September is a month dedicated to celebrating the rich Bicolano cuisine—and no, we don’t make the rules. Bicol Food Festival is actually listed by the government on its website as one of the official events and holidays in the country, and it runs all month long. For those who love all the gata and chili-infused dishes which originated from the region, this is definitely great news.
In celebration of the Bicol Food Festival, we present to you five iconic dishes that bear the Bicolano identity which you can totally enjoy at home.
Commonly known as laing, pinangat na gabi is a creamy and spicy dish that makes use of coconut milk, a prominent ingredient in Bicolano cuisine. As its name suggests, gabi leaves serve as its other main ingredient and are joined by meat, ginger, garlic and chili.
If you prefer seafood more, you might want to try out this variety of pinangat stuffed with mixed crab meat instead. It is still deep cooked in gata, which makes it creamy.
Here’s another staple dish during fiestas: The (still) cooked with gata tilapia dish called picadillo. Wrapped in pechay, the fish is stuffed with tomato, garlic, onion, ginger and chili which gives it a variety of flavors.
Dubbed the “sinigang” of Bicol, kusido is a soup dish you can make with almost any variant of fish and sweet potato tops. Instead of the usual sampalok, Bicolanos use calamansi to make this soup sour, making it taste milder compared to the usual sinigang.
Of course, a list of iconic Bicolano food isn’t complete without Bicol express. In case you didn’t know, its name originates from the passenger train service from Manila to Bicol—and this sautéed chili, shrimp paste, gata and pork dish has become a favorite of many Filipinos nationwide.
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Writer: YANN MAGCAMIT
PHOTOGRAPHY SAMANTHA ONG