Despite no known Mexican influence in the region, Bicol is a pocket of spicy-food eaters. Bicolanos put extremely hot tiny red chilis called siling labuyo into practically everything they eat. Half of a vegetable dish could easily be ground chilis.
A common joke is that a Bicolano man ties down his chili plants first when a typhoon approaches — before he looks after his wife.
The quintessential Bicolano dish is laing, dried taro leaves in coconut milk. Taro is known in the Philippines as gabi.
INGREDIENTS FOR LAING
6 gabi leaves (cut in half)
1 kilo ground pork
1 kilo shrimp meat
1 tablespoon siling labuyo (tiny chills), chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 head garlic
1 tablespoon ginger cut into strips
2 tablespoons bagoong alamang (thick shrimp sauce)
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 cup vinegar
2 cups coconut milk
- Wash the gabi leaves and stems.
- Remove the stringy parts of the stems before cutting them into two-inch lengths.
- Mix the pork, shrimps and siling labuyo together. Season with salt and pepper.
- Divide mixture evenly and wrap each portion in a piece of gabi leaf (like little square envelopes with ends tucked in).
- In a pan, saute garlic, ginger, and bagoong in oil.
- Add the leaf-wrapped pork mixture.
- Put in the stems. Add vinegar. Let boil.
- When dry, add coconut milk.
- Allow to boil until sauce thickens.