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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.


6 gabi leaves (cut in half)
gabi stems
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.

Serves eight.

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