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Apr 17, 2017 @ 16:36

Say hello to etag, the smoked salted pork from the Cordilleras

If you regularly use bacon and sausages to flavour your soups and stews, the etag could be for you.

Etag is smoked, salted pork from the Cordilleras that my sister and I discovered just this month. When we talk of the Cordilleras, we just always had tapuy and basi in mind. We were on a trek on Echo Valley with my 80-year old mom, my 75-year old tita, my two sisters, my daughter, and my brother-in-law Leo, a French chef who is now based in Australia.

There was what looked like a bonfire at the end of the trail. It was late in the afternoon. We were too exhausted to determine whether or not it was a bonfire or if the owners of the house were smoking etag. We just saw a huge sign that said “etag” and got some. It was wrapped in newspaper and a plastic bag which Leo just put in his back pack.

By the time we got to our accommodation after dinner, the smell of the etag had seeped through Leo’s bag. It was strong. To me, it just smelled like food. It wasn’t my bag.

Etag is also available at Masferre, a pricier restaurant in Sagada.

Leo and my sister would have wanted to try the etag but strict Australian quarantine measures won out. They were here only for a short while and they decided not take the etag with them. (Good for me and my other sister!)
My other sister used it when she stir fried Taiwan pechay and chayote tops. It was simply wonderful. We also had it with Reisling and ash brie. I swear, it deserves a seat beside prosciutto and parma ham.

Etag is also used to flavour the much maligned pinikpikan. I swear, judgemental Manileños tend to go overboard and not see the ritual behind it. I looked for pinikpikan recipes on the net and knew that I could not pull it off.

I compromised. I got dressed chicken from the grocery, torched the skin and put it in a pot with some water, ginger and etag rind. Much of the material I read said pinikpikan is somewhat like tinola. Then, I added pechay and sayote and green chilies. The etag elevated the tinola to a whole new level. And, if I must say so, it was the easiest tinola I cooked. I normally saute the chicken with onions, garlic and ginger. This time, it was just ginger and I didn’t have to saute it.

If you happen to see etag in a food fair/bazaar, you really must try it.

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