Spice Up Your Pork a la Bicol Express
Continuing with our “festival series,” I thought I’d talk about one of the lesser known Philippine festivals, the Daragang Magayon. It is usually held in the month of April in the province of Albay, located in the southeastern end of Luzon Island. Albay is part of the Bicol Region, and is home to the world-famous Mayon Volcano, renowned for its “perfect cone.” The Daragang Magayon, held in Legazpi City, is a celebration of life and lights, inspired by the legendary tale of a beautiful woman whose tragic death resulted from the rivalry of two men who both pursued her. From her death – as told in the legend – rose the most beautiful and almost perfect volcano ever to have existed in the whole world. The month-long festival features beauty pageants, concerts, street dancing, band competitions and a float parade.
In the Philippine culinary world, the first thing that comes to mind when one hears of “Bicol,” is “Bicol Express.” It is a signature dish whose spicy taste is enhanced by chili peppers and coconut milk which are both produced abundantly in the region. This pork dish is prepared and cooked in a similar fashion as laing which is another Bicolano signature dish consisting largely of taro leaves.
Get ready for an “eruption” in your palate. After all, this dish originated from a place that is home to a volcano known for its fury — legendary and otherwise!
1 lb pork belly, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 cups coconut milk
3-4 pcs Serrano pepper
1/4 cup shrimp paste
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 tbsps ginger, peeled and crushed
1 stem lemon grass, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 tbsps olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large wok, heat olive oil in medium-high heat. Add the garlic and sauté until golden brown. Add onion and cook until tender. Add ginger and lemon grass and continue to cook for one minute. Add the pork pieces and stir-fry until they turn golden brown. Add the shrimp paste. Mix well. Add the Serrano pepper and stir-fry for another minute. Add coconut milk and bring to a quick boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or until pork reaches the desired tenderness. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.