Having Ilocano parents means eating a lot of native dishes from Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, and Vigan. Oh, and a lot of vegetable dishes that have just entered the mainstream cuisine here in the metro. It has been a while before my dad cooked a dish from Alokon, more commonly known as birch tree flowers. Despite the similarity in appearance to the birch family, it is actually not a relative of the birch tree. It has been widely available only to the provinces until a few years ago, and my dad seemed amused to find it in our local grocer. Other names for this vegetable/flower are alakon, alucon, baeg, and birch tree flowers.
My mom in Canada said that they can only buy these in frozen form, all of which came all the way from Asia. Somehow, I don't like the idea of using frozen vegetables because it ruins their natural texture. The flowers above are supposedly freshly picked (within 24 hours) and newly delivered when my dad came across it, so he took the chance and bought the greens. Then he cooked an unfamiliar dish with alokon, pork and broccoli, which tasted so delicious that I missed going to Cagayan and Ilocos.