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Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Taste of Ilocos in Empanada Nation

Bayanihan Republic:

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.

Sukang Iloko

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).

Bagnet.  As expected, bagnet is mouth watering.  I like the crispiness of the pork, plus the juiciness of the meat after finishing the crunchy layer.  If you are in love with crispy pata, you'll fall in love with this as well.  My only wish is a menu where customers can order bagnet in large portions, just like when we buy in Ilocos.  Actually, it's a joke that what makes bagnet really tasty is the newspaper wrapping the bagnet bought at the market.  =D

Longanisa and KBL.  Of course, Ilocos' longanisa is supreme when it comes to taste.  Then with salted egg and KBL, it just gives the right blend to both longanisa and bagnet.  And not to mention the fried rice, this meal makes gluttony a favorite sin among many.  BTW, customers who want to get fresh longanisa may also buy from Empanada Nation.

Pinakbet.  This is an icon when it comes to Ilocano cuisine.  It has the right mix of vegetables (okra, spring beans, eggplant, tomato, amapalaya) plus bagoong (fish paste) which can make it score well among lovers of authentic pinakbet.  But as a personal preference, I'm missing some pork, shrimp and more bagoong.

Puqui-Puqui.  Before you laugh, this is a unique Ilocano eggplant dish.  After all the sinful treats, this dish reduces the guilt.  =)  My verdict, it's another yummy dish.  At first, the presentation made me think twice if I'll try it but after tasting the dish, I even asked for more.  It's like a tasty omelete.

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!  =)

Empanada.  I really missed eating this hot and with vinegar.  Although some take this with ketchup.  Empanada is a mix of longanisa bits, papaya, bean sprouts, egg, onions and garlic covered by a tasty dough colored (orange) naturally by achuete.   My verdict, after my long search in Manila, finally, I found an authentic tasting Ilocano empanada.  Every bite of the of crispy outer layer leads into a luscious taste of the mixture inside.  Oh my, I want to grab another one while writing this!  =D

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

Open seven days a week, 10 am to 10 pm from Sunday to Thursday and 10 am to 12 mn from Friday to Saturday, Empanada Nation in Sgt. Esguerra Ave. is already the third branch.  The first Empanada Nation was the take-out counter store along Roces Ave. corner Sct. Tuazon, also in Quezon City which opened in July 2010. After three months, after favorable feedback from its customers, they opened a dine-in area.  The second branch was in Pearl Drive in Ortigas.  This opened in April this year and caters to the offices near the area.  The Ortigas take-out counter is open from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm from Monday to Saturday. 

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.


  1. thank you for this wonderful blog! Do visit us once again and taste the crispy dinuguan!

  2. I wouldn't let the week pass without even tasting their authentic Ilocos Empanada. Thanks Digitista :)


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