For non-Ilocanos but faithful Pinapaitan lovers out there, I am not saying that your Pinapaitan with no “pait” or bile is fake, I am just saying that I grew up with Pinapaitan living to its name. I have tasted that bile that represents Ilocano’s love for the bitter palate and will always be looking for it when I eat papaitan.
What is Pinapaitan?
Pinapaitan or in some regions of the Philippines called ‘papaitan,’ is a Filipino stew that originated in the Northern part of the Philippines. The word ‘pait’ means bitter. The said stew usually consists of animal offal such as tripes, liver, intestines, pancreas, kidney, and heart.
The original recipe was cooking goat meat, but now beef substitutes have become popular. Most modern Filipino recipes are no longer using goat meat because it is rare and unavailable in local markets.
As mentioned earlier, the ‘bile’ ingredient defines the Ilocano dish as it really gets it to be called as ‘Pinapaitan.’ This bile if you’re curious, is the one that comes from the goat or cow’s bitter juice extracted by the liver.
Putting the bile ingredient has become a really great debate among locals with others. Cooking their version of Pinapaitan is bile-free as tossing in the liver and intestines are already enough to replicate the bitterness.
It is, indeed, an acquired taste. As for me, I grew up in Ilocos Norte with this dish being introduced and my parents waste no time in cooking Pinapaitan with the notorious bile in it. Too much bile will definitely ruin the dish, but those Ilocanos who cooked it would know the right amount to put.
The scarcity of goat meat, and even nowadays, the price of beef meat as it’s a known substitute, affect the number of times locals will cook this bitter stew. For these reasons, cooking the goat meat to the classic Pinapaitan is reserved for festivities and special occasions. It has been an unspoken rule to cook Pinapaitan as a special dish in celebrations because you will expect your guests to ask for it. Pinapaitan to partner as an appetizer or ‘pulutan’ with a Filipino gin or beer.