“After deboning the whole carcass and dividing them into one-kilo portions, he proceeds to rub rock salt over every square inch of the meat, then packs them on top of one another in a huge plastic basin. They are allowed to cure, covered, for two days. After which, he pierces the meat with a small sharp knife, ties a string around the hole, and lines them up in a row using a metal rod. The pork parts are then left to hang in his smokehouse for a whole week, requiring him to feed the fire day in and day out… The flavor of the smoked meat depends on the wood used. For his part, Malidom burns a mix of pine, guava, and alnus wood to achieve his preferred taste.”
Unfortunately, this is not a recipe for the prized cured meat from the Mountain Province called etag. Even if we could list the ingredients and preparation to transform pork into Igorot ham—as a 2017 story from F&B Report did, following one of the last remaining makers of etag in Sagada—it would take an experienced hand like the subject of the said story, then-50-year-old Leoncio Malidom, to do it successfully.
What this is is a contemporary recipe by artist Miguel Aquilizan that uses etag outside of its usual associations: as an ingredient in the Igorot chicken dish called pinikpikan or as a novelty dish served in touristy places up north.
In this recipe that Aquilizan developed during his time in quarantine—and subsequently shared through our Instagram TV series, Comfort Kitchen—he uses the cured meat as sort of an alternative to guanciale (cured pork jowl) in an eggless carbonara.
Here, he uses spaghetti but you could just as easily use a long flat pasta like linguine for more sauce surface area. The same goes for fresh oregano—dried, store-bought leaves should suffice albeit with a fainter flavor.[READ: The material and immaterial space of the Aquilizans’ Fruit Juice Factory]
In the absence of the star ingredient of this recipe, etag, smoked bacon or lardons can also be used as a substitute. But, of course, that would yield a different overall taste, as the ham from Mt. Province is distinctly different owing to its curing process, which varies from smoking with select woods or sun-drying salted choice cuts for a week.
If you insist on sticking to the original recipe, there are plenty of etag suppliers in Metro Manila who offer delivery. For Aquilizan, he orders through a Baguio-based business called Smoink etag.
50g etag, sliced into strips
100g spaghetti or any long-strand pasta
1 small white onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp olive oil
Fresh oregano leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat olive oil in a pan then sauté onion and garlic until fragrant
- Stir in the sliced etag pieces and torn oregano leaves until the meat browns on the edges. Set aside.
- Cook pasta according to package instructions
- In the same pan with the etag, add the cooked pasta along with parmesan and mix until everything is well-incorporated.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste then garnish with fresh oregano leaves. Enjoy!
Photos courtesy of Miguel Aquilizan
Nolisoli Comfort Kitchen comes out Monday and Thursday nights on our IGTV.
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Writer: CHRISTIAN SAN JOSE