Taste Test

Balay Ti Empanada, Empanada Nation, or Lola’s: Our Batac-Style Ilocos Empanada Taste Test

January 28, 2019

With its large, wide, semi circular form and vivid orange hue, Ilocos Empanada stands out among other iterations of the pastry. A specialty of its eponymous region, Ilocos Empanada consists of a thin rice-based wrapper that gets fried to a crisp and stuffed with veggies, meat, and/or egg upon your preference, doused upon consumption with the sweet, spicy, complex-tasting punch of Ilocos vinegar.  It’s said to come in a few distinct styles, the Batac version—said to be have a thicker, more vivid orange crust and employ grated papaya, bean sprouts, a whole egg, and Laoag longganisa—being among one of the more notable iterations. Though a trip to Ilocos isn’t always possible for us city folk, you’ll find a number of joints offering the delicacy across Manila; how do they compare?

Note: We narrowed down the selection to Batac-style Ilocos Empanada with the most basic filling—i.e. with a single serving each of veggies, meat, and egg (which goes by the moniker “special” in most stores). While photos were shot in the studio, the writer tasted each empanada in-store as this deep-fried treat is best enjoyed fresh.

Balay Ti Empanada – Special

Heralded by Sandy Daza himself, Balay Ti is every bit worth the drive to White Plains. | PHP 95

Though relatively pricey at 95 pesos a pop, each empanada from this tiny eatery in White Plains comes long, wide, and visibly stuffed to the brim. Sporting a vivid orange hue, its wrapper flaunts a slightly sweet, nutty profile and crisp, sturdy character that’s solid enough to make for an audible crunch yet crackles easily as you sink in your teeth. Inside you get sautéed papaya and togue (seasoned just a touch and retain a slight bite), a generous amount of their garlicky, savory longganisa (carrying what seems to be a liver-y hint to it), and an egg with, in our experience, runny to close-to-runny yolks, which binds the filling together. All parts come together for a sum that’s flavorful on its own, yet sings especially when doused with vinegar.

Empanada Nation – Batac eMPANADA, Special

This especially crunchy version has a most addictive crust; plus points for convenience, with their multiple branches around the metro. | PHP 75

This growing franchise churns out empanada that’s also relatively long (just second to Balay Ti’s) and wide, its surface seemingly smoother and more uniform in appearance. Its skin also comes especially firm and crisp, providing ample crunch (even when bathed in vinegar) without being tough or dense. For veggies, you get shreds of green papaya and bean sprouts that are barely seasoned, allowing their natural sweetness to come forward. They can be inconsistent in the amount of longganisa however, as orders on succeeding visits contained but a few crumbles toward the outer edge, which contribute some of their notably more sour-leaning flavor profile but ultimately feel bitin. The egg within also more often comes out well-done with a rubbery yolk.

Lola’s Ilocos Empanada – Classic

Lola’s only has one branch in the Metro located within a residential area in Sampaloc, Manila; and while they do deliver, we recommend dropping by the store and enjoying their empanada fresh. Note that unlike other stores, the most basic veg-meat-egg filled empanada goes by the name “Classic”. | PHP 55

Sporting a deep orange hue and a surface dotted with loose, puffy air bubbles, Lola’s crust falls under the crisp-crackly but more delicate end of the spectrum, with a more tender, starchier, somewhat puffier feel to it (possibly due to the dough itself having more distinct pockets of fat folded in) and a peculiar umami taste we can best liken to that of the coating on kwek-kwek. There are no bean sprouts in their take (though they confirm being of the Batac sort), but their shredded papaya comes seasoned just right, notably with a touch of pepper, and retaining a soft yet discernible crunch. You get also a good amount of sausage of a peppery, slightly piquant profile, which comes well distributed that you get some in almost every bite. The eggs can be inconsistent, but at its best comes with a perfectly runny yolk that dribbles down and enriches the rest of the filling.

The Verdict: Balay Ti Empanada

Relatively expensive as it may be, Balay Ti’s version wins by all accounts—from its satisfying crunchy, crackly wrapper to its filling of cooked-just-right, seasoned-just-right veg, generous longganisa, and (for the most part) runny egg. But the other two nonetheless offer their own strengths to the Ilocos Empanada game: Empanada Nation’s boasts of an addictive, uber-crunchy wrapper that we can’t get enough of; and Lola’s, though not quite as crispy (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing), has great ratio of veg to meat to egg within.

Patricia Baes SEE AUTHOR Patricia Baes

Trish thinks too much about everything—truth, existence.....and what’s on her plate. Her ongoing quest for a better relationship with food has led to a passion for cooking, gastronomy, and a newfound interest in its politics. She dreams of perfecting the art of making soufflé with her crappy toaster oven.

2 comments in this post SHOW

2 responses to “Balay Ti Empanada, Empanada Nation, or Lola’s: Our Batac-Style Ilocos Empanada Taste Test”

  1. Carla de Guzman says:

    Hello Pepper.ph

    Kindly correct our address

    706 H. Ventura Street
    “Sampaloc” Manila

    And our brand name

    “Lola’s Ilocos Empanada”

    Thank you so so much

  2. Pepper says:

    Hi Karla, noted on this! We’ve edited the post, thanks for pointing this out 🙂

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