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, which is basically 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.