Empanada. Bagnet. Longanisa. Bibingka. I fell in love with Vigan or Ilocos cuisine more than 10 years ago. But Ilocos is about 8 to 10 hours away from Manila, so when I miss the taste, I only wish that there's a nearby place where I could buy and eat those treats from our Ilocano friends. Well, I've tried a food stall at a mall in Makati and another one in Pasay, but sadly, it didn't match the empanada and other dishes I tasted in Vigan. I thought then, could it be the ingredients, or the oil used? Well anyway, the long search is over as I finally found the dining place where I could experience Ilocos cuisine anytime I want, here in Manila. And that's the Empanada Nation restaurant!
Located along Sgt. Esguerra Avenue, Empanada Nation offers authentic Ilocano dishes aside of course from empanada which is one of its specialties. Venice Marie Velasco, one of the three owners of Empanada Nation, shared that the idea to bring the Ilocano cuisine to Manila was prompted by the challenge posed by thriving foreign restaurants in the city and their authentic love for food, especially Ilocano dishes as the three owners are from Laoag, Ilocos Norte. (The other two owners are O'Brien Pangan and Juan Carlos Gil.)
"Kung meron silang shawarma, meron naman tayong empanada (If they have shawarma, we have empanada," Venice candidly said. Venice added that when they, who work outside of Ilocos, come back home, they never fail to revisit the empanadahan which is a strip of empanada stalls in their town. They consider it as the authentic night life in Ilocos.
|Venice Marie Velasco sharing the story of Empanada Nation|
Oh my, I want to experience that but while that is not feasible at the moment, I had the chance to try the Ilocano dishes offered by Empanada Nation.
|Crispy Bagbagis. This is such a heavenly appetizer! These are fried and crispy pork intestines that are dipped into Sukang Iloco (Ilocos vinegar). Tasting like chicharon bulaklak, the blend of the salt and sour taste (through the vinegar) plus the crispy texture of the dish makes it a hard to resist gastronomic temptation.|
|King's Meal. This is a combination of bagnet, 2 pieces of longanisa, 1 salted egg, unlimited special fried rice and KBL (kamatis, bagoong, lasona - Ilocano term for onions).|
|Sarabasab. This is grilled pork belly and liver mixed with tomatoes, onions and vinegar. Another luscious Ilocano dish, I think this is also perfect for pulutan. This dish makes me ask for some more rice! =D|
|Igado. This one is stewed pork entrails. The blend of sweet, salty and sour taste make this another hard to resist dish, and another perfect beer match! =)|
|Preparing the dough of empanada. Major ingredients used are transported from Ilocos to Manila. And aside from that, the cooks are also from the said province. Need I say more on how truly Ilocano Empanada Nation is? =D|
|Gabriel Diaz OF Young Maze crunches the crust of the delicious empanada.|
|Jeman Villanueva of Orange Magazine TV enjoying the last bite of empanada|
|Lamoneros (Bloggers and Empanada Nation folks) having a great time in Empanada Nation! =D|
Venice also explained that they started the business to cater to their fellow Ilocanos who miss their cuisine, which they think have considerable number. "Pero nakakataba ng puso yung (non-Ilocano) mga nakatakim ng una, e bumabalik-balik din," added Venice. Well, who can resist this delectable Ilocano cuisine? I for one has been lured into the Ilocano dish and I just can't help but look for it and give in.
So if you want to try a taste of Ilocos right here in Manila, you have three branches to check out - Sgt. Esguerra, Roces Ave. and Pearl Drive. Here's a shot of the menu just to show you the reasonable price that Empanada Nation offers for its yummy treats!
Empanada Nation, The authentic Ilocos Experience, may also be reached through its hotline 922-2743 and its Facebook Page.