Ilocos is so huge that there’s no way one can explore the two provinces in one weekend. Not even in a lifetime for some. Like I just discovered Vigan’s take on the centuries-old chicken pipian that traces its roots back to the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade, from 1565 to 1815. We had it at Kusina Felicitas inside Grandpa’s Inn on our way back from Dagupan 2 weekends ago.
I’ve been raring to try pipian after I sampled Chef Nic Rodriquez’s epazote plant (pasotes) in his Bistro Candon backyard. The minty, slightly citrusy epazote is a staple in traditional Mexican cooking, lending aromatic flavor to mole sauces. Apperaing similar to the achuete-tinged Vigan pipian, the Mexican pipian is made from a more complex recipe, customarily including different spices, ground squash seeds, nuts, cilantro, chili peppers, among many others. Though Vigan uses ground rice as a thickener in the same manner it is used in kare-kare, I realized how strange it was described to me by a waiter at a restaurant in Laoag as arroz caldo-like, add to that a seemingly unenthusiastic expression on his face when I asked if he would recommend it to me and my foreigner guest.
After rabidly falling for the chicken pipian at Grandpa’s, I’m absolutely endorsing it as a must try Ilocano dish, the one in Grandpa’s to be clear.