The Ilocos region in northern Luzon is famous for its cuisine that includes the delectable bagnet, Vigan empanada, dinengdeng and the pakbet but when Kiko Villaalba of "MagTV! Atin!" dropped by the Choose Philippines office he told us about another delicacy in Ilocos Norte - the Abal-abal.
The abal-abal are beetles that are annually "harvested" during the month of May, shortly before the onset of the rainy season and he says this is a highly anticipated activity that only happens once a year.
He and his crew were in Vintar, Ilocos Norte when they came upon many villagers from one of the barangays, young and old, venture into the fields and forests to try their luck catching these tasty critters.
The villagers use dried banana leaves soaked in the strong-smelling local vinegar called sukang iloco which they hung from trees. The pungent smell attracts the abal-abal from their hiding places down in the soil.
Kiko explained that special care is taken to catch the bugs shortly after they emerge from the ground because once ther bug eats the leaves their taste would become very bitter.
He said when they were there the bugs were plentiful and children were selling them for 50 centavos apiece. There were plenty of takers! If Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Food was here we bet he would have bought several kilos. =)
When we asked Kiko if he tried an abal-abal, he said he watched a nice lady cook a batch. First she removed the limbs and wings. Then she cut off their heads and squeezed the guts and pulp out.The abal-abal were then sauteed in a mixture of cooking oil, salt, garlic and sukang iloco (cane vinegar).
Kiko said he tasted one of the tried bugs and he said it had the taste texture of peanuts cooked ala adobo style. The abal-abal could eaten as ulam (viand) or pulutan (finger food).
So if you happen to be in Ilocos during abal-abal season, maybe you could pretend you're the host of Bizarre World and follow his saying, "If it tastes good, eat it!"