Bicol Express originated from the Bicol region where people have very high tolerances to spicy food. They love hot and spicy food so much, they even came up with chili flavored ice cream!
All Aboard the Bicol Express
Back in the days, the main (and cheapest) mode of transportation between the Bicol region and Manila is by a train service known as the “Bicol Express”. As it takes about 8 hours to travel from Bicol to Manila, people usually bring their own food or buy this delicious meal sold in the stations so they can have something to eat during the long trip. This cheap and very spicy meal, usually eaten with rice, became so popular to those plying the route that they named it “Bicol Express”.
Bicol Express could easily be one of the most memorable dishes in the Philippines not only for its spicy taste (and I mean spicy…? ? ) but also for symbolizing the innate entrepreneurial ingenuity of the Filipino people.
Throughout the years, Bicol Express spread all over the country. And with its proliferation, different versions of the dish abound (considerably with more meat and fewer chilies) because not everybody has a high tolerance for spicy food.
The following recipe is a toned down version of the original Bicol Express.
Start by heating 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion until it becomes translucent. Add in the minced garlic and continue sautéing until the garlic turns golden brown.
Mix in the pork and fry for a few minutes until the pieces start to turn brown.
Add the shrimp paste and stir for about 3 minutes.
Pour in the coconut milk, bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for about 30 minutes or until the pork is fork-tender. Add water if necessary.
Once the meat is ready, you can then add as many chilies as you want. Adjust seasoning and add salt if necessary. Season with ground black pepper. Garnish with additional chili and serve with steamed rice.
- 1 pound pork shoulder or belly, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 medium onion diced
- 1 tablespoon garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons shrimp paste
- Green chilies quantity is according to preference
- 1 cup coconut milk
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium high. Sauté the onion until translucent. Add minced garlic when the onion is almost done and continue to sauté until garlic has turned to gold bits.
- Add the pork and fry for a few minutes until pieces start to brown.
- Add the shrimp paste and stir-fry for about 3 minutes.
- Stir in the coconut milk, bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for about 30 minutes or until the pork is cooked to the desired tenderness. Add water if necessary.
- When the meat is done, add the chilies according to the preferred spiciness of the dish. Adjust the seasoning and add salt if necessary. Season with ground black pepper. Garnish with additional chili and serve with steamed rice.