How To Cook Bicol Express (Recipe And Ingredients)

Are you a lover of spicy foods? Then you will surely love this Bicol Express recipe.

It is a popular and classic Filipino dish where pork is simmered in a combination of shrimp paste, chili peppers, and coconut milk.

Bicol express comes in many variations such as fish, chicken, and vegetarian. The best thing about this dish is that it is made from simple ingredients, easy to prepare, and yet command such a delicious taste.


Origin of Bicol Express Recipe

Although still being contested, stories have it that Bicol express recipe, otherwise known as sinilihan, was conceptualized in a manila restaurant owned by Ms. Cely Kalaw. This dish was born as a response to complaints by her customer on the then already Taro dish.

But, there’s another possibility that the origin of this Filipino dish came from the Bicol region. This is one region known for its pretty looking and delicious dishes. And without a doubt, Bicol express is no different.

In the Bicol region, there is an abundance of coconuts and most of their local meals emphasize the presence of chilies. This naturally explains where it gets its name. But, it is also said that the name of this famous dish was inspired by a train traveling from Manila to Bicol.


Health and Nutritional Benefits of Bicol Express

Bicol express recipe

Looking at the ingredients and nutritional profile, the Bicol recipe truly shines in health benefits, containing tons of vital nutritional value that is vital. Let’s take a look at some of them.

1. Carbs

Although often been touted by many as an enemy, the role of carbs (short for carbohydrate) cannot be overemphasized. According to the carbohydrate profile of this dish, it is average in both complex and simple carbs.

As one of the major macronutrients, most of the energy the body runs on is provided by this nutrient. When taken in, they are broken down into glucose which is what particularly fuels the activities of the body.

2. Protein

The Bicol Express Recipe is high in protein content which is yet another major macronutrients. It is generally known as the building block of the body – from bones to cartilages, muscle, blood, and skin.

Protein is an essential component of the cells in the body. The body makes use of protein for repairs and making of biochemicals such as hormones, enzymes, and so on. This nutrient also goes a long way to improve your body’s immunity.

3. Sodium

The health benefits of foods containing a moderate amount to sodium as seen in Bicol Express is amazing. It helps to reduce the fluid content in the body, thus reducing the chances of High Blood Pressure. As a result of this action, the heart is also relieved of potential pressure, failure, and damage.

It also helps to improve your memory, protection your vision, and reduce your risk of dementia and diabetes.

4. Fat

Gone are the days when fats were considered nutritionally bad. But, research in recent times has proved otherwise. As much Carbohydrates and protein are essential, so also is fat at fueling the body with energy.

Also, the presence of fat goes a long way to help the effectiveness of certain bodily functions. For instance, there are certain vitamins that rely on fat to dissolve into the body’s bloodstream and make nutrients available.

5. General Health Boost

This recipe contains two major ingredients that do a lot more than just food seasoning – ginger and garlic. The importance of these two foods has been known for ages, as they perform a lot of restorative functions in the body.

Owing to the antioxidant and other nutritional properties they contain, they help in treating and preventing various types of diseases and ill-conditions.

These conditions include intestinal disorders, worms, flatulence, wounds, respiratory infections, skin diseases, cancer, diabetes, and aging symptoms.


More Tips on Making Bicol Express

You want to be mindful of the variant of Bicol express, depending on your body condition. For those on the verge of trimming down calories, it is recommended to avoid pork belly; instead, go for the shoulder which is a leaner cut.

You may also want to entirely replace the pork with skinless, boneless chicken.

If you’re outside the Philippines, like the U.S., where you probably only have access to neon pin bottled shrimp paste, it is advised to rinse and drain properly to wash off the extra saltiness.

Avoid heating or boiling the coconut milk too quickly, to avoid it curdling on reaching its boiling state.

This Bicol Express dish is one of the many Filipino dishes with a great balance of flavors. Every constituent has a role it plays to make the dish savory and tasty.

The chilies are there to add a substantial amount of heat to the dish while the coconut milk on the other cools things down a bit. For the perfect level of saltiness and flavor, you have the shrimp paste added.

Bicol Express

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Filipino
Servings 6


  • 1 tbsp Canola oil
  • 1 Onion, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 4 cloves Garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 lbs Pork belly, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 tbsp Fresh shrimp paste
  • 1 can (13.5 ounces) coconut milk
  • 1 cup Water
  • 14 pcs Thai chili peppers, stemmed and minced
  • 2 cups Finger chilies (siling haba), sliced
  • 1 cup Coconut cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • In a wide pot over medium heat, heat oil. 
  • Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened.
  • Add pork and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned.
  • Add shrimp paste and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Add coconut milk, water, and chili peppers. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 35 to 35 minutes or until pork is tender and liquid is reduced and begins to render fat.
  • Add finger chilies and cook, stirring regularly, for about 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Add coconut cream and continue to simmer until thickened and begins to render fat.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.


Keyword bicol express

Recipe Source: Kawaling Pinoy


Final Words On Bicol Express Recipe

Every meal can’t be any less than delightful and rewarding with the Bicol Express recipe. More than just being a healthy dish is its great taste. No wonder it is so popular in the Philippines.

It may not be for everyone; for obvious reasons of course. More so, for those outside Philippine, finding the ingredients may be somewhat difficult. But, if you love spicy foods, or are simply adventurous, you should not miss trying this great tasting dish. No matter the cost. It promises to be very rewarding.

I hope this article has been helpful? If you have had the chance of trying out this delicious dish, kindly drop your contribution in the comment section below. I look forward to hearing from you.

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