Bicol Express is a spicy pork stew cooked in coconut milk which is definitely one of the most popular dishes among Filipinos.
Bicol Express has it’s funny, if not weird, name from the train that travels the Naga(Bicol)-Manila route. I don’t really know why they chose to call it after the train but it definitely deserves to carry the name of the province of Bicol. Bicol is known in the Philippines for a lot of things such as the perfect coned, Mayon volcano, Pili nuts and, of course, for their love of spicy food.
There is a dispute, though, that is yet to be settled as to the real inventor of this unique dish. There are some who says that Bicol Express was actually invented by a Filipino food icon, Cely Kalaw, in her restaurant in Malate, Manila. And that it was only inspired by the Bicolano cuisine since Cely is not from Bicol but from Laguna. Of course, the Bicolanos are also staking their claim that it is indeed originally from Bicol only known in a different name, Gulay na lada.
Another dish that comes to mind when I think of Bicol is Laing. It is somewhat similar to Bicol Express but instead of pork, it mainly consists of dried Taro leaves. So like Bicol Express, it is also cooked in coconut milk and is spicy. Dried fish is normally added for saltiness. Aahhh…how I miss eating Laing, unfortunately, dried Taro leaves are not available in Germany. But soon I am able to make it when we are in the Philippines…just a month to go… In my own version of Bicol Express, I like to cook the pork first by stir frying it until golden and crisp and then add the coconut milk later. Then let it simmer until it makes a thick, creamy sauce.
- 2 Tablespoon oil
- 500 grams pork belly, cut into bite sizes
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 5 green chili, chopped (adjust according to how spicy you like it to be)
- 1½ Tablespoon shrimp paste (bagoong)
- 1½ cup coconut milk
- Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Stir fry the pork for several minutes until golden.
- Add the garlic and onion and cook until limp and aromatic. Add the shrimp paste and cook for another minute.
- Pour in the coconut milk and chili and lower heat to low. Let it cook for several minutes until pork is tender and sauce begins to thicken and render fat.
- Season with salt if needed.