This week, Isla Kulinarya takes you to the Bicol region, home not only to religious and resilient locals, but also to highly commended cooks and residents who are fans of tangy cuisines especially those cooked in coconut milk or gata with a generous amount of siling labuyo or chili pepper.
Situated along the typhoon belt, the six provinces of Region five that comprises of Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Masbate, and Sorsogon, are no strangers to heavy rains and strong winds. That is why vast amounts of coconut trees are planted because of its ability to bend and sway with the strong blow of the wind.
The abundance of coconut trees in these areas has led the Bicolanos to come up with appetizers, desserts, and snacks that are made up of gata or coconut milk. Main food entrees are also cooked with gata with generous amounts of chili pepper. Considering that the Philippine cuisine does not have many spicy cuisines, Bicolanos were easily known as makers and lovers of spicy foods.
Among the most popular foods cooked in gata are: Laing, pinangat , ginataang santol, ginataang puso ng saging, and of course, the famous bicol express.
Named after a train, the bicol express is a mix of pork meat and shrimp sautéed in onions and tomatoes with lots of green chili strips simmered in coconut milk. Almost each Bicolano household have their own version of the bicol express which is favored not only during normal meal time, but most especially during special occasions as well.
Sighting the third week of September as the feast of Our Lady of Penafrancia, the locals are preparing to showcase a variety of ginataan dishes in honor of the blessed virgin. Bicolanos are also known for their strong and shameless display their Catholic faith. That is why, during the feast, pilgrims storm Naga City to offer a nine-day novena to the replica of the famous Madonna in Penafrancia, Spain. The image is brought from its shrine on the first day in the Naga cathedral where the novena is held. Grateful for answered prayers and requested wishes, devotees participate in the procession on the last day of the novena and escort the image as they hold lit candles.
Isla Kulinarya shares with you our featured recipe this week, the Bicol Express, made and prepared by our Bicolano chef, Chef Dindo.
Catch us again next week for another recipe that you can include in your diet. Don’t miss it!
Chef Drif has a long and distinguished career in the culinary arts industry. He has worked in various upscale restaurants in Los Angeles such as La Defence Restaurant, Kado Japanese & Teppanyaki Restaurant; and Sushiko Kosher Japanese cuisine. He has mastered the art of culinary and has an extensive knowledge on a wide range of International cuisines. Currently, he is a Private Chef catering to private parties and events.