This Bicol Express is made of pork belly, traditional shrimp paste, mild chilies, and coconut milk. It is rich, savory, fragrant from the chilies but not too spicy. So good with rice!
Traditionally, Bicol Express is spiced with long green chilies and siling labuyo or Filipino bird’s eye chilies. It is fiery and intensely hot but definitely delicious and full of flavor. This version, however, is mild; warm to the tongue but not hot spicy. Perfect for those who have an aversion to blazingly spicy foods.
MILD BICOL EXPRESS
Using a generous amount of long green chilies with half the amount of seeds is the secret to that. When preparing the chilies, don’t scrape out all of the seeds. Leave half of the chilies with seeds intact before slicing.
BEST PART OF PORK FOR BICOL EXPRESS
Pork belly is the best part of pork for Bicol Express. Its fat and grease are a perfect combination to the saltiness of the shrimp paste and the natural sweetness of the coconut milk. You can also mix it with pork shoulder or butt (pork kasim) for a meatier texture.
HOW TO MAKE BICOL EXPRESS
Rendering the fat from the pork is a good way of extracting the best flavor.
- Cut it into small pieces then boil in water. Let the water completely evaporate then lower the heat.
- Stir occasionally until the fat starts melting and the meat turns brown before finally sauteing the spices such as onion and garlic.
WHAT’S THE BEST BAGOONG-ALAMANG FOR BICOL EXPRESS
And finally, the shrimp-paste. I don’t recommend using the sweetened type i.e. the jarred bagoong typically served for Kare Kare; it has far too many flavorings. Using the traditional fresh shrimp paste is better because it gives Bicol Express a more authentic and earthy taste.
Pangasinan-made bagoong-alamang is the best kind of bagoong there is. Freshly sold in almost all local wet markets in the region. I am not being biased here. They are just the best. So if you have access to it, you are lucky!
Watch the video on how to make Pork Belly Bicol Express
- 600 grams pork belly (cut into strips, 1/2 inch thick)
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 onion (finely chopped)
- 6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons bagoong-alamang or shrimp paste (unsweetened)
- 2 teaspoons fish sauce
- 1 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 1 cup long green chilies* (sliced)
- 2 whole pieces green chilies (for garnish, optional)
- In a pan, boil the strips of pork belly in water for 15 minutes until tender. Let the water evaporate completely. Lower the heat and let the fat render for about 5 minutes. Note: Add more oil if rendered fat is not enough for sauteing.
- When the pork turns brown, add onion. Cook until translucent then add the chopped garlic and shrimp paste (bagoong-alamang). Saute for 1 to 2 minutes.
- Pour coconut milk and then add sliced chilies. Stir until meat is well coated. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes over medium heat or until the milk has thickened and curdled. Serve with rice. Enjoy!
Recipe Notes and Tips:
- *To prepare the green chili, slice it into two halves. Divide it into two sets. Using a small spoon, scrape off the seeds from the first set then leave the seeds intact on the other. Cut into dices crosswise (see video).
- I recommend using plastic gloves while slicing the chilies to prevent your hands from burning. I have burned my hand for too many times and it lasted for half a day no matter how many times I washed my hands.
- Rendering the fat from the pork is a good way of extracting the best flavor. It's so easy to do. I promise! Watch the video.
- I don’t recommend using the sweetened type i.e. the jarred bagoong for Kare Kare; it has far too many flavorings. Using the traditional fresh shrimp paste is better because it gives Bicol Express a more authentic and earthy taste.
- As with most Filipino dishes, Bicol Express is actually better the next day. Re-heat in a pan and then serve.
- Use bird's eye chilies or siling labuyo for a hot and spicy bicol express.
- This can be stored in the fridge for a maximum of 4 days.
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