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5 Ways Coconuts and Chili Peppers Have Defined Bicol Food Culture


Each region of the Philippines has contributed to the country's rich culinary traditions, whipping up local delicacies they have been perfecting for generations.

The Bicol region, located at the southern tip of Luzon (the Philippines' largest island) is no exception.

Known for dishes that owe its texture and creaminess to coconut milk (gata) and its spicy kick to chilis, Bicol food culture has much excitement to offer. 

Here are just some of the fun ways this regional culinary hub makes use of its two favorite ingredients!

image courtesy of Drin Gatchalian

1. In Bicol Food culture, practically any vegetable can be cooked in coconut milk and chili peppers

In Bicol food culture, one's backyard can offer a variety of ingredients. For instance, taro leaves can be simmered in coconut milk and chillies to make the Bicolano specialty called Laing. Even bamboo shoots can be cooked with coconut milk, or what is known locally as ginataang labong. 

2. All kinds of produce, including seasonal fruit, pair perfectly with coconut milk

When in season, the tropical sour fruit santol (cotton fruit) is often minced and then cooked in coconut milk, chili peppers, and spicy shrimp paste (bagoong) to make Sinantolan (ginataang santol). For added texture and flavor, some even add minced pork shoulder or pork belly to the mix!

3. Seafood, Bicolano-style, means adding coconut milk and chili peppers

Local specialty Kinunot na isda makes use of flaked mackerel, malunggay leaves, boiled in coconut milk and chilli peppers.

image courtesy of 80 Breakfasts by Chichajo

4. Bicolanos use coconut milk to take desserts to the next level

Nilupak with pili nut is a great example of how Bicolanos use cassava, coconut and condensed milk to bring out the buttery, delicate flavor of pili nut, which is one of the most popular ingredients that helped define Bicol food culture.

5. The trademark recipe that uses both ingredients? Of course, it's none other than Bicol express

Easily the most popular dish to be associated with the Bicol region, Bicol Express is traditionally done by stewing pork in coconut milk, green chili peppers and shrimp paste.  

This season, we are delighted to bring you a delicacy that adds a unique spin on Bicol's signature dish.

Bicol's Best Bicol Express Tinapa is part of this season's Seaside Selection. 

Our Spring Chibundle features this unique take on a beloved local delicacy along with other delightfully inventive Filipino goodies: Pamana's Sinaing na Tulingan, Buko Foods Coconut Spread with Sea Salt, L'Amor Coco Ginger Herbal Tea, AG Pure Coco Crisps, and Stipschips Salted Egg Fish Skin. 

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lead image courtesy of lutongbahay.ph on Instagram