When you think of Bicolano food, the first thing that comes into your mind is probably the word “spicy.” Not surprising. In fact, this is the trademark of Bicol foods and recipes. In fact, the province of Bicol is called the Chili Capital of the Philippines. Every time someone is cooking any of the popular Bicolano dishes, expect that these would be spicy, with a touch of coconut milk.
Bicolanos are also one of the greatest cooks in the Philippines. They have an awesome way of mixing and matching local ingredients and spices that they never fail to serve a dish that is mouthwatering and hard to resist.
If you’re visiting Bicol for the Penafrancia Festival, be sure to try some their specialties in local restaurants across the province.
Must Try Bicolano Foods
Every Filipino knows Bicol Express. This traditional Bicol dish is cooked with lots of long chilies, coconut milk, bagoong (fermented shrimp paste), onion, pork and garlic.
The word kinunot means “to shred” in Bicolano. This must-try Bicolano dish was traditionally cooked with stingray (called pagi by the locals), moringa (locally called malunggay), and of course coconut milk and loads of chilies. Nowadays, kinunot is cooked using any fish that has a firm flesh. Kinunot na tuna is one of the most popular variations.
Laing is another popular Bicolano food, and one of my personal favorites. This is a very simple dish, made of dried taro (called gabi by the locals) leaves and lots of coconut milk or cream. But it’s so full of flavor. This is also one of those rare dishes where chilies are not mandatory. In fact, some don’t cook this with chilies, especially if they are cooking this healthy dish for their kids. It can be a main dish or a perfect accompaniment to fried or gilled fish.
Guinataang labong is a dish where bamboo shoots are cooked with coconut milk. Of course, don’t forget the chilies. A great source of potassium and fiber, you can cook this plain or add some fish or shrimp to give it a twist.
This is the Filipino’s take on the French classic, escargot. Cooked with loads of coconut milk, guinataang kuhol is considered as one of the finest, but exotic, dishes in the Philippines. It is rich in protein and widely available in most local restaurants.
This is one kind of pizza that is now becoming popular in the local food industry. Bicolano pizza is usually a thin crust pizza topped with a combination of laing, bicol express, and mozzarella cheese. This dish is a perfect marriage of an Italian classic with some of the greatest Bicolano specialties that you can consume anytime.
These are just a few of the many Bicolano foods to try. Personally, the search for what I consider to be the best Bicolano dish is never-ending because new dishes and specialties are being made and created here. So go, and enjoy your own personal adventure at Bicol—the Chili Capital of the Philippines.
Ron Leyba is a Filipino food and recipes enthusiast and blogger. He shares his food discovery at his blog – FilipinoFoodsRecipes.Com.