I am an Ilocano. Therefore I eat almost everything. As long as it doesn't kill me.
It was indeed a culinary trek worth of an Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmerman as I decided to birthday on the road and join colleagues from the Kingdom of Pee in a 3-day Ilocos road trip.
APPETIZER: Somewhere in Novaliches is a place called Kambingan ni Tsong (?) where, before hitting the road, we decided to have lunch. Yeah, it serves goat dishes which are mostly of Ilocano origin and we wolfed down kilawen (regrettably blanched, not grilled), sinampalukang up and down (that's the head and feet) which is surprisingly good, pinapaitan (I'm on a low purine diet so I passed), dinakdakan (yuk, mayonnaise instead of pig's brain), and a not so Ilocano kaldereta.
TEASER: Dinner was one of those bus stops somewhere in La Union's Bangar-Sudipen area where a lonely Partas bus was parked. It was late, we were hungry. And God bless everybody for the authentic Ilocano pinakbet (it must exude of ginger) and balatong (seasoned with bagoong instead of salt or patis). There was also sinanglao which I reluctantly passed again.
BEACH FOOD: The food at the Apo Idon's Beach Hotel in Pagudpud is a disappointing your-usual-hotel-fare. Until they served pinakbet and lauya which we requested, and grilled some seafood a colleague bought from the market. And I had my birthday pansit too which is the usual bihon topped with boiled quail's egg, kikiam, and fish crackers.
PASALUBONG GALORE: I was the food guide on the trip back to Manila, and we started with packs of biscocho from the Pasuquin Bakery --- freshly baked and anised before being toasted. I said we have to stop in Batac for empanadas but was told back that we can have these in Sinait where it supposedly originated. We got busy shooting in Paoay and missed the chichacorn. Gone too are the empanadas in Sinait as we were asleep when we passed by. We were not sure if Marsha's in Bantay sells bagnet and longganisa too so we side tripped to Vigan and ended up with frozen (read: embalsamado) versions. Later over coffee and cassava cake at Marsha's, we found too late that they do have freshly cooked bagnet and longganisa too. Our last pit stop was Candon where I bought a pack of its famous calamay for the wife.
THE MAIN COURSE. The highlight of our Ilocos culinary adventure was at Dawang's Place in San Nicolas, in between our Pasuquin and Paoay jaunts, where we feasted on its calorie loaded fare of crunchy dinardaraan which is actually dinuguan with deep fried meat bits, igado which I think is the Ilocano's version of the menudo, tinuno or plain grilled pork with fresh tomatos, kilawen which is raw thinly sliced beef (Pinoy carpaccio?) swimming in a thinned bile dressing (the papait) dip, and the famous paksiw which is a cross between pinapaitan and sinanglaw.