Amidst the ever-evolving culinary landscape, novel flavors and culinary experiences emerge from international dining establishments and innovative food ventures.
But how well-acquainted are you with the culinary treasures of your region? Have you had the opportunity to savor the local fare? Forget about “what ifs” and seize the opportunity to discover the local cuisine right in your own community.
A group of journalists recently took part in the Department of Tourism’s “Philippines Experience” and alongside the exploration of culture, heritage, and arts in Region V, the “Bicol Experience” is incomplete without tasting the local cuisine and delectable delicacies.
Indeed, the Bicol region is renowned for its fiery and creamy coconut-infused dishes. The famous “Bicol Express,” a mixture of shrimp paste, coconut milk, pepper, garlic, and onions, has long been a regional favorite.
Food of Bicol
HOWEVER. Bicol’s culinary offerings go beyond Bicol Express, and locals affectionately refer to this as “Siram” or “Pagkain Bikolnon” (Food of Bicol).
With an abundance of coconut trees and aromatic spices, the Bicol region boasts a diverse lineup of dishes that will turn your visit into a gastronomic adventure.
One standout dish is the world-class “Pinangat,” which has placed the town of Camalig on the culinary map. It achieved the 22nd spot in the Top 50 World Street Food Congress in 2017.
The key to a delicious Pinangat is the balance between the creaminess of the coconut milk and the heat from the chili peppers. However, adding some love while cooking this dish will make it every more delicious.
FOR hose craving smoky flavors, “Tinutungang Manok,” or chicken stewed in smoky coconut milk, is a dish readily available throughout Albay.
The creaminess of the milk and the smokiness of coconut shavings combine perfectly with lemongrass, making it a must-try. Pair it with fried rice, tinapa (smoked fish), garlic rice, or plain rice for a satisfying meal.
If you’re a fan of sausages, don’t miss the “Guinobatan longganisa,” a fiesta favorite known for its bite-sized pork sausages. Enjoy them with fried rice and a cup of hot chocolate for a perfect breakfast experience.
According to the typical local longganisa producer, they typically craft it in a distinct two-inch (5.1 cm) size, setting it apart from longganisa in other areas. It’s made by combining lean pork meat and back fat in a 70-30 ratio.
It is usually stuffed into natural casings, like pork intestines, which provide them with their characteristic appearance and texture. This delicacy offers a variety of flavors, but two stand out: the spicy longganisa and the garlicky one. The fusion of garlic and chili creates a distinct and aromatic profile that sets it apart as well.
WHO would have thought that Dinuguan (pork blood stew) would go well with noodles? The Bicol region has “Pansit Dinuguan,” a dry noodle dish that presents a new take on traditional noodles.
The dish reaches new heights as it is crowned with a generous portion of pork blood stew in a rich, luscious gravy. And it is perfect with a blend of vinegar and chili oil sauce for an exciting culinary experience.
Of course, no culinary journey is complete without sampling local desserts and delicacies.
In Bicol, even their desserts can bring the heat. “Sili” (Chili) Ice Cream offers various flavors, including chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, with spiciness levels ranging from one to five, providing a thrilling sweet and spicy combination.
As you explore the local foods of the Bicol region, make sure to keep a glass of water close at hand, as the fiery kick of their cuisine can be an exciting challenge.
FOR those with a sweet tooth, the best “Kalamay’’ from Polangui town is a must-try. Crafted by local farmers using only high-quality sugarcanes from the rich soils of Luya and Dalogo, this traditional treat is not only delicious on its own but also a key ingredient in various Bicolnon and Filipino sweets like “bukayo” (sweetened coconut strips) and “biko” (sweetened rice cakes).
“Rice puto macapuno” are delicate rice cakes filled with macapuno. These treats, steamed within coconut shells and bound by banana leaves, showcase the region’s devotion to preserving tradition and flavor.
When delving into the culinary landscape of the Bicol Region, particularly in Sorsogon and Albay provinces, pili nuts consistently take center stage in every dish, spanning from main courses to desserts.
According to the locals, the inclusion of pili nuts in your meal is a matter of personal preference, but given the range of delectable options, it’s not merely a choice – it’s practically a culinary must-do.
Culinary diversity is an adventure waiting to be explored in the Bicol Region, a journey of taste that challenges and delights in equal measure.
So, when you visit this vibrant part of the Philippines, don’t forget to bring an adventurous spirit and your appetite.
Image credits: John Eiron R. Francisco