The Mojo of Ilocano Cooking


Ever wondered what makes Ilocano food so distinct? Primarily paksiw (sinanglao), dinakdakan, imbaliktad, and dinardaraan (dinuguaan)? It’s the infusion of supreme Ilocos organic vinegar. It’s also the same vinegar we mizzle our orange empanadas and tinuno with.

Sukang Ilocos is fermented from sugarcane juice and samak leaves, traditionally left in  burnay jars to age, first to basi (Ilocano wine) until it turns to vinegar, when color and flavor become darker and perfectly stronger. In our home, the darker, the better.


We love to artem (pickle) our fruits like sincamas, balayang, salamagui, sarguelas, mangga, and papaya especially during the summer. A little of that same vinegar is added to the bath after a bout of fever for a truly makapabang-ar (refreshing) sense of feeling, and as the babbaket say, “tapno haan a mabinat (to avoid recurrence of illness).”

MangaSuka ken BasiSukang IlocosSuka ti Ilocano

Ilocos Vinegar is ubiquitous in markets, souvenir shops, and stalls particularly along the National Highway in San Ildefonso (Ilocos Sur), and Pasuquin (Ilocos Norte).

Photographed by Blauearth © Blauearth™ All Rights Reserved 2009-2014


inartem a carmay sold on the streets of Ilocos

Just what is it? Inartem means pickled. Seasonal fruits like carmay, green Hawaiian mango slices, santol, sarguelas, and year round green tamarind, green balayang banana, sincamas, and papaya slices are drenched in sukang Iloko… pretty much like salad, but the longer the fruits are aged in suka with some salt, the better it is for the Ilocanos.  No need to cook or blanch the fruits for artem. Just put the washed and drained fruits  in a sterile jar,  pour over sukang Iloko (cane vinegar), sprinkle with salt, and marinate for 5 days or longer.

Photo by Blauearth  Copyright © Blauearth™ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED