For this episode of Lasang Pinoy I was honored to be invited by Kai to participate in the 24th episode. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the invitation early enough due to a send-mail issue with my web server. Having said that, I have to use my previous recipe blog that I wrote several months ago. Even though it is not the latest entry of my blogs it still fits the theme of Coconut, not to mention this dish is very popular and highly searched for on the internet. The Coconut is truly a wonder tree. Coconut trees are the only tree I know in the world that you can use everything from the fruit, or more likely the nut, all the way down to its trunk. The nut is used in a variety of food products from Coconut creme, milk, meat, and juice.
The leaves can be used as Brooms (walis tingting), Nepa hut siding, snack wrapping (suman), or you can weave it and make a square ball out of it. I remember my cousin’s and I used to make these square balls and play with them all day long. And of course the Coconut trunk can be used for cheap lumber, most commonly used in the Philippines to make concrete forms and also used to build huts as an alternative for more types of traditional lumber. Okay enough said, now let see my recipe!
Is it hot in here? No, not yet! But it will be as we dig deeper into this particular dish. First things first, before we get any deeper into this recipe I just want to make certain things clear. I’m not a Bicolano nor have I ever even been in Bicol. I was born in Antipolo Rizal and basically grew up in Quezon City before moving here to the U.S. in September of 1992. I’m going to apologize in advance if any of my facts aren’t totally accurate.
Ok, let’s continue! Bicolano’s have been well known for their fiery obsession for centuries. They often use scalding-hot peppers as a main ingredient in most if not all of their vegetable dishes especially in the first district of Albay.
Bicol Express is a very popular dish originated from Bicol, but oddly enough in Bicol from what I read, they don’t even call it Bicol Express. So the dish itself did originate from Bicol, but not the name. They say that this dish evolved from another dish called gulay na may lada. I also read that the reason they call this Bicol Express is that it makes you run for water like an express train as soon as you put it in your mouth. Whether this is how they got the name or not, I don’t know.
What I can tell you for sure is that this stuff is very good and thanks to the Bicolano’s for coming up with it. Bicol Express nowadays has so many variations that just about everyone that has cooked this dish had modified it to their own personal preference. They have to accommodate their level of obsession when it comes to scalding-hot peppers. I have looked at several recipes online about Bicol Express before coming up with my own recipe. Even though this is not the authentic Bicol Express, it’s still very good and it will not put you in a coma, but in order for me to use the original name it does have to have a certain degree of hotness.
My version of Bicol Express does not use scalding-hot peppers as a main ingredient, instead I used it as a secondary ingredient. I love hot peppers, but unfortunately my obsession with hot peppers does not quite measure up to the Bicolano’s, so mine is a milder version. Now let’s take a look at the recipe!
1 ½ Lbs. Pork belly cut in 1 in. cubes
1 Lb. Calabaza cut in 1 ½ in. cubes
1 Large ginger peeled & sliced thinly
2 Cans of Coconut milk 13.5 oz each
1 Large onion diced
4 Cloves of garlic peeled & smashed
1 Tsp. Ground black pepper
½ Tsp. MSG – optional
36 Pcs. Thai-peppers, stems removed
6 Finger peppers Siling mahaba cut in ¼ in. pieces, discard stems
Corn oil for sauteing
Green Onions for garnish
Note: Thai, Birds Eye, and Siling Labuyo are the same
In a large pot heat 1 Tbs. of corn oil and saute garlic until golden brown. Next add pork belly, season it with salt, and saute it for 3 minutes on medium heat. Add onions and ginger root and let it cook for 2 minutes. Add coconut milk, ground black pepper, msg, finger peppers, and Thai-peppers. Stir well and let it simmer for 25 minutes on medium low heat, stirring occasionally to avoid scorching. Then add calabaza and let it cook for ten minutes or until calabaza is tender. Adjust taste by adding salt & pepper if needed! Serve rice topped with Bicol Express & garnish with green onions. Enjoy & Feel the Heat!..
On this particular recipe I have my ginger root sliced in larger pieces so I can remove them before serving. However if you want to serve yours with ginger root you may so by slicing it in smaller pieces (julliene).
My final thoughts:
This is truly a magnificent dish. One piece of advice though is to only use as many chili peppers as you can handle. You can gradually increase the amount of chili peppers later on as you get used to the heat. As they say eating is one of life’s pleasures, taste and flavor are just as important to make sure you enjoy the food. That is why it is important that you do not exceed your own limit with chili peppers. You want to enjoy your food and not put yourself in severe pain.
When eating Bicol Express with the right amount of hotness to your liking you can truly enjoy this wonderful dish. You will immediately feel the heat as soon as you introduce it to your taste buds. The capsaicin from the chili peppers will trigger your brain to release endorphins which are a natural pain killer the human body produces. That’s when you get to the zone of enjoying one of life’s pleasure. Eating!…
For those of you who really like it insanely hot, there are chili peppers out there that are so hot they could be used as a weapon. The mighty Naga Jolokia!
For more information about Chili Peppers Click Here!