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Dinardaraan: The Ilocano Chocolate Meat

By Lorma Matias-Valera|

A Bit of Historical Background

There are no haciendas in the Ilocos. The weather is hot and the lands are arid.

Farm lands are palm-sized and tilled by owners.

The Ilocanos are reputed to be the most thrifty and most industrious ethnic group in the country. The common households are self-sufficient because they produce their own rice, vegetables, garlic, sugarcane, tobacco, and salt. They likewise raise their own chickens, hogs, goats, and farm animals. While they are not parsimonious or excessively frugal, they are not wasteful.

These geographical and economic realities make the Ilocano creative. This outstanding and common trait serves as a good background in the cooking of “dinardaraan” consisting of pork offals and pork blood. It is also called “mollo” by our great grandparents. Pork offals are the trimmings and by-products of the butchered pig removed after dressing. These discarded pork parts are stewed for better use in “dinardaraan.”

Ways of Cooking Dinardaraan

“Dinardaraan” is a unique delicacy of the Ilocanos. It is our “chocolate meat.” Nationally, it is called “dinuguan” from the word “dugo” meaning blood. It is a savory stew of pork meat, innards, and offals. The rich and spicy pork mixed with garlic and vinegar is stewed to perfection and tenderness with pork blood. It is an all-time favorite either as family dish, “baon,” picnic fare, and pot-luck gift. Canteens, restaurants, and other eateries usually serve dinardaraan with “puto,” the white and puffed rice cake.

There are unique ways of cooking “dinardaraan” based on one’s palate, favorite, tradition, and locality.

The age-old technique of producing the best pork blood is done while the pig is being butchered. The fully fermented Iloco vinegar is gradually added in small amounts as the fresh pork blood is beaten vigorously to thicken and make it bubbly. The Iloco vinegar is locally known as “suka” which comes from fermented sugarcane juice gone awry. It is stored underground in big Vigan jars to bring out its unique sourness.

Crispy dinardaraan. The crispy dinardaraan consists of chopped “bagnet” called locally as 
 “sicharon” or the crispy pork skin called “ukilas.” The deep-fried and crispy intestines can be used also. The frothy and bubbly pork blood is added. The crunchy dinardaraan is superb.

Moist and fatty dinardaraan. This consists of stewed pork innards, offals or discarded pork trimmings, and intestines. Thickened pork blood is added. Noticeably, it has less liquid and little fat.

Brothy dinardaraan. This consists of all the pork parts stewed with more broth as an extender. The remaining blood at the bottom of the receptacle is cooked slowly until the meat becomes tender. This soupy dinardaraan paired with puto is a good combination.

In all the different recipes, a generous amount of crushed garlic and a dash of pulverized black pepper are added. Season them with salt when needed because normally, salt is already added to the fresh pork blood as it is being beaten vigorously. As garnish, a few pieces of steamed green and elongated native pepper are put on top of the served dinardaraan. For manly diners, some pieces of small, red-hot pickled chilies are served as side sauce.

Ilocano Variants of Dinardaraan

The housewife or farmer is very ingenuous in creating any dinardaraan dish using what he gathers at the rice paddies and backyard gardens. Here are some unique recipes.

Escargot dinardaraan. During the rainy season when farmers start plowing and harrowing their fully-drenched rice paddies, the hibernating native snails called “bisukol” surface abundantly. This is the most opportune time to gather these snails by merely scooping and picking them from the soft mud. During the dry season, the farmer can still gather some snails by scratching with a scythe the walls of the rice paddies to locate the embedded and hibernating snails he failed to gather during the rainy days. These are called “kinur-itan” snails.

The snail food that is cooked either as stew, adobo, kilawen, and dinardaraan is called “escargot.”

Escargot dinardaraan is prepared simply. Allow the newly gathered snails to secrete any mud embedded in their shells by immersing them overnight in a bucketful of clean water. Cover tightly, lest they escape. Wash snails until clear and clean. Using either a knife or table spoon, cut or tap the conical part to remove that part of the snail for easier and faster sucking of the flesh after boiling. The snail head is preferred for food. Others include the clean entrails. With little oil and desired condiments, the snail meat is sautéed. Pork blood is then added to the snail. Season to taste. This escargot dinardaraan is home-based but has gained acceptance among foodies who avoid pork. This escargot dinardaraan has its novelty.

Upo dinardaraan. Upo called “tabungaw” is the white squash or bottle gourd vegetable crawling along riverbanks during the summer months to climbing along trellises and fences. Slicing or chopping the white squash simulates pork bits. These are sautéed with the usual condiments and later on mixed with pork blood. This recipe is served in big barangay feasts as meat dish. This is vegetarian dish.

Papaya dinardaraan. Other barrio folks and health-conscious buffs also relish this unique version of dinardaraan. The green, matured, and peeled papaya fruit is chopped to desired size and cooked till tender in pork blood with the usual condiments. This is another healthful dish laid on party tables.

Tangkoy dinardaraan. “Tangkoy” is the big, greenish, and elongated fruit of a wild and climbing vegetable found mostly at hillsides with many trees. These abound near forests. This is another good substitute for meat. Its taste is similar to the upo or tabungaw. During the Lenten season, grandmothers prepare tangkoy dinardaraan to make household members abstain from meat but retaining the meaty flavor found in the added pork blood. This vegetable dinardaraan is likewise delicious and nutritious.

Chicken dinardaraan. “Siwsiw” is a soupy chicken dinardaraan. While dressing the chicken, a few drops of “suka,” the Ilocano vinegar, is added to prevent it from curdling. The chicken innards such as heart, liver, and clean intestines are chopped finely and sautéed. The chicken lungs are discarded. The condiments and stew are added to the liquefied chicken blood to make a hot and invigorating chicken soup for those recuperating.

Sapsapuriket. It is another version of chicken dinardaraan. The poultry meat is sliced finely and sautéed. Condiments are added with the chicken blood and cooked until thick.

Dilakot. “Dilakot” is a side dip made of fresh and frothy pork blood. It is a side dip to many barbecued pork. Freshly grilled pork strips can be savored best when dipped or “idilakot” in a tasteful, bubbly, and sour fresh pork blood during family bonding time at home backyards. Hot and minced chilies are added to the pork blood for a little kick. Pair this during “pulutan” session with drinks of your choice.

Cheers to the Ilocano dinardaraan leveled up some notches higher than the ordinary dinuguan. The Ilocano dinardaraan always enlivens any gathering.