Bicol Express Recipe
Bicol Express is a popular Filipino dish in which the slices of pork meat is cooked with coconut milk, shrimp paste, and chili pepper. There’s a belief that this dish was adapted from a Bicolano dish called “Gulay na may Lada”, meaning ‘vegetable with chili’. Their main difference is quite very obvious: Bicol Express uses pork while “Gulay na may Lada” uses only vegetable.
The outcome of this Bicol Express Recipe can be described as pork cooked in coconut milk with shrimp paste and chilies. No wonder the name of this dish was derived from a Philippine region (Bicol) wherein Coconuts are abundant and the use of chilies is emphasized in most local meals.
It’s very tempting to assume that Bicol Express originated from Bicol, a region located in the southernmost tip of Luzon in the island of Philippines, because the ‘first name’ of the dish was named after the place. However, history narrates that this dish originated in Malate, Manila. It was invented by a restaurant owner named Cecilia “Tita Cely” Villanueva Kalaw who was a native from Laguna. Tita Cely was born in Los Banos, Laguna but spent most of her childhood days in the region of Bicol where she learned how to cook most of the delicious Bicolano dishes. In the 1960s, Tita Cely and her brother, Demetrio “Kuya Etring” Kalaw, opend a restaurant in Oregon St., Malate, Manila which they named it as “The Grove Luto ni Inay”. In several interviews, she told that some of their customers complain about their “laing” entrée dish as being too spicy. It was at that time that she decided to create a new dish with coconut milk which she believed suitable to the taste of the people in the area where her restaurant is located. She created a magical dish and they named it Bicol Express, named after the name of a train that passes their house which travels from Manila to Bicol and vice versa.