Chili-on-the-side type of Bicol Express

Our short hiatus can only be blamed to our summer holidays where we practically went off-the-grid except for a couple of Instagram snaps from our roadtrip. I make it a point to really disconnect during the holidays – a digital detox of sorts. I think it’s healthy for the mind and soul, and we should probably all do it more often.

After 2 weeks of complete detachment from our daily routine, it feels great to gradually ease back to the familiar. First, the city, our home, our bed. And then our everyday rituals, and our jobs. Keyword is gradually though. I don’t think we’ll be ready for a full-on high-pressure overnighters/working-weekends just yet.

One of the sweetest things to go home to is our kitchen and our food. As much as I love eating out and trying out new restaurants and small local joints, my body craves for good old home-cooked meals. I missed spending time in our kitchen. I missed doing the actual labor of cooking, of chopping, of prepping. I know, this is sounding way domesticated. Let’s just say more than 2 weeks without a proper kitchen feels a bit disorienting.

And so, now that we are back in the comforts of our little casa, we relished our homecoming by cooking up a Filipino meal (albeit a bastardized version once again). Bicol express with the chilies on the side. Yes. Chili. Bagoong (shrimp paste). Coconut milk. Nothing says welcome home like a warm bowl of rice and Bicol express.

P9130269-1This was inspired by this recipe and the traditional version that I grew up with. ❤

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Bicol Express (Chilies on the side)
Serves 4

200 grams liempo/pork belly, skin removed & chopped into very small pieces
400-500 grams lean pork, cut into 1-inch cubes
ginger, sliced
5 cloves garlic, crushed
red onions, chopped
3 tbsp bagoong/shrimp paste (I like using the spicy version!)
400 grams coconut milk
3-4 tbsp patis/fish sauce
spring onions, to garnish1/2-1 green hot chili (depending how hot you would like it, go light on this one), chopped
3 long green finger chilies (not hot ones), chopped
fresh coriander, to garnish

In a pan over high heat, throw in your chopped pork belly and let it cook in its own fat. No need to grease the pan as all the fat from the pork belly will melt and give you a nice amount of oil for this dish. Toss around and stir. Let it cook until the pork is gold and crispy. Remove the crispy pork from the pan and set aside.

In the same pan with the pork belly fat, sauté the ginger, and then add the onions and then the garlic. Let it all cook (and enjoy the exquisite aroma that will envelope your kitchen, yummm). Add in the lean pork cubes in the pan. Stir and let it brown lightly. Add in the shrimp paste and stir until the pork cubes are coated. Add half of the coco milk and half of the fish sauce, and let it all simmer. Test with a fork if the pork cubes are tender enough, add the second half of the coco milk and the rest of the fish sauce. Let the it simmer some more till the meat is tender and the sauce is thicker. Sprinkle the spring onions just before you turn off the heat and stir.

In a smaller pan, in medium heat, pour a drop or 2 of olive oil, and add the chopped chilies. Let the chilies soften, and just when you can smell the hotness in the air, scoop in about 2 ladles of the pork-shrimp paste-coco sauce. Let it simmer for 2 minutes and it’s done.

Tada! Time to eat!

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Serve with steamed rice, a side of veggies (ours were freshly shredded orange and yellow carrots, grated zucchini and leftover mushroom-peas-stir-fry), and topped with coriander leaves  and crispy pork belly. If you love the chilies, mix it in with the pork when serving already, or if you wanna test the hotness level of the chilies, eat on the side. Bon appétit! ✌︎

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