The dish called “Bicol Express” is a tongue-scorching dish consisting of pork and green chilies stewed in coconut cream. This can be eaten with plain rice but is most often serve in tandem with other dishes notably “laing”.
The dish’s name itself is said to have been taken from a train route that travels from the south of Luzon to the capital of Manila. The cuisine from southern region of Luzon is well known for its hot dishes and the frequent use of coconut cream.
Dishes cooked in coconut cream tend to be very rich and flavorful. There is no substitute to freshly grated mature coconut meat for producing high quality coconut cream. The oil content of canned creams is usually low and this makes it difficult to produce really thick and oily sauces.
Take precautions when chopping the green chili (or any kind of chili). Use food gloves when handling them. Be very careful not to get the juices in to your eyes. Flush it out with water if it gets into easily irritated areas. The burning sensation can last for several hours if care is not taken.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Good for: 2 -3 people
Extract coconut cream from grated coconut meat. Add ½ cup hot water to grated coconut. Mash thoroughly and then sieve out the resulting liquid. The first pressing is called “kakang gata” Set this aside.
Add 2 cups of hot water again to the grated coconut meat. Mash well and then squeeze out the resulting liquid. Set aside.
Stir-fry pork cubes until lightly browned.
Add garlic, ginger and onion. Continue to stir-fry until onion is translucent.
Pour the liquid (gata) from the 2nd pressing of the grated coconut meat. If using canned coconut cream you may add it at this point.
Simmer pork for 10 minutes.
Add chopped green chili. Stir well to distribute evenly. You may also add the bird’s eye chili at this time.
Add salt or shrimp paste to the mix. Adjust to desired saltiness.
Simmer for another 5 minutes then add the liquid from the 1st pressing of the grated coconut milk.
Simmer until the sauce starts to become oily. Turn off heat once desired consistency of the sauce is reached. Do not let the sauce overcook or evaporate too much.
Serve with plain rice, plenty of water and optional laing (taro leaves stewed in coconut oil).