The first time I encountered bagnet, the fear of an early death came over me.
Naturally, my baser self overcame that and I dug right in.
Bagnet is the popular ilokano fried pork belly dish that has slowly crept out of Ilocos and into the mainstream consciousness (or unconsciousness, if you have too much of it in one sitting).
It is really large chunks of liempo or sometimes pork side or pork butt that is seasoned, boiled, sun dried, fried and fried again till the skin turns into something crisp and utterly irresistible.
The locals call bagnet as chicharon but I call it widowmaker.
I indulge in bagnet once a year on my annual pilgrimage to Ilocos province. I always buy from my suki at the Laoag Market -- her name is Maan Acorda and before she took over the stall, I used to buy from her mother-in-law, whose name the stall still carries.
Aside from mounds and mounds of shiny, skin-cracked bagnet, Maan also sells a very tasty longganisa. Laoag longganisa is dark, with undertones of garlic and the pungent and potent sukang iloko that it is made with.
I haul off about 10 kilos of bagnet once a year when I visit Maan. Wrapped in newspaper and sealed in individual ziploc bags, it keeps in the freezer for months.
When deep fried in hot oil, it turns crunchy crackly and when chopped it makes the perfect topping for pinakbet, cooked Ilokano style.