Cool day calls for a little bit of heat in the kitchen, so I decided to try my hand at making Bicol Express. I’m fully admitting this version is in no way authentic. In fact, it’s a bit of a patchwork with ingredients culled from various recipes online and from eating the dish at various Filipino restaurants. I wish I could ask the cook at Asian One Best in Ronkonkoma how she (or he) makes their version because I like it a lot. Maybe next time. For now, I used pork belly, alamang instead of bagoong, and three kinds of pepper: red pepper flakes, jalapeño and Philippine chilies.
- 2 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 pound pork belly, sliced into bite-sized pieces
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 small piece of ginger , peeled and sliced thinly
- 1-2 tbsp alamang (salted shrimp fry)
- 5-10 pieces of Philippine chilies (labuyo), minced
- 1 jalapeño pepper, sliced thinly
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- Fish sauce and pepper, to taste
Heat cooking oil in a pot over medium fire. Add garlic and sauté until golden brown, then toss in the ginger and onion. When the onion is translucent, add the alamang and cook for a couple of minutes. Stir in the pork belly, wait for it to boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and let it cook for about 15-20 minutes. Water from the pork will come out but if it looks like it’s drying up, you can add 1 cup of water.
When the pork is tender — pierce with a fork — add the coconut milk and the peppers. Cook for another 15 minutes or until a sheen of oil begins to appear on top. The alamang should be salty enough for the dish, but if you want to amp up the saltiness a bit more, you can use fish sauce. Just make sure you let it boil again before turning off the heat. Serve with piping hot white rice. Enjoy!
The alamang comes in jars sold in Filipino stores and is often very salty. Before using it for this recipe, I put the alamang in a strainer and ran it quickly under tap water to remove the excess saltiness.