Gamet: Gem of Burgos

Long before I was introduced to the colorful world of Japanese cooking, I had already been accustomed to eating gamet, a kind of seaweed akin to nori. Gamet is an Ilocano delicacy from the town of Burgos. Said to be rich in iodine, calcium, iron, phosphorous, potassium, zinc, essential vitamins and proteins, gamet sheets are prized by locals up north, balikbayans most especially.

We buy gamet in the form of dry sheets. There are many different ways of preparing the seasonal seaweed. It could be cut up into squares or strips, toasted in a pan, and then munched as a healthy crunchy snack. Softening them for delish soup or salad is likewise popular. I was surprised that gamet is also added to tupig and canton noodles — the more modern ways innovated by the connoisseurs of Burgos.

Somewhat rare, they are available at the Burgos and Laoag public markets or can be ordered straight from the Burgos makers.

Photographed by Blauearth © Blauearth™ All Rights Reserved 2009-2011

OMG Ilocano Salad

Oh, my greens! Healthy and light  Ilocano vegetable salad with uttong (string beans), pallang (winged beans), katuday (scarlet wisteria) and camatis (tomatoes) seasoned with bugguong (fish sauce) and laya (ginger) is simple to prepare. Choose maribanban (young) uttong. Remove bitter stigmas from the katuday flowers; cut pallang and uttong into suitable slices; blanch katuday, pallang and uttong in boiling water for 2 minutes and be careful not to overdo, then drain well. Put the greens in a bowl and add camatis slices, crushed ginger bits and the desired amount of fish paste, then toss. I suggest just a bit of the salty fish. A cinch.

Photographed at a function by Blauearth Copyright © Blauearth™ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Ilocos Norte Roadside Food Diversity (love eat pray)

On our way to Paraiso ti Caribquib in Banna, where we had so much fun from a zipline adventure, we were already planning where to eat a late merienda. Herencia Café in Paoay won over Shakey’s at the 365 Mall in San Nicolas.

Before leaving, I noticed Alexa playing with this Taiwanese creature close to the creek below the zipline cable.  Or, perhaps, mestizo because Ilocano bisokols have darker and smaller shells.  This bisokol belongs to the edible snail family. Bisokols are cooked in many ways. (Here’s one recipe, by the way.) That was the start of a string of diversified food sights for us.

We took the shorter Banna-Batac-Paoay route. No more lomboy (duhat), sarguelas and tropical halo-halo from makeshift stands on the sides of the roads. Summer is so over! The babies had the year-round ice scramble instead.

Blissfully enjoying their milk and shaved ice coolers

In Batac, near the plaza, I got curious what were inside the casseroles. My  grandmother on my father’s side was from Batac, The Home of Great Leaders. To me, it is also the home of great cooks. When my siblings and I were little, my grandmother, who settled down in Laoag after marrying a Chinese immigrant in Laoag (which makes me a Chinese-Ilocano), fed us with callos, tomato shell macaroni casserole, miki (Batac style) and other dishes only she can cook with great success. Hers were very distinct in taste. Moreover, it was only in Batac where I had a sample of unforgettable papaya bark inkalti (fondue). It is also Batac’s empanada and either Tops or Ilaga meringue that make me go to Batac pretty often.

Ilocano pulutan were inside the casseroles. The vendor in the photo had dinakdakan, insarabasab, crispy bagbagis (pig intestines), callente (beef skin) and kilawen a dilis. Pulutan are like hors d’oeuvres, perfect with alcoholic drinks.

It was a novel experience for me to see fish kilawen being peddled on the streets. Kilawen a dilis is a mix of raw anchovies, Ilocos vinegar, crushed ginger bits and a tad of salt. Some cooks add a sprinkling of calamansi or lemon juice.

Fish vendors gravitate to the Tops Bakery entrance, even though it is located on a side street in Batac.  Business must be good for everyone. Unfortunately, Tops ran out of  their browned egg white sweets known as meringue.

Balaki and large dilis

L’heure bleue was the perfect time to reach Paoay. Standing splendidly against the blue lit painterly skies is the famous Earthquake Baroque Paoay Church, also known as St. Augustine Church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Herencia Café across the small street fronting the church is also a souvenir shop. They offer their own novel food products, cornik, Ilocos wines, postcards and a few knickknacks.

Barquillos and cornik

The dad and the kids had their favorite Ilocandia pizza and creamy corn soup, while I tried their asparagus soup and baked macaroni.

Though it looked good, there wasn’t anything very special about its taste.

The multeity of food we got to see on our roadside food trip is a clear representation of the multiculturalism in Ilocos Norte as a society — a hodgepodge of different grooves, characters, colors and tastes.


Home Sweet Home

After an entire afternoon of fun and stimulating sights, we were back in our home, where, oh my, a goat dinner was ready. The hubby couldn’t resist the person who sold his goat for his child’s tuition. There are several goat dishes that an Ilocano can come up with. We had suam (soup made from goat innards), adobo, kaldereta and kilawen.

Kaldereta is my fave. It is a stew made of ribs, shank and other bony parts; bell pepper slices, pineapple chunks, tomato sauce, cheese, and crushed crackers; and whole black olives for the more finicky in taste.

Very Ilocano kilawen a kalding (grilled goat meat) is only for the adventurous palate. The easy method to prepare kilawen is by grilling the whole goat with flame from a blowtorch (yes, that welding tool), after which it is cut-up to make smaller portions for it and the other dishes. Red onion slices and calamansi juice are added to the thin meat slices. I prefer giving mine a zing with sweet pickle relish.

An eyeful and tummyful of yum!


“Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
See me safely through the night,
And wake me with the morning light.

Thank you, God
for today,
You blessed my work
you blessed my play.”

Photos by Blauearth Copyright © Blauearth™ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Fresh Wild Escargot (Bisokol)

Who says only the French eat escargot? Filipinos have loved escargot, or edible snails, since time immemorial.

Here’s one flavorful Ilocano escargot dish that illustrates the simple albeit alluring tropical living equation.

Escargot in Coconut Milk (Ginettaan a Bisokol)


  • 1 k bisokol, or kuhol (escargot)
  • 2 cups fresh coconut milk, or 1 packet instant gata
  • 1 small ginger, sliced
  • 3 pcs siling labuyo (chili pepper), chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp frying oil

Put everything in a frying pan. Bring to boil and simmer until escargot is cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Recipe by Aprilyn Coloma
Photos by Blauearth Copyright © Blauearth™ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED