I have never been a lover of vegetables and I have my mother to attest to that. Childhood memories of watering down ampalaya with lost of water during mealtimes when we were not allowed to leave the table without munching down the de riguer greens in our plates comes to mind.
Yet, there was something about this dish that had me at first bite (apologies to whatever uhhm, similarities to other original lines). It threw all my preconceived notions of veggies as bitter greens that are necessary inconveniences to our food life out the window. Oh, there are a few exceptions, I do like the fresh lumpia and ginisang monggo of my dear Mama and Lola but my relationships with these dishes are lukewarm at best. Not for this gata (coconut milk) based specialty of Catarman, Northern Samar. It is just as hot as the food itself and had me stalking (literally) the small carenderia near our home that offered the best version in town for me to grab it ahead of waiting customers. Its sold out in a matter of hours, nay minutes. While there are pretenders, this one is the genuine deal as its cook is a true-blue Catarmanon.
What am raving about? Well its no other than the pinangat, a vegetable dish wrapped in gabi leaves and smothered/cooked in coconut milk. Its spicy hot but that does not deter me from savoring what seems to be its successful mixture of bitter, sweet and salty zing.
I'm not a food writer and honestly, I'm no mean cook but I can write "tasty", "delicious", "addicting" in a sentence and say it with much passion and fervor just to convey how much this dish has got me hooked.
Actually, there is the pinangat of Bicol, but yet, I still say this is better. Finally, now I know why some friends I know always ask this as pasalubong when someone visits the town of Catarman.