This Popular Ilocos Treat Makes a Corn-y Holiday Present
Choose Philippines | December 19, 2019
Story by Grace Alba
Photos by James Lemuel Salvador
A crunchy, munchy, and tasty foodie gift this holiday season? Ilocos Norte's cornick is just the ticket! As one of the most famous food products in Ilocos Norte, cornick is essentially deep-fried glutinous white corn kernels, a popular treat is similar to popcorn. Pour as much as your hands can hold and pop it in your mouth while watching a movie, surfing the net, or reading books. It also makes for a great finger food during parties, best when partnered with drinks --- be it soda or beer or alcohol, in short, a beer match or pulutan.
Cornick is produced in some towns of the province, notably the town of Paoay, site of the historical Saint Augustine Church. Production peaks during corn season, which starts in November and ends in April. According to the Paoay Tourism Officer Edwin Abrojena, the cornick industry not only promotes tourism in the area, but it also helps the corn farmers gain more profit due to the high demand for cornick manufacturing.
As one of the first and oldest manufacturers of cornick in Paoay, Lita Piamonte says that it is not just a business but a legacy. They started this business in 1991, a brainchild of one of her late auntie's playful mind. It started from selling binatog or boiled white corn kernel mixed with sugar, milk, and freshly grated coconut. Due to fierce competition, however, her aunt thought of a new snack made from corn kernels. "Mostly kasi ng tao dito sa Paoay ay farmers ng mais, so ginagaya nila 'yung proseso ng auntie ko. So, nag-isip ang auntie namin na sabi niya na bakit kaya 'yung kanin, eh pwedeng i-fry, kaya sinubukan niya na ganun pero garlic muna, " reveals Lita. (Most of the people in Paoay are corn farmers so they copied my auntie’s process. My auntie then realized: if rice can be fried, why not corn? She tried it out with garlic first.)
To get the best taste and crunchiness of cornick, patience is always the key. Glutinous white corn kernels are first soaked then boiled in water with lime for almost an hour to soften and peel the corn kernel's skin. These are drained then again soaked in water and washed 10 more times before being boiled overnight. The boiled kernels are then again washed and dried under the sun for 2 to three days and these dried ones already to be fried for 10 minutes.
They can produce 700 packs of cornick a day. Packs of cornicks are sold to markets, Souvenir stores, and grocery stores nationwide. According to Lita, these are even exported to Australia, USA, Saudi Arabia, and Hongkong. During holiday season, cornick products are a big hit. Locals and tourists flock to stores to buy it in bulk as snacks, souvenirs, or as pasalubongs or gifts. Aside from its first and original flavor - the garlic flavor --- it has become more special because of its various flavors: barbecue, sweet, and spicy, hot and spicy, and cheese. This variety gives everyone more reasons to give Ilocos cornick as perfect holiday gifts.
Joey Alcantara from Ilocos Sur prefers to give cornick as her Christmas gift to her officemates and friends. "Napakaganda na pang-regalo kasi una tipid and if you want to introduce delicacies of Ilocos products to our friends, ito 'yung isang gateway to showcase our culture, " Joey reveals. (It’s a great gift because it’s cheap and if you want to introduce delicacies of Ilocos, it is a great gateway to showcase our culture.)