What’s The Difference: Menudo Vs. Igado

Here are the ingredients that make these two Filipino dishes different.

IMAGE Majoy Siason
ILLUSTRATOR Roselle Miranda

Many pork stew recipes have similar ingredients. It's made with pork, it has chunks of vegetables, and is stewed in a flavorful sauce that brings the dish together into a satisfying meal. 

While these may all seem the same, it's the tiny differences in ingredients that make these pork stews different from each other. In the case of menudo and igado, the two dishes actually share many similarities while the differences are minimal. 

Both are pork stews with pork liver. Each is a savory, tangy stew that uses a few similar ingredients such as soy sauce that replaces the salt and a sour ingredient to complement the savoriness. Each also has a few ingredients that differentiate it from the other. Here are those differences: 

1 Menudo is a saucy stew. Igado is cooked until almost dry. 

A sauce is common for stews. Stews are dishes that are simmered, usually over low heat or flame, so that not only will the meat tenderize in this time, the ingredients that make up the sauce or liquid will also become more flavorful through the long cooking time.

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For the menudo, this means it results in a thick tomato-based sauce that coats each chunk. For igado, the savory sauce is sometimes simmered until almost dry. This doesn't mean igado is dry, only that the pork absorbs most of the flavors as it simmers. This thick and concentrated sauce then coats the pork and other ingredients, resulting in a dish that is less saucy than menudo but also one that's super flavorful. 

Photo by Riell Santos
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Menudo uses small cubes of pork. Igado uses pork sliced into strips. 

One look at both dishes will tell you what is served: if the pork pieces have been cut into small cubes, chances are the dish is a menudo. If you see pork strips along with the bell peppers, it's igado

While you can easily change up the cuts of the pork, these are the common pork cuts that you'll find for these two dishes.

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Menudo has potatoes and carrots. Igado uses green peas and bell peppers. 

Another quick look at the two dishes reveals that even the vegetables are different.

While menudo sticks to the usual root vegetables many stews use, namely, potatoes and carrots, igado veers away from those common ingredients. Instead, it takes a page from another stew, the kaldereta, and uses green peas and bell peppers to accompany the pork. The green peas are added nutrition and color but the bell peppers give the igado its unique sweet, bitter flavor that makes it taste different. 

Menudo uses tomato sauce. Igado uses vinegar. 

This might be the most telling difference when it comes to taste. While the look of the dish can instantly tell you that you're eating a different dish, the taste of each dish will definitely solidify your opinion.

Give menudo a taste and you'll notice that the main ingredient in the sauce is the tangy tomatoes seasoned with soy sauce. There's an underlying sweetness to it, too. It's might be from the raisins that were tossed in or the sugar that not only sweetens but also helps balance the flavor of the sour tomatoes. 

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The igado however uses a different souring ingredient instead of tomato sauce: vinegar. You might actually think that igado is another kind of adobo, since it uses the same two main ingredients, soy sauce and vinegar. However, its other ingredients, namely the pork liver and the bell peppers, that make this beloved Ilocano recipe taste even more different than even the adobo

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