on the longganisa and there’s a perfectly cooked well-done egg inside each one. Each bite was a revelation: “so… this is what an authentic Vigan empanada tastes like!”

irenesviganempanada

I have tried empanadas before from food kiosks in Manila promising “authentic Ilocos empanadas” but none of them even comes close to this! Hell, I even had an empanada full of cabbage (!!!) and tasteless ground pork dripping in oil once.

If like me you’ve had an Ilocos empanada from a pretentious food stall before, please don’t judge empanadas by that experience. It’s unfair for the empanadas (haha)! Give empanadas a second chance and visit Irene’s. I’m positive you’ll end up loving them!

Irene’s Vigan Empanada
Location: Calle Crisologo, Vigan, Ilocos Sur

Where to Eat in Ilocos: Herencia

Although almost every restaurant in Ilocos carries pinakbet pizza on their menu, it’s a fact that this famed Ilocano delicacy was originally served at Herencia Restaurant. So on our Ilocos tour after visiting the historical Paoay Church, we opted to stop for while and get lunch at this nearby restaurant to try their famous pizza.

herencia

To be honest, pinakbet is one of my least favorite viands of all time. I’m not a veggie snob in general, but I don’t really like string beans and okra, especially if there’s not much else in the dish but them. The only reason I wanted to try the pinakbet pizza (395PHP) was to level up on my Ilocano food adventure.

When the pizza came, it looked really appetizing! It was a good size too. There were 3 of us on this day including our tour guide, but one order was enough for us. We ate the pizza drizzled with some bagoong sauce and chili sauce which were readily available on our table.

herencia

herencia

So how did I find it? Well, it was good enough for me to get more than one slice, but not so much to see myself craving it again after this experience. It was worth a try, but at the end of the day, I still prefer Italian toppings on my pizza.

Looking back, I wish we could’ve gotten a sampler pizza (450PHP) instead so we could have tried one other flavor. The sampler pizza gives you a choice of 2 flavors on one pizza. Aside from the iconic pinakbet, Herencia also serves the following Ilocano pizzas: Ilocandia, chicharon, dinuguan and gamet. (Trivia: gamet is a unique seaweed product of Burgos, a municipality in Ilocos Norte.)

On this visit, I also got an order of their Special Herencia Miki (85PHP). I was disappointed on the presentation of this dish. It looked really sad when it was served. It looked oily and the bagnet and chicharon bits were all at the bottom, soggy. Maybe I’m just being a brat here, but it’s far different from a photo I saw online from another tourist. Theirs had crispy bagnet and chicharon pieces on top, and even had spring onions as garnish. Oh well, we did come at lunch hour so the kitchen was probably busy. Presentation aside, I found the broth of this dish very rich and flavorful! The noodles were a bit hard for my taste, but still enjoyable.

herencia

I would still recommend visiting this place if you want to try out Ilocos’ pinakbet pizza. Nothing beats being a part of history and enjoying the famed dish at nowhere else but its birthplace!

Herencia Restaurant
Location: Paoay, Ilocos Norte, Philippines (right across Paoay Church)

Where to Eat in Ilocos: La Preciosa

Second on my food itinerary in a recent trip to Ilocos was La Preciosa. I have heard and read a lot of rave reviews about this place while I was planning the trip, so there was no way I was going up to pass up on the chance of tasting their food. We decided to have dinner here on our first night in Laoag. Since it was a Wednesday then and we were in a province and all, we were worried they might close early. We called to check until what time they’d be open, and were relieved when they said they’d be open until 11PM and can take orders until 9:30PM.

lapreciosa

We took a short tricycle ride to get to the restaurant. We arrived at around 9PM but were surprised that there were still a lot of customers inside. The place was still very clean and well-lit considering it was already quite late.

lapreciosa

When we saw the menu, we were pleasantly surprised at the prices! La Preciosa is considered a fine dining restaurant, but their prices are not expensive at all! Almost everything was below 200PHP, with Crispy Pata being the most expensive at 500PHP. We decided on ordering a couple of their “Ilocano Favorites”: the puqui-puqui (165PHP) and the dinardaraan (195PHP).

Puqui-puqui is the famous (or should I say “infamous” because of the controversy around the name and spelling lol) Ilocano dish of eggplants, eggs, onions and tomatoes. I have never had it before but based on what I had at La Preciosa, I like it! If tortang talong and sarciado married and had a baby, this would be it!

lapreciosa

Dinardaraan, on the other hand, is the Ilocano version of dinuguan. I almost never eat dinuguan if it’s not homecooked, but because of my fear of missing out (haha), I made an exception for this dish. Thankfully I did because I loved it! Unlike the dinuguan I’m used to, La Preciosa’s version has crispy pieces of meat. It’s like eating dinuguang chicharon or dinuguang bagnet if you will. This dish is so indulgent I might have made a mental note to include it in my next confession.

lapreciosa

Now for dessert aka the star of the night! We got La Preciosa’s bestseller cake: the carrot cake (100PHP)! I’m telling you, this is a slice of heaven! I don’t care if you don’t eat carrots or even cake, please do yourself a favor and try this. The cake is moist and light, the frosting has just the right amount of sweetness, and the generous carrot shavings on top give every bite a slightly crunchier texture. If only cakes were easy to transport and travel with, I would have bought boxes of this cake for pasalubong. (Who am I kidding? I’ll reserve one for myself, of course.)

lapreciosa

lapreciosa

I only wish they also had more variety of drinks to choose from. We only got coke in cans with our meal because we couldn’t find a special Ilocano refreshment on the menu.

Needless to say, I enjoyed trying out authentic Ilocano dishes here at La Preciosa! I was so satisfied with our dining experience that on my way out, I took a photo of who I assume is Preciosa so I can pay my respects. Thank you, Preciosa, for a wonderful first dinner in Ilocos!

lapreciosa

La Preciosa Fine Dining & Catering Services
Location: J.P. Rizal Street, Laoag City, Ilocos Norte
Website: http://lapreciosailocos.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LaPreciosaIlocos

« Older Entries