There are two versions of the Ilocos Empanada. One is the VIGAN EMPANADA, in Ilocos Sur, and the other is the BATAC or LAOAG EMPANADA, in Ilocos Norte. The latter is more known and always referred to as the “Ilocos Empanada” in terms of appearance and popularity, being sold in all of Ilocos Norte including some towns in Ilocos Sur.
Below are some of the [my] noted differences between the two Empanada’s, from a genuine Ilocano tongue who can eat Ilocos Empanada anytime:
To begin, Vigan Empanada has thinner crust and more pale in color. Laoag or Batac Empanada has thicker crust and brighter in color:
While the basic ingredients, manner of preparation, way of cooking are the same, I personally prefer Vigan Empanada, though I am from Norte, because of the ‘thinner’ and ‘crispier’ crust providing better texture and fuller taste. On the other hand, Batac/Laoag Empanada with a thicker crust may make chewing difficult especially when it gets colder because the crust tends to get harder. I don’t mind about the color and it may be good if they can make some other colors too. Laoag/Batac Empanada uses “achuete” as food color and Vigan does not. Hence, their color comparison.
The two Empanada’s of Ilocos have basically the same ingredients: rice flour for the crust with or without achuete; filling of egg and mongo sprout or parboiled mongo or grated green papaya for ordinary orders, and additional Ilocos longanisa for special. They both use Ilocos [black] vinegar with out without sili. However, in Laoag or Batac, a ready bottle of Catsup is available. I have tried catsup once, and never did it again. It just takes away the authenticity of the empanada’s flavor. I always eat mine with Ilocos vinegar, it brings out a better taste and it bites you back in every bite of your Ilocos Empanada!
I am also uploading a short video on the preparation of the Empanada. The orange PVC pipe at the bottom of the video screen serves as a”roller” to flatten the dough, incidentally orange also but other colors may also do. I know this may not be advisable but its just the way they do it.
Update 20 January 2010: During my Christmas vacation last year in Ilocos, the Empanada was definitely an Itinerary! Although I missed my preference Vigan Empanada, Laoag/Batac Empanada was not a second best.
Almost everyday I got my Ilocos Empanada. However, just like what I have observed some 2-years ago in my original post, the consistency of the dough depends on the preparation. I was looking for a thinner and crispier dough and I got some, definitely! More stalls selling Laoag/Batac Empanada have some thinner crust this time…
However, there are still some with the “thicker, doughier & gummier” dough although I got more of what I wanted. I was thinking, if all the ingredients are the same, the difference in taste therefore lies in the crust. Your preference. From a genuine Ilocano and proud Ilocos Empanada fan and eager eater, the secret is really in the consistency of the crust. You have to start with a perfect dough to get a perfect one.
Whatever it is, whether from Vigan, Laoag or Batac, or anywhere from Ilocos, even in Manila and lately I saw one in Davao, as long as it is Ilocos Empanada, it must really be good!:)
Update June 2012 - Introducing Four-other Variants/Flavors of the Ilocos Empanada by Johnny Moon Cafe:
Just like the Pinakbet, Ilocos Empanada has started to evolve into new variants to challenge the taste of food lovers. From the original and main fillings of Ilocos longanisa, Johnny Moon Café at the Tabacalera Lifetyle Center in Laoag City has introduced 4- other variants. These are the Bagnet, Sisig, Dinuguan and Higado.
Early this year, I tried the “Bagnet Empanada,” the closest to being Ilocano than the others. With a price mark-up of about 20% from the sidewalk, the Bagnet Empanada needs improvement. The new flavors are enticing but the fullness of the taste and fillings is still nothing compared to the empanada sold in the sidewalk. After a deeper thought, however, I came to realize that with improvements in time, these variants may give the usual Ilocos [loganisa] empanada a good challenge.
The taste, presentation and “over-all impact” of the new Ilocos empanadas served by Johny Moon may have improved by now and I can’t wait to go back to Ilocos and taste it one more time.
Below are pictures of the Bagnet Ilocos Empanada by Johnny Moon. Trivia: “Johny Moon” is a loose translation of “Juan Luna” – the famous Ilocano artist from Badoc, Ilocos Norte.
Below are photo updates of the original Ilocos Empanada [Longanisa filling] Taken in “Dap-ayan,” Laoag City.
See another Ilocos delicacy that’s something sticky but yummy! – Ilocos Royal Bibingka