Bicol Express Recipe – Otherwise known as sinilihan, which translates to spiced with chili, bicol express is one of many stew dishes to try in Filipino cuisine. The dish is native to Bikol but got popularized in the district of Malate, Manila. The stew consists of long chili peppers or small chili peppers, coconut milk/coconut cream, shrimp paste or stockfish, onion, pork, ginger, and garlic. While bicol express generally involves pork, it does open to other variants that include seafood and beef. You can also explore other variations that cater to diets like pescatarian, vegetarian, and vegan. Depending on your choice of main in the stew though, the preparation may vary. A classic way to enjoy the dish is with this Bicol Express Recipe:
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- 1 onion peeled and sliced thinly
- 4 cloves garlic peeled and minced
- 2 pounds pork belly cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 tbsp fresh shrimp paste
- 1 can coconut milk 13.5 ounces
- 1 cup water
- 14 pieces Thai chili peppers stemmed and minced
- 2 cups finger chilies a.k.a. siling haba, sliced
- 1 cup coconut cream
- 1 pinch salt season to taste
- 1 pinch pepper season to taste
- Heat oil In a wide pot over medium heat.
- Add onions and garlic and cook until they’re softened. Make sure to stir occasionally to prevent the ingredients
- Add pork to the mixture and cook, while stirring occasionally, until lightly browned.
- Add the shrimp paste and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Pour the coconut milk, water, and chili peppers then bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for about 35 to 35 minutes or until the pork is tender and the liquid is reduced and begins to render fat.
- Add the finger chilies and cook, stirring regularly, for about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Pour the coconut cream and continue to simmer until thickened and begins to render fat.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste then transfer to a dish and serve fresh
Additional Notes About Bicol Express
Just as there are different ways to make bicol express, there are plenty of tips on cooking it. If you are making a classic variation with pork, it’s easier to freeze the pork belly until it’s partially firm. Why? It helps make slicing easier. If you want a healthier alternative for protein, you can use a leaner cut such as pork shoulder. Another option is to sub the pork with boneless, skinless chicken.
Aside from tips on the dish’s protein/main, there are also options with other ingredients. Given that shrimp paste is not something you can find everywhere, there are some things to look out for. For example, if you find a “neon pink” shrimp paste, the best move is to rinse it before using it lest you end up with a salty and slightly pink bicol express. Another ingredient to look out for is coconut milk. It is important you gently simmer the ingredients, or else, you end up with curdled milk. There are plenty of tips and tricks that come with making bicol express and these are just a few of them.