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What Is Pinangat?

By D. Grey
Updated May 16, 2024
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Pinangat is a Filipino dish that is most commonly prepared with a meat chili and coconut milk, which is then wrapped, or stuffed, in taro leaves. Taro leaves are the defining feature of the dish and may also be referred to as gabi or natong leaves in many restaurants or recipes. The pinangat ingredients that are stuffed into or mixed with the leaves are highly variable and may include ginger, vinegar, onion, or fish. Many variations of pinangat are pinangat na isda, which is pinangat with fish. The fish may be sardines, catfish, tuna, or many others.

The taro plant grows naturally in southeast Asia and can be readily found in the Bicol region of the Philippines. It is considered a staple in many other regions to which it has migrated, including Africa and the Pacific Islands. Chefs who are inexperienced with cooking taro should be cautious and note that, while raw, the plant contains calcium oxalate, a toxin that is neutralized by cooking. Calcium oxalate can contribute to the formation of kidney stones, so it is recommended that taro be paired with foods containing “good” calcium, such as the coconut milk found in many Pinangat recipes. After being properly prepared, taro leaves are entirely safe for consumption.

The Bicol region is well known for its preparation of this dish. Residents of the Bicol Peninsula and the surrounding areas will often cook pinangat with garlic and pork. Another popular preparation of a fish variety is pinangat na laing, which is cooked with sardines and is commonly referred to as simply "laing" in Manila, where it is a popular meal. Many marketplaces in Manila and throughout the Philippines sell the ingredients necessary to cook a number of pinangat recipes, including different kinds of taro leaves and roots, which are often found in other Filipino dishes and stews.

After wrapping the ingredients in taro leaves, most preparations of pinangat are boiled. Instead of water, many recipes call for the wrapped ingredients to be boiled in a thin coconut milk. The mixture is then simmered over a low heat until the taro leaves become soft. The leaves are often removed from whatever is left of the coconut milk, and a variety of toppings may be added. The dish may then be served over rice. The entire meal may be eaten hot or cold, though most restaurants serve the dish hot.

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