I didn't know it until I started writing this particular post, but 5 years ago, I wrote about how I first learned to make the Filipino vegetable stew known as Pinakbet. In that old post, I boldly proclaimed that Pinakbet "is my most favorite food in the whole entire world times infinity!" (man, I was a wordsmith back in the day).
Fast forward 5 years and you know what? Pinakbet is STILL my most favorite food in the whole entire world times infinity! (man, I've still got it!!)
My fondness for the Filipino vegetable medley probably just stems from the stew being a part of my childhood and upbringing—it's a comfort food for me. And besides, with sweet and tangy tomatoes, bitter melon, a touch of fish sauce and a smattering of pork belly, I love the interplay of all of the 5 tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, Umami) in this dish.
Since learning how to make Pinakbet all those years ago, I estimate that I've probably made it well over 100 times (at least once a month for 5 years, plus a gajillion more times for my cookbook, you do the math).
But I've found that if you do something enough times, you start looking for different ways to make things interesting, not because you're bored or tired of the original, but just because you can. Probably kinda like how Kobe can throw up that occassional left-handed runner when there's absolutely no need to (I am by no means calling myself the "Kobe Bryant of Pinakbet Preparers." But maybe Nick Van Exel is more appropriate—my pinakbet is good and dependable, yet open to occassional fits of craziness [humblebrag]).
So that's what I did with my latest Pinakbet--I just did something a bit different for the heck of it, but with great results. This is a simple variation on the "classic" Filipino vegetable stew. And by "classic", I mean within the context of my own family. Your classic Pinakbet might contain cubes of kabocha squash, tender okra, lima beans, and a healthy smattering of Bagoong (fermented shrimp paste). And that's fine. But in my family, my Great Auntie Puyong (The Michael Jordan of Pinakbet Preparers) uses just tomatoes, onions, garlic, eggplant, bittermelon, longbeans, Lechon Kawali, and fish sauce. Simple. Straighforward. Streamlined. Just the way I like it.