Spicy and Creamy Stewed pork in Coconut Milk
What is Bicol Express
According to Wikipedia, The dish was named by Laguna resident, Cely Kalaw, during a cooking competition in the 1970s in Malate, Manila. The name of the dish was inspired by the Bicol Express railway train (Philippine National Railways) that operated from Tutuban, Manila to Legazpi, Albay (regional center of the Bicol region). While trying to determine a name for the dish, Kalaw’s brother heard the sound of the Philippines National Railway traveling across Kalaw’s restaurant to arrive in Manila. This event inspired Kalaw to name the dish ‘Bicol Express’ after the PNR train that is programmed to undergo the Manila-Legazpi route.
Bicol Express is similar to a vegetarian dish in Bicol called ‘Gulay na may lada’ which translates to vegetables with coconut milk. Bicol is a region in the Philippines that uses a lot of coconut milk and chillies or ‘Siling labuyo’, a local chili, in their dishes. I love Bicolano food as I love the combination of coconut milk and chillies these two are made to be paired. I made some Sinanglay (fish in coconut milk & chillies), Laing (Taro leaves in coconut milk & chillies) and Pinangat (spicy coconut meat and crab parcels wrapped with taro leaves, cooked in coconut milk). All very delicious!
There are many variations to the original recipes, you can make this dish with pork like this recipe or with seafood or vegetarian. This is my take on the classic Bicol Express.
My family loves this dish so much that my eldest daughter requested for me to cook Bicol Express for her birthday party.
Pork – I used pork belly here but you can use pork shoulder too or even pork ribs. In my instagram/tiktok video I actually mixed pork belly and pork ribs. You can use any other meat or seafood or vegetbales too if you do not eat pork.
Ginger – I opted out the ginger because I don’t think it goes with it but you can add it if you want.
Chili – I used pepper chillies as it’s not so spicy but you can use birds eye chili if you want but they are much spicier. My youngest daughter can’t take the heat from the chili so I used chili peppers instead. This dish is meant to be spicy but you don’t have to make it too spicy that you can’t eat your own cooking.
Alamang – sauteed shrimp paste, you can use any brand you like. In this recipe I used the Zamboanga brand. It’s already sauteed as there are alamang (shrimp paste) that are not sauteed which tastes different. Make sure you buy the Filipino brand.
In a medium pot, heat some oil and saute the onions for a minute then add the garlic and cook for another minute. Next, add the pork belly into the pot and stir fry until the meat turns white-ish colour. Add the shrimp paste, pepper and continue to cook for 10 minutes. Pour the coconut milk into the pot and bring it to a boil with the lid on.
Turn the heat down and simmer for 30 minutes or until the pork is soft. Once the meat is ready, add the chopped chillies and continue to cook for another 10 minutes. Turn the heat off and serve with some boiled rice.