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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.

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.

After reading some of the comments below, I felt glad because I learned new things about this wonderful recipe of Bicol Express. Boy Palencia in comment #31 is right in saying that the authentic recipe of Bicol Express uses long chilli pepper (siling haba) instead of the Philippine bird's eye pepper (siling labuyo). However, if you do not have long chili pepper in your area, for practical reason, Thai chillies, Jalapeño pepper, Serrano pepper, Anahiem chili as well as Korean pepper can be used as substitute. One of the techniques in minimizing the chilliness of the pepper is by soaking it in salted water for 15 - 30 minutes, and then rinse.

Tita Cely once replied in one of her interviews, "It's actually a separate dish. One could either mix it with the laing or just add a bit of it (chili dish) according to one's taste". This kind of reply gives me the idea and impression that Bicol Express in open to some adjustment according to one's taste in terms of chiliness and, perhaps, saltiness. I hope this idea and impression will enlighten Nick in comment #30.

I am also thankful to Cindy's constructive comment in comment #29 because her comment gives me a new perspective in cooking a better Bicol Express in the future. As for the rest, I'll just have to accept in good spirit that the recipes in this website, somehow, has help you in your cooking experience.

Bicol Express Image


Cooking Preparation

  1. In a saucepan, sauté garlic and onion. Drop the pork and bird's eye pepper.
  2. Continue sauteing until pork starts to render fat and edges turn to brown.
  3. Add sauted shrimp paste and stir, then pour the coconut milk (you may pour gradually in preference to the amount of sauce you want).
  4. Simmer and cook until pork is tender and oily consistency is achieved. Serve hot!



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Comments (35)

Foob server
I like gata masarap. my mom she is a good cook.
Wag kayong mapitas sa pag kain. dahil
its too hot talaga, kaming mga bicolano.
masarap mag- luto ng gata with Sili. wag- kayong
mapitas sa Pag-kain, if you don't like it.
Don;t eat that... Wag kang- maarte.
ayaw mo wag mong kainin. mapintas Kayo,
#35 - Teresa P. Whitmore - 07/07/2015 - 22:28
#34 - emilia kozulko - 04/03/2015 - 08:38
my master chef
I love this site...:-D:-D:-D thanks for the delicious recipes....
#33 - - 03/28/2015 - 01:42
:-P...nkka pglaway nman s sarap! oishi desu ne...hmmmmmmmm!
#32 - diane - 08/16/2013 - 05:07
Maray na aga Im from Guinobatan Albay, the town in bikol with the most delicious "Bikol Express".

My comments:

1. Ang original na bikol express po actually ay hindi siling labuyo kungdi siling pang sigang pero yon medyo kulot ang dating kaso po mahirap mag hanap sa labas ng bikol non. Kaya nga tinawag to bikol express dahil it was names after the bus plying manila-bikol noon na pag tumakbo parang hinahabol ng demonyo. Ganun din po ang BE dapat pag kinain mabilisan kasi dapat super andhang;

2. Ang baggong alamang naman na ginagamit ay yon hindi pa salted kungdi yon medyo puti ang kulay. Mahirap din maghanap sa labas ng bikol non;

3. Linalagyan din naman ng maliiit na unsalted dried dilis at kung meron tinatawag namin na kurakding, yon maliiit na mushroom na tumutubo sa mga tumbang saging o kahoy kung tag ulan;

4. Dapat ang bikol express ay oily kaya dapat huwagd magtipid sa gata;

5. You may wish to visit the website of GUINOBATAN TAMBAYAN doon po kayo makakakita na napakasap na BIKOL EXPRESS and other bikol delicacies of bikol. Kaya BE COOL always. GOD BLESS
#31 - boy palencia - 08/16/2013 - 03:16
Bicol express recipe
I'm not from Bicol, but I like to cook authentic Filipino food. After reading some of the comments, (especially from Myra), then Bicol express is not serve as a main course but as a side dish to something else. I see that if more bagoong alamang is use than pork, that would be very salty just to eat alone just like eating salted dried fish (toyo) with rice or more like ginisang alamang.
#30 - Nick - 07/17/2012 - 15:19
simplified bicol express
I agree with myra #28 comment.. this is just an "express" type of bicol express. the picture doesn't even show the real presentation of bicol express. the pork cuts was big with lesser alamang and coconut milk.. plz rather call this pork binagoongan. or ginisang taba na may gata..we bicolana has a different way of preparing bicol express. if you want to make it extra especial u add the pineapple tidbits just what comment #13 suggest.. but adding other veggies will change its real essense... its not anymore bicol express its ginataang gulay..and when u say bicol express.. its made up of pork, alamang (shrimp paste) and siling labuyo or siling haba...its is suppose to be spicy.. if you try preparing it that way or experimenting it up, don't call it bicol express anymore its pork binagoongan or whatever u wanna call it...
#29 - Cindy - 07/13/2012 - 01:21
I know a lot of filipino that not from bicol trying to make bicol express but i find that when they make it, i call it express, not bicol. I am bicolana and the real bicol express has pork, gata, sili and the most important is the shrimp alamang, has to be the same amount or more than the pork. I have bought this bicol express before and the owner was from bulacan, her bicol express was meat,and i think she just put 1/2 cup of shrimp paste (alamang), so disappointed..
#28 - Myra - 06/21/2012 - 12:50
#27 - JASON - 05/25/2012 - 20:08
Super Anghang
If no siling labuyo is availabe try using a couple of crushed habanero papper...yummm!, super duper anghang!
#26 - Jun - 05/18/2012 - 23:38
Whenever i go to parties, my fellow kababayan here in New Zealand always expect me to cook bicol express. They would always say "ang anghang but yummy". I add lemon grass (tanglad) when i cook bicol express. It does add a distint taste to the dish. You can be versatile and put different types of vegetables, i normally put beans or kalabasa with my bicol express.
#25 - Norma Armstrong - 04/01/2012 - 05:59
My wife is bicolano and I made this for her (my second Filipino dish) and it was very impressive from me to her ... thanks for this! Caucasion cooking Pilipinas -- go figure!
#24 - MarkO - 03/09/2012 - 06:53
sobrang whelming ako sa mga menus nyo sa myfilipinorecipes nagagawa kong paghandaan ang pamilya ko ng masasarap na pagkain sa tulong ng inyong recipes. keep up the good work
#23 - wilhelm i. brunio - 02/06/2012 - 00:58
to the max!!!
my hubby really loves to eat bicol express.. though it has many ways on how to cook it but the important is everybody is satisfied to the finished product... I'm a bikolana but i'm really confused how is the yummiest way on preparing and cooking bicol express... thanks for the ideas..
#22 - clarissa arganda - 12/07/2011 - 23:19
wat if your allergic to coconut? can i use cream instead?
#21 - morgan goth - 12/03/2011 - 02:36
bicol express
sarap! sobrang anghang :-O thank u po!;-)
#20 - elsi - 11/26/2011 - 10:42
bicol express
super sarap talaga ng bicol express lalo na kapag sobrang anghang .
#19 - - 07/28/2011 - 00:57
bagoong alamang
what can you substitute to bagoong alamang if you're allergic to it? and pwede ba gamitin ang pork na walang taba?
#18 - heidi - 04/20/2011 - 11:57
Pork belly Bicol Express
sobrang sarap po.. I've tried it kanina and everybody @ home likes it... thanks po for sharing your recipes ;-)
#17 - Ena - 03/23/2011 - 08:45
Thanks for the tips on putting pineapple or vegies and cooking the coconut oil separately!! really helpful ;-)
#16 - - 12/17/2010 - 05:32
bicol express
:-)ang sarap talaga ng bicol express nakakagu2m talaga pag yan ang naihain sa harap mo di ka tatanggi na kumain!!
#15 - georgia san juan - 12/14/2010 - 09:11
@ Julie Gallardo

Hola! Muchas gracias Señorita! Thanks a lot for sharing your delicious bicol express!
#14 - MyFilipinoRecipes - 11/21/2010 - 13:32
Hola amis amigos!...Julz here.,i'm a Food technologist., a Nagueña., bicolana... u know guys,i will share my delicious Bicol Express ever..u should try to cook my version of yummy Bicol express...


1/4 pork sliced thinly
1 cup salted balaw fish (wash 4 times & well- drained)
(bagoong optional) kong alang balaw
5-10 pcs sili labuyo..
or 10pcs.. sili malaki
ginger chopped finely (small amount)
1 cup pineapple tidbits
pepper powder
1 tbsp salabat
ginisa mix to taste
(no need to used garlic & onions & cooking oil.,
kasi nagmamantika na yung pork & gata habang naluluto yung bicol express...)


~Saute' a chop ginger & chop sili on the cooking pan,add the pork (slice thinly).,cover the pan til mamotok-motok yung karne..hehehe., add 2 tbsp.vinegar,(optional bagoong)~add the balaw fish & stir fry balaw til golden brown...add pepper powder & 1 tbsp of salabat.,add pineapple tidbits, saute'..then add the 1 cup gatang ng niyog, cook the bicol express til it turns to oily...sili must be siling labuyo kasi bicol is well known talaga kong bicol express...super sizzling dapat... my bicol express is special...kasi with pineapple tidbits po yun...hehehe..try nyo...
#13 - Julie Gallardo - 11/20/2010 - 21:40
Bicol Express
Im sure my hubby will love this tnx for the ingredients..
#12 - CLaire Dennise - 11/09/2010 - 05:20
much better if u boil the coconut milk in a separate pan until it becomes oily before pouring into the dish.
#11 - magoo - 11/01/2010 - 18:32
mas masarap kung hayaan maa mantika ung gata nya
#10 - loren - 10/23/2010 - 06:49
jovie,you can add sitaw mas masarap kapag may gulay...natry ko na
#9 - Donna Belen - 10/11/2010 - 08:07
Laing VS Bicol Express
I am Kapampangan but I know that Laing is made of Taro Leaves and Coconut Milk. Bicol Express is meat, coconut milk and tons of Siling labuyo.

Thanks for the recipe.
#8 - Arcel Robertson - 09/26/2010 - 08:01
i think he's talking laing and not bicol express

i love bicol express from cebu no meat involve in cooking. It's just made of chilli "seed's remove" and coconut milk thumbs up for their bicol express
#7 - thor paez - 07/24/2010 - 03:53
bicol express
i'm a bicolano...the main ingredients of bicol express is chilli pepper, meat, and coconut milk...not the taro leaves.

try the lechon kawali as the meat...taste good!
#6 - nalwin - 07/14/2010 - 23:05
Is this recipe another version of the authentic one? From what I know, one of the main ingredients of Bicol Express dish is the taro leaves. My Bicolano neighbor has always served it with it.
#5 - conrad - 07/14/2010 - 20:57
Jasmin you can buy sweet chili (6 inches long finger like) mostly in the farmers market or oriental stores. You can subtitute it also with anahiem chili.
#4 - Ed Lucero - 07/13/2010 - 23:20
What other pepper can be subsituted if the bird's eye pepper can't be found?
#3 - Jasmin Kelly - 07/13/2010 - 13:05
thank you for making this website.. i am a new housewife and is still learning how to cook wonderful dishes for my husband.. thanks!
#2 - Kristine Sam - 02/13/2010 - 12:26
is it alright to put some veggies in that dish like sitaw or malunggay leaves?
#1 - jovie de castro - 12/05/2009 - 20:14
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