Empanada battle (Vigan vs Batac): and the winner is…

 

On the Yellow Corner: Vigan

On the Yellow Corner: Vigan (photo from here.)

On the orange corner: Batac

On the orange corner: Batac (cropped from a photo by blauearth)

While this popular delicacy is not an Ilocano original (It was introduced here by our Spanish colonizers), empanada has become as Ilocano as saluyot, marunggay, and baggoong. It comes from the verb empanar, meaning to wrap or coat in bread.

In the Ilocos dichotomy that is Norte and Sur, two versions emerged from two key locations: Batac and Vigan. It’s not the first time someone compared the two Ilocos empanadas, but I will be more upfront about my verdict.

This comparison results from a series of store visits, interviews with tourists and locals, online reviews, direct observation, and, of course, product tasting conducted this summer in various empanada stalls in Vigan, Ilocos Sur and in Batac, Ilocos Norte.

For purposes of this comparison, Batac Empanadas, particularly those sold at the young city’s Riverside Empanadaan, are considered as the Ilocos Norte standard. On the other hand, the Vigan standard are those sold at Plaza Burgos and stalls like Irene’s and Abuelita’s, which follow a common recipe. I have to make this clear because other variants have sprouted in both provinces, like the crispy empanada sold in Bacarra and the sweet empanada served at a stall in Laoag City, both in Ilocos Norte. Then there are the empanada variants sold at Insiang’s and Hidden Garden in Vigan City, and the Candon, Ilocos Sur version which, interestingly enough, looks every inch a poor clone of the Batac empanada.

How do we proceed with the comparison? Taste, I admit, is highly relative because one tends to prefer what she is accustomed to. This is evident in the response made by Malot Ingel, an anthropologist from Vigan.

Malot Ingel, well respected anthropologist from Vigan

Malot Ingel, well-respected anthropologist from Vigan

“Kahit nag-eexplore ako sa maraming iba’t ibang klaseng pagkain. I mean, kahit foreign food, halimbawa Italian, gusto ko rin naman ‘yun. Pero pagdating sa Ilokano food, napaka-conservative ko, na kung ano ‘yung alam kong lasa, mag-i-stick ako dun. Halimbawa, ang pipian ng Vigan, very particular ‘yan. Minsan nilalagyan nila ng butter to improve the taste supposedly, nagiging unacceptable sa’kin ‘yun. In the same way, kapag empanada, Vigan empanada lang ‘yung gusto ko. I mean, maraming beses ko nang nalasahan ang empanada ng Batac, sabi nila masarap, pero di ko matanggap-tanggap ang lasa ng empanada ng Batac.”

I fully understand Malot’s point, and this preference for what one has come to call her own is why I found it important to conduct interviews with people who are from neither of the two provinces. For proper disclosure, I am from Laoag but I tried to write this feature as objectively and balanced as humanly possible.

We’re now ready to dissect the two empanadas. Let’s get ready to rumble.

ROUND 1: FILLING

Vigan empanada’s stuffing is composed of cabbage, ground pork, and egg (white is separated and mixed with the cabbage) while the Batac version is filled with papaya, mongo, longanisa (native sausage), and whole egg.

Most tourists I talked to prefer the Batac stuffing because of its flavorful blend. Many dislike the idea of fried cabbage. Vigan empanada used to have papaya, too, but they now generally use cabbage because it is more available. “The use of repolio makes the Vigan empanada so generic like lumpia,” notes popular lifestyle blogger Blauearth (Tina Tan) who is fortunate to travel with top chef Sandy Daza in some tapings for Foodprints, a television show aired on the Lifestyle Network.

A professor who teaches arts and culture in a tertiary-level institution in Vigan said she craves for the burst of flavor of egg malasado and the salty, garlic-y Batac longganisa. Giving permission to be quoted but not to be named, she admitted that the quality of Vigan empanada has deteriorated over the years.

True enough, Batac wins hand-on in the quality of the meat filling. It still uses the traditionally-prepared longanisa while stalls at Plaza Burgos just use seasoned ground meat.

Batac: papaya, mongo, longanisa, whole egg (photo by lakadpilipinas.com)

Batac: papaya, mongo, longanisa, whole egg (photo by lakadpilipinas.com)

Vigan: Cabbage, egg yolk, and ground pork

Vigan: Cabbage, egg yolk, and ground pork

BATAC: This is longanisa.

Batac: This is longanisa.

Vigan: This is not longanisa

Vigan: This is not longanisa

VIGAN

VIGAN

BATAC (photo by melovillareal)

BATAC (photo by melovillareal)

Winner in this round: BATAC

 

ROUND 2: CRUST

Both empanadas have crusts made of rice flour. Vigan’s is light yellow while Batac’s is orange because of atchuete, an organic food coloring. Psychologists say orange stimulates appetite.

The Vigan empanada crust is thinner, yet it absorbs a lot of oil. This is an observation shared by Ivan Henares, a top travel blogger. Some say it is crunchier but I disagree because the Batac Empanada crust can also be as crunchy as it could get, and with less oil. In fact, some customers request for an extra, separate serving of just the crust, which is called pinais. Rjdexplorer also expresses amazement over the “orange tortilla wrap.”

Vigan Empanada: Very oily crust

Vigan: Very oily crust

Batac" Thicker but crunchy as well (photo by blauearth)

Batac: Thicker but crunchy as well (photo by blauearth)

Winner in this round: BATAC

 

ROUND 3: SHELF LIFE AND REHEATING

Tourists love to bring home a taste of Ilocos. Unfortunately, The Vigan empanada, which absorbs too much oil, gets even, well, oilier when it gets cold. Re-frying is not encouraged unless oil is your favorite juice.

On the other hand, Batac empanada can be refried, and if it’s done properly (make sure the oil is really hot before you soak the empanada in, but be careful not to burn it), the crust can look and taste almost newly cooked. Some travellers would buy Batac empanada before they embark on a nine to twelve-hour from Batac to Manila where eager pasalubong recipients await.

It even reaches Hawaii, says teacher Norman in this Facebook comment:

Norman

Vigan: dare to refry this?

Vigan: dare to refry this?

Winner in this round: BATAC

 

ROUND 4: NUTRITIONAL VALUE

Cabbage versus papaya and mongo is a no-brainer. And what do cardiologists say about greasy food?

papaya

Winner in this round: BATAC

 

ROUND 5: CUSTOMIZATION

With the Vigan empanada, you have only two choices: special (with longanisa) and ordinary (without).

At the Batac Riverside Empanadaan, you have, aside from special and ordinary, double special (two pcs. longanisa), double egg, double double (two pcs. Longanisa, two eggs), and jumbo empanada which has jumbo hotdog instead of longanisa. As mentioned, earlier, you can have an extra serving of the crunchy crust which is even crisper when it stands alone.

Batac: more choices

Batac: more choices

OOZING. Possible only with the Batac empanada, some prefer it this way.

OOZING.Some prefer it this way. (photo by melovillareal)

Winner in this round: BATAC

 

ROUND 6: VALUE FOR MONEY

Vigan Empanada special is sold at Php 35 while the ordinary version, which is really small you can consume it in two bites, is worth only Php 5. Batac Empanada special is Php 40 while the ordinary serving, which is the same size though thinner because it has no meat, costs Php 20.

While more expensive, Batac empanada has more content. I am tempted to give this round, yet again, to Batac, but the thought of having a Vigan empanada, no matter how small, at only five bucks thrills me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Winner in this round: TIE

 

FINAL ROUND (7): ‘BUSOG’ FACTOR

Because the Batac empanada has more ingredients in more generous amounts, it is definitely more filling than its Vigan counterpart. But, of course, you already know that.

Vigan: Tinimbang ka ngunit kulang

Vigan: Tinimbang ka ngunit kulang (In photo: Ariston Lorenzo)

Rjdexplorer has a similar scorecard:

rjdexplorer

 

OVERALL VERDICT: BATAC EMPANADA wins by a mile.

 

Empanada festival

Empanada festival

The Real Superstar

(2012) This writer with U.S. Ambassador Harry Thomas during the America in 3D Ilocos Norte event. My poem "Empanada Democracy" won first prize in a U.S.-embassy sponsored competition.

(2012) This writer with U.S. Ambassador Harry Thomas during the America in 3D Ilocos Norte event. My poem “Empanada Democracy” won first prize in a U.S.-embassy sponsored competition.

POSTSCRIPT:

For the record, I love Vigan, and I support its bid to be one of the World’s 7 Wonder Cities. (It’s the only remaining contender from the Philippines and one of only 28 cities from the world all over who made it to the prestigious shortlist.) My first taste of Vigan Empanada was when I and four of my good friends in high school took a bus to Vigan one afternoon to gallivant and have merienda. The place and the food strike happy memories until today. I vividly remember that empanada at Plaza Burgos tasted much better then, and which is why I am saddened to witness the current deterioration. If only the city can protect its empanada and other culinary wonders the way it takes care of its heritage structures.

I feel relieved, dear karikna, that even proud children of Vigan agree with my observations. Here’s one by Doc Roel Palo Anicas.

doc

 *****

riknakem.jpgThis article also appears in both the print and electronic versions of The Ilocos Times, the oldest and most widely circulated newspaper in the North.

ilocos times

26 Comments

Filed under Food, Uncategorized

26 responses to “Empanada battle (Vigan vs Batac): and the winner is…

  1. Rizza Cocson Corpuz

    Hi Sir Herdy,
    Even before I was in college in MMSU, I’ve always been interested with your writings because of the ideas they tend to inculcate to the minds of the readers. I personally have high respect with you not just because your my professor way back before but because of the way you influence people by sharing your knowledge about the reality of Philippines and it’s people. Yes sir, I was once your student on one of your classes in socio. but I’m not writing to you just to tell you about me being your student or you being my professor before.
    I got interested with this blog of yours not because I’m a Batacqueno or fond of Batac empanada but because my blood runs and live with the batac empanada. I’m so much proud to introduce myself to you not just your ordinary student but one of the grandchildren of the famous and original empanada maker of batac, Ms. Gloria ‘Glory’ Cocson. In behalf of our family, we are very much happy for uplifting the properties of our own native delicacy. This piece will surely a great help in promoting our product to be well-known in the entire Philippines as well as in other countries. We are very much glad to know that a lot of Filipinos still recognize the delectable and incomparable taste of Batac empanada..
    We so much appreciate the efforts of our fellow Ilocanos like you in helping us showcase our own pastry. That’s why we never stop in providing you the best mouth-watering empanada to extend our thanks for patronizing our own.
    I can say that I owe my life to our empanada business for without it, my parents and my grandma would not be able to provide all of our needs to be successful in life that’s why everything about it is so important to me.
    Again Sir, thank you very much for this beautiful piece you’ve made as it is a good way in showcasing our product and enticing people to come in Batac to taste our product.
    God bless and more powers to you Sir.

    -RCC and family

    • You’re welcome, Rizza. I’m glad Batac does well in carrying on with this culinary gem. If only Vigan can have as much devotion to its empanada as it has for its old structures.

      You are lucky to be part of a family that has carved an important niche in Ilocano food culture. Regards to all of you, and congratulations! =)

  2. well said… hehehe… halatang proud na tiga batac… anyway… there is a new batac empanada variant… you should try the bagnet special empanada…

  3. Yaymeister

    Proud batacqueños holding up native foods notably empanada, miki and chicharon (bagnet;downtown term). Speaking of which, when you hear those delectable fodder, you can’t blame yourself not to get your fair share of it. This just only means, i want to go back on a single time to my province to have ’em and to satisfy my cravings. Heck yeah, batac empanada is way better than vigan’s. there’s no chance in hell they can beat ’em, not in a single bite. Ain’t got nothing against Sorteños pride, but shake my head i won’t give a daym not to have my own city’s delight. Doubtlessly, home of the great leaders and so the foods are. Hats off to the blogger of course. He had his averment exceptional than anybody.

      • Ronald Allan Manglal-lan

        And, although not a native delicacy of batac, i have to include that our merengues are great too… My friends in uplb like them as much as they like empanada and bagnet… And dayo is a place to visit for food adventurers every sunday…. There are many other gems in the city when it comes to food…

  4. irvin alonzo

    I agree. No disrespect to fellow Bigueños but i am not surprised of this review. Both are good but Batac’s empanada really leaves the quality of Vigan’s behind. And as stated, Vigan’s quality deteriorated, as in really deteriorated. However, there is another kind of empanada hiding in Hidden Garden and yes it is located in Vigan. It is better (if not much better or surpass) than of those being marketed in the city proper. Anyhow, opinion lang naman, no offense meant! 🙂

    • Thank you for your candidness. I love Vigan and am supporting its Wonder Cities bid. I hope it can introduce some interventions to “save” its empanada from deterioration the same way the city has conserved its heritage structures. I have very good memories of Vigan empanada in my childhood. Kudos!

  5. Maru

    Sir Iam craving for Batac empanada as of this moment. Makapabisin daytoy nga article mo Sir, but anyway thumbs up to your verdict. I go for Batac empanada!

  6. FRANCO

    Please don’t compare!!! There is no point of comparison… Individual preferences…

    • The points of comparison were made clear. You’re free to declare your individual preference.

      • andrew

        han ususto dgta imbagam sir writer..kunam nga kyat mu ti balance iti pinagjudge ngem obvious met nga mkaBATAC EMPANADA ka..taga norte ak ngem mngmnganak ti vigan empanada..hn nga dudua ti flavor ti vigan empanada, infact bka ad adu py ngem j imbagam nga flavors dta batac..mapan ka j IRENE’S nga inmention mu met lng dtoi insurat mo..naoily j vigan kunam ket agpada da met, han lng unay malasin j empanada ti norte ta dark j orange nga kulay na..adda knya knya nga pinagraman, awan ti better between the two because they have their own variations..if ur a voracious eater, u may prefer the batac empada but for those people who want to eat less, vigan empanada is best 4u..mabigat kasi ang empanada ng batac..

  7. Dennis A. Maligalig

    I resided in Ilocos for ten years and there is no taste of empanada like batac! I usually crave for Vigan empanada before but when I tasted Batac empanada at Glory’s Empanada house, I never dare to taste Vigan empanda again. Aside from it’s taste and filling, you have the value for money. Now, I live in Manila and I only visit Ilocos Norte once every month. It is always on my itinerary to go the the house of Batac empanada to eat their tasty empanda. It’s the BEST!!!

  8. Jenny mercedes

    I beg to disagree sir.it depends sa taste ng eater yan.and corrections po, vigan uses longganisa sa empanada nila.and knowing Vigan longganisa,it is the most flavorful of all.the egg yolks are only used inside the empanada itself but for sure(hindi mo po ito alam),the egg whites are mixed with the vegetables kaya po malasa ung fillings ng vigan empanada.we also have variations at hindi lang yung sinabi mo pong dalawa lang.pwede mong piliin kung anong mas prefer mo,if double egg,double meat(longganisa) and others.i already tasted batac empanada but as much as I want to,hindi kasundo ng taste buds ko ang lasa.and about the crust,wala pa akong natikman sa ilocos Norte na crunchy ang crust nila.if you really reviewed all from vigan,u will know this information. That’s all.

  9. Anica Avera

    Sir, you should’ve tried other empanada stalls in Vigan. I beg to disagree. Karamihan mo ng empanada namin ay hindi linalagyan ng kulay (like the orange crust posted.) I suggest, you re-do your review. Try Irene’s, Hidden Garden and the empanada stall infront of RRJ. Yung hindi cabbage and linalagay. 🙂

  10. Myra Rivera Caroy

    I am from La Union and I am not impressed with the Vigan empanada.
    I think the better empanada is the one from Batac, the empanada in Vigan would pale in comparison. But then, that’s just me.

  11. JD

    I dont know anybody in here but i wanna say something and suggest to those who disagree, palagay natin na tama mga pinagsasabi ninyo, na hindi alam ang sinasabi ni sir henry, the sana gumawa kau ng blog na magpapatunay at may mga katibayan na mali talaga po siya, at mas kapanipaniwala din na talaga na ang mga sinasabi niyo at makatotohanan. The person who write about this topic must earn some respect to, hindi lng basta basta na gumagawa siya ng mga kuwento kuwento lng, and one more thing, what he is right now is just because he earns it, hes been writing many years ago and also earn respect to some of the prominent persons and respect family’s here in ilocos.

  12. Hi! I hope you don’t mind sharing/using the photo of empanada in my post here – http://www.womenality.com/2015/04/12/never-miss-these-vigans-delicacies/. I put your website for photo credits. If you have issues on that, please let me know at once so I can remove it immediately. Thank you and btw, nice article and comparison.

    For me, I’d say it’s also a tie!

  13. Hi! I hope you don’t mind sharing/using the photo of empanada in my post here – http://www.woamenality.com/2015/04/12/never-miss-these-vigans-delicacies/. I put your website for photo credits. If you have issues on that, please let me know at once so I can remove it immediately. Thank you and btw, nice article and comparison.

    For me, I’d say it’s also a tie!

  14. Monina Sanchez

    Hi good morning!

    I would like to ask what time the Batac Riverside Empanadaan opens?
    We’re visiting next week and we might arrive at around 7AM.

    thanks!

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