I have this longstanding love affair with Vigan-style empanadas. Admittedly, they’re not the healthiest snacks in the world: rice flour pancakes enclosing a filling made with shredded green papaya, garlicky pork sausages with the casings removed, and a whole egg. These are then folded over, sealed, and deep-fried till the outsides are as crunchy as nachos and the insides are gloriously fragrant and steamy. Certainly not what the more diet-conscious among us would consider healthy eating!
Still, there is just something that is so good, so nurturing, so comforting about these deep-fried turnovers that makes them a worthwhile occasional indulgence.
A few years ago, I would get my Vigan empanada fix from a stall called Taco Iloco over at Market! Market! or from the branch at the Glorietta food court. Unfortunately, these stalls closed down a couple years ago and the only place you could get a decent empanada in this part of the country was at a stall at the Mall of Asia – all the way in Pasay! Now, while I’m absolutely food mad, I’m not crazy enough to go hightailing all the way to Pasay just for an empanada!
Which is why a shopping jaunt to the renovated Cash and Carry Mall led to the discovery of Mac’s D’original Vigan Empanada and Okoy stall on the ground floor. It’s actually a branch of the stall over at the Mall of Asia and, as done over there, the empanadas are prepared while one waits.
Refrigerated chunks of rice flour dough are rolled out to order and filled with a scrumptious combination of fresh green papaya, ground black pepper, unskinned chunks of garlicky pork sausage, a touch of vinegar, and an egg yolk (the whites are reserved for binding the dough) and deep fried till golden. The dough used here isn’t the blinding orange kind used by other empanada stalls, but it is nacho-crisp and certainly moreish.
The stall also sells okoy (huge rice-flour fritters studded with tiny shrimp and beansprouts), chicharong laman (pork crackling; actually, more like deep-fried bacon rinds), and Vigan’s popular longganiza (the same sausages used for the empanadas). But it’s the empanadas that keep me coming back. I’ve told my cousins in California about this stall – and they’ve been telling me to shut up and bring them there the next time they’re in the country.
Mac’s D’original Vigan Empanada and Okoy: Ground Floor – Cash and Carry Mall, Sen. Gil Puyat Avenue cor. South Super Highway, Fillmore, Makati