Wanna ride a Bicol Express?
When we speak about spicy Asian foods people would normally think of Thai, Indian or Malaysian curries. Very little is known about our famous Chili Stew , Sinilihan or more popularly known as the Bicol Express. For I bet, this is one spicy dish that will surely please all spicy lovers out there. My mom hails from Samar and back then I remember we would often take a bus ride from Manila passing to Bicol then off to the port take the ferry and continue the journey up to Samar every summer to visit our grandparents. It was a long, winding, bumpy and a dusty ride to Calbayog but we never complained. In fact, I always enjoy our long scenic ride along Bicol: the sight of the majestic Mayon Volcano and the delicious delicacies people are selling on the bus are truly worthwhile. My first encounter with this dish was in a small eatery (carinderia) during our stop-over on one of our numerous journey to Samar. I literally cried because I never expected it to be that spicy but it was really delicious. I don’t cry anymore when I eat this dish in fact it has become part of my comfort food that brings me good memories of the past.
Trivia: Bicol express was invented by Cecilia Kalaw in the 60′s inspired by the cooking of the Bicolanos, afterall she grew up in Naga.
1/4 kilo of pork ( cut them into pieces)
3 cloves of garlic pounded
2 big onions sliced
a finger size ginger, peeled and pounded
2 stalks of lemon grass
1 cup of coconut cream (kakang gata)
half a cup of coconut milk
15 pieces of siling haba (finger peppers)
5 pieces of siling labuyo (chili pepper)
2 tablespoons of Fish sauce (patis) or 1 tbsp of Bagoong (shrimp paste)
a cup of vegetable of your preference (string beans, sigarilyas, etc)
Start first by cutting in halves the red and green chillies and seeding them off. This way your Bicol Express is milder, still has the spicy punch but eatable. Then chop them. Warm up your casserole and add your cooking oil. Put the garlic, onion and ginger, sauté them until they are well wilted. Put the cut pork and continue caramelizing for about 5 minutes. Then add half of the chopped chilies, shrimp paste or fish sauce, lemon grass, then continue sautéing. Pour the coconut milk and let it simmer for about ten minutes. When the sauce has reduced in volume add the rest of the chopped chillies, your desired vegetables and pour the coconut cream. Continue simmering until pork is tender. Put salt and pepper to taste.