Bicol Express is a popular Filipino pork stew cooked in coconut milk, shrimp paste and chilies. Bicol Express dish was named after the Philippine National Railways Bicol Express that runs from Manila to Bicol.
Bicol is one of the regions in the Philippines located at the southern most end of Luzon. Bicolanos adore spicy food. Bicol Express is similar to the Bicolano dish “gulay na may lada”. Per Wikipedia this dish was popularized in Malate Manila and made Bicolano style. The first time I had Bicol Express was in Chicago. One of the nurses I knew was from Bicol and she loved making this dish. Since then I got hooked. The only difference when I make it – hers is a lot spicier.
When I was in high school my parents took us to Bicol while Mayon Volcano was erupting. That is one of the memories I remember about Bicol and of course their popular pili nuts which I love.
My mother is a very good cook but I don’t remember her making this dish. Anything made with coconut milk, shrimp paste and chili peppers is usually good. That is why I’m a big fan of Thai food too.
Bicol Express is so easy to make. It is delicious and savory. Make extra servings of Bicol Express and store it in the freezer. In fact, I find it tastier after a day. For a reduce and drier sauce similar to the image below when the meat is tender turn up the heat to medium-high.
Try this Bicol Express Recipe today
Bicol Express Recipe
- 3 tablespoon oil
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 thumb ginger chopped
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 4 to 5 teaspoon shrimp paste bagoong
- 1 ½ pounds pork belly cut into long strips
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- 1 can 13.5 fl oz coconut milk
- 4 green and red serrano peppers or thai chili peppers chopped (it is spicier if chopped)
- Salt to taste
- In a pot add 6 cups of water. Add pork belly (liempo), onion and peppercorn. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes or till pork belly is half cooked. Slice pork belly and set aside. Save broth.
- In a pan heat oil over medium heat.
- Saute onion for 2 minutes.
- Add ginger and cook for 2 minutes.
- Toss in the garlic and cook for 2 minutes till golden.
- Once mixture is limp add the shrimp paste (bagoong).
- Continue cooking for another 2 minutes.
- Stir in the pork belly and fry for 5 minutes.
- Add serrano peppers and fish sauce. Don’t add too much fish sauce since shrimp paste is already salty.
- Pour the coconut milk and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat to low. Simmer for 30 minutes or until meat is tender.
- Sauce will thicken and coconut milk will render fat.
- Taste and see if you need to season with salt.
- Note: For a drier sauce let it simmer over medium - high heat. The pork belly will fry with the rendered fat. Once it turns brown flip and fry the other side till brown.
- Don’t chopped the serrano peppers or chili peppers if not a big fan of spicy food. For people who cannot tolerate spicy food use chopped banana
- Make extra servings and put it in the freezer.