The Bicol region in the southeastern part of Luzon is not only famous for the majestic Mayon Volcano, it also offers some of the country’s most exotic and stunning dishes. So when you visit Bicol, make it a point that you taste some of its local treats and delicacies.
Undeniably, the more popular dish of the region, Bicol Express is a spicy pork dish made of tiny bits of pork and spicy chili with a creamy coconut milk sauce. It is named after the passenger train that serviced Manila and Bicol. This one is enjoyably hot and spicy.
Tilmok means coconut meat in Bicolano, and the dish uses that same ingredient mixed with another deliciously exotic ingredient – crabmeat. The two kinds of meat are mixed together with spices and condiments, wrapped in banana leaves, and steamed until cooked. The marriage of coconut meat and crabmeat, combined with the aroma of wilted banana leaves is truly a delight.
Bicolano cuisine is indeed famous for two things – coconut and chili. Guinataang labong is made of young, soft bamboo shoots cooked in coconut milk with shrimp paste or sardines to taste. The addition of fiery red peppers makes this creamy dish a signature Bicolano delicacy worth trying and coming back for more.
Laing is the Bicolano treat for vegetarians. It is made of young leaves from the gabi or taro plant. The leaves are harvested, washed, and dried or sometimes cooked fresh. The taro leaves are simmered in coconut cream until cooked, and then paired with a couple of hot chili pepper for that extra kick. Laing is so famous that many groceries and supermarkets in the country sell dried taro leaves.
Sinapot or maruya is deep fried battered banana slices great for snacking and breakfast. Cooking banana or cardaba banana is sliced thinly into long, wide strips, dipped in a prepared batter recipe made of sugar, water and flour and deep fried until golden and crisp. The cooked Sinapot is then sprinkled with sugar crystals for added sweetness.
If you want exotic seafood, Kinunot is a great try. Made of shark’s meat and sting ray meat, this dish is the seafood alternative to the traditional Bicol Express. Aside from the interesting seafood ingredients, the original recipe calls for the addition of malunggay or moringa leaves. It’s one healthy and fascinating recipe from Bicol.
Bicolanos just can’t get enough of coconut milk or gata. This time they mix it with the meat of the tropical sour fruit called Santol. Just the same, a generous scoop of fiery red chili is added to the dish for a great tasting spicy and sour viand.
Bato, a barangay or village in Bicol makes unique tasting noodles, the basic ingredient in this recipe. The Bato noodles are then cooked with fresh shrimps and pechay leaves, following the cooking technique of pancit canton. Once cooked, Pancit Bato is paired with hot pandesal bread or steaming hot rice.
Pili trees are endemic to the Bicol region, making pili nut especially bountiful there. It’s not a surprise to find lots of Bicolano dishes making use of pili nuts as their main or supplementary ingredient. One exciting and peculiar pili nut recipe is the Tinolang Pili or pili nut stew in clear broth.
Tinutungan na Manok
This is a painstaking chicken recipe with elaborate cooking technique. The coconut meat is toasted together with live charcoal until brown or black before extracting the milk. The coconut milk from the tinutong or toasted coconut meat gives the dish a smoky aroma and creamy texture. Pieces of native chicken along with slices of unripe papaya are then cooked in the creamy, smoky broth.
Care to taste any of these exotic dishes from Bicol? Do you have a favorite? Share them with us in the comments section below.