Bicol is always associated with spicy food. The thought of Bicol would send a person's imagination of images and scents of sili (chili pepper) and coconut milk. It holds a special place in the hearts of food-loving Filipinos. Mainly because of the abundance of chili and coconuts in Bicol, chili and coconut milk are staples in Bicolano cooking.
The most famous of Bicolano dishes is the Bicol express (a pork dish), spicy and cooked in gata. Anyone who would partake of and savor this very hot and creamy dish is surely to experience sweating in gustatory delight.
1 k pork liempo, diced or cubed
1/2 cup minced onions
2 tbsps minced ginger
1 tbsp minced garlic (native)
2 stalks lemon grass
1 bay leaf
1 pack pork meat powder pack
3/4 cup bagoong (washed twice to rid of salt)
10 pcs siling labuyo or to taste
1 cup cream
1 coconut milk
1/2 cup vinegar
Place pork, onion, ginger, garlic, lemon grass, and bay leaves. Boil for 2 minutes. Simmer 20-30 minutes until meat is tender. Add pork meat powder and alamang. Then add sili. Add cream and coconut milk. Cook until cream and milk turns oily. Add salt and pepper as desired. Serve. This dish is best served the day after. Mix while simmering to prevent from sticking. Sauce should be thick and oily. No added salt or pepper needed. Taste, taste and taste while cooking.
Bicol is the home of spicy recipes cooked in coconut milk. Ear popping Bicol's recipes might be, they are still mouth watering and must-try delicacies.
Among the best of Bicol is the Pinangat. It is equally satisfying as the Bicol Express and Laing. This one is made of fish or shrimp wrapped in gabi or yam leves and cooked in, of course, coconut milk.
To try this dish, just do the following simple procedures:
1 pound or 8-10 medium-sized leaves of gabi, include stems if possible
2 pounds shredded gabi leaves, include chopped stems (dried packages are available from Oriental stores)
2 (13.5 ounce) cans coconut milk
3/4 cup your choice of diced pork, shelled, chopped fresh shrimp or salmon
1/4 cup tinapa or smoked fish, optional
2 tablespoons bagoong (salted fish, preserved krill or small shrimps) or 1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ginger root, fresh and finely chopped (or powdered ginger)
1 tablespoon minced garlic clove (fresh is preferred over powder)
1 small hot pepper (red or green), chopped into pieces, or crushed or powdered or 1 teaspoon powdered black, red or cayenne pepper.
Slightly thicken 1 can coconut milk in an open pan for 2 minutes. Add your choice of diced pork, shrimp or salmon pieces; gabi stems and leaves; bagoong; all of the spices; and tinapa into the mixture. Cook over slow heat for about 8 minutes, stirring constantly until thickened. Set aside.
Spread gabi leaves on a platter. Put about 2 tablespoons of the mixture into each leaf. Pour 1 teaspoon of the coconut curd (from other can, uncooked) on top of mixture before wrapping. Fold the leaf on 4 sides and tie with its own stem if available and reinforce with a small string or thick thread around 4 sides ending with a bow on top for easier handling or individual serving. (This also prevents accidental opening of the wrap while cooking)
Cook the wraps in the remaining coconut milk in a covered saucepan for about 8-10 minutes over low heat, until most of the liquid evaporates, leaving just enough moisture on the wraps. Serve hot with rice.