Hot and spicy. These words and the Bicol region are inseparable. aside from the region’s very rich culture, majestic land and seascapes and famous people, Bicol is known for its exotic, hot and spicily mouth-watering dishes! And whenever we talk of Bicol food, the first that comes to mind is Bicol Express (aptly named at that).
According to Wikipedia:
“Bicol Express (Bikol: Sinilihan) is a popular Filipino dish which was popularized in the district of Malate, Manila but made in traditional Bicolano style. It is a stew made from long chilies (siling mahaba in Tagalog, lada panjang in Malay/Indonesian), coconut milk, shrimp paste or stockfish, onion, pork, and garlic. It is said to have been inspired by the fiery Bicolano dish gulay na may lada, which is nowadays presented as one of the many variants of Bicol Express.
Bicol Express was named after the passenger train service from Manila to the Bicol region, a region in the Philippines famous for its spicy cuisine.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicol_Express)
You are not Bicolano if you have never, in your whole life, enjoyed/eaten/tasted/seen/smelled Bicol Express. There is no reason not to because almost every home has a version of this extra-hot dish. Even I do. And I am glad to share this with you:
My version of the popular dish does not have meat as an ingredient. Instead, I use Beef skin (the white one in the picture) which can be bought in the market or the mobile fish vendors. Other ingredients are onion, garlic, tomatoes, kamias and Bagoong Alamang (it’s not Bicol Express without bagoong.)
Other must-haves: Kakang-gata (coconut milk) and sili (lots of them). The spicier, the creamier, the better.
Cooking is simple- just the same old saute. In a pan, heat oil and then throw in garlic, onion, camias, tomatoes, and sili, in that order. Next, the beef skin and let everything simmer. (I like it more if the spices extract their juices) Then add alamang, mix evenly. Finally, add gata and let the liquid reduce for best consitency and creaminess.
That’s it! A Bicol Express version that’s so simple, so easy to prepare. Devour and get yourself all the extra rice you can get. Till the next cooking! 🙂