Bicol Express recipe - deliciously spicy and full of flavors

5 min read

Ellis Lind, Lead Writer


If you love spicy and flavorful dishes, then the Bicol Express Recipe is a must-try. Originating from the Bicol region in the Philippines, this dish is known for its rich coconut milk base and intense chili heat. It is a beloved traditional food that has captured the hearts and taste buds of locals and tourists alike. In this article, we will explore the origins of the Bicol Express, delve into its ingredients and cooking process, and provide you with a step-by-step guide to recreating this mouthwatering dish at home.

The Origins of Bicol Express

The name โ€œBicol Expressโ€ pays homage to the train that used to transport passengers from Manila to the Bicol region. This dish is said to have been created by the late Cely Kalaw, a resident of Naga City in the province of Camarines Sur. Inspired by the flavors of traditional Bicolano cuisine, Cely combined coconut milk, pork, and fiery chili peppers to create a dish that perfectly represented the regionโ€™s culinary prowess.

Ingredients for Bicol Express

To make Bicol Express, you will need the following ingredients:

  • 500 grams of pork belly, sliced into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 red chili peppers, sliced (adjust based on your spice preference)
  • 3 green chili peppers, sliced
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons shrimp paste (also known as bagoong)
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Spring onions, chopped (for garnish)

Cooking Bicol Express

Follow these steps to cook Bicol Express:

  1. Heat a pan over medium heat and add vegetable oil.
  2. Sautรฉ the onions and garlic until fragrant and translucent.
  3. Add the pork belly and cook until lightly browned.
  4. Stir in the shrimp paste and cook for another 2 minutes.
  5. Add the red and green chili peppers, and cook for a minute to release their flavors.
  6. Pour in the coconut milk and bring to a simmer.
  7. Add the fish sauce, salt, and pepper. Adjust the seasoning according to your taste.
  8. Allow the dish to simmer for about 20-25 minutes or until the pork is tender.
  9. Serve the Bicol Express hot, garnished with chopped spring onions.

Variations and Tips

While the traditional Bicol Express recipe calls for pork belly, you can also use other cuts of pork such as pork shoulder or pork loin. Additionally, if you prefer a milder version of the dish, you can reduce the amount of chili peppers or remove the seeds to lessen the heat.

For an extra layer of flavor, you can also add other ingredients such as ginger, lemongrass, or even coconut cream. These additions can give your Bicol Express a unique twist and elevate its taste to the next level.

Nutritional Value of Bicol Express

Bicol Express is a dish that is indulgent in flavor and richness. However, itโ€™s worth noting its nutritional value. The dish is high in protein due to the pork and coconut milk, which provides essential amino acids. It also contains healthy fats from coconut milk, but itโ€™s important to consume it in moderation due to its caloric content. The chili peppers used in the recipe are also rich in Vitamin C and can aid digestion.

Below is a comparison chart of the nutritional value of Bicol Express per serving and the recommended daily intake:

Nutrients Bicol Express (Per Serving) Recommended Daily Intake
Calories 450 2000-2500
Protein 20g 50g
Fat 28g Less than 70g
Carbohydrates 30g 225-325g
Fiber 2g 25g
Vitamin C 15mg 75-90mg
Iron 1.8mg 8-18mg

Serving Suggestions

Bicol Express is traditionally served with steamed rice, allowing you to fully savor the rich and spicy flavors of the dish. You can also pair it with a side of fresh vegetables, such as steamed bok choy or sautรฉed green beans, to balance out the meal.

For those who enjoy an extra kick, you can serve Bicol Express alongside pickled vegetables or a spicy vinegar dip. These additional condiments can enhance the dishโ€™s taste and add an extra layer of tanginess to each mouthful.

Health Benefits of Bicol Express

While Bicol Express is undeniably a delicious indulgence, it also offers several health benefits. Coconut milk, the main component of the dish, contains many essential nutrients, including vitamins C, E, B1, B3, B5, and B6. It is also a good source of minerals such as iron, selenium, sodium, calcium, and magnesium.

Chili peppers, another key ingredient, contain capsaicin, which is known for its various health benefits. Capsaicin has been found to aid in weight loss, reduce inflammation, relieve pain, and boost metabolism. Additionally, the presence of garlic and onions in the dish contributes to its antibacterial and antiviral properties.

However, itโ€™s important to note that moderation is key. While Bicol Express offers health benefits, the high-fat content of coconut milk and pork should be taken into consideration if you are on a restricted diet.

Bicol Express: A Culinary Adventure

Cooking Bicol Express is not just about preparing a delightful meal. It is an opportunity to embark on a culinary adventure and explore the rich flavors and vibrant culture of the Bicol region. The distinct blend of coconut milk, shrimp paste, and chili peppers creates a symphony of flavors that will surely leave your taste buds dancing.

Whether youโ€™re a spice lover or simply seeking to try something new, Bicol Express is a dish that will satisfy your cravings and introduce you to the wonders of Filipino cuisine. So gather the ingredients, prepare your taste buds for an explosion of flavors, and get ready to indulge in this spicy and flavorful delight.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is Bicol Express?

Bicol Express is a popular Filipino dish known for its spicy and flavorful taste. It originated from the Bicol region of the Philippines.

What are the main ingredients of Bicol Express?

The main ingredients of Bicol Express include pork, coconut milk, shrimp paste, red and green chili peppers, garlic, onion, and ginger.

How do you cook Bicol Express?

To cook Bicol Express, sautรฉ garlic, onion, and ginger in a pan. Add the pork and cook until browned. Pour in coconut milk and shrimp paste. Add the chili peppers and let it simmer until the pork is tender and the flavors are well combined.

Is Bicol Express a spicy dish?

Yes, Bicol Express is known for its spicy flavor. The amount of chili peppers used can be adjusted according to personal preference.

Can I substitute pork with other meat?

While pork is the traditional choice, you can also use chicken, beef, or even tofu as a substitute for pork in Bicol Express.

What can I serve with Bicol Express?

Bicol Express is commonly served with steamed rice or eaten with bread. It pairs well with vegetables or a side salad.

Is Bicol Express a healthy dish?

Bicol Express can be a flavorful addition to a balanced diet. However, it is important to consume it in moderation due to its high coconut milk content and potential spiciness.

Is Bicol Express a traditional Filipino dish?

Yes, Bicol Express is considered a traditional Filipino dish and has gained popularity both locally and internationally.

Ellis Lind, Lead Writer
Ellis Lind

About the Author Mission Statement As a Senior Food Writer and the Lead Writer at our blog, my mission is