Bicol Express

Bicol Express

I’ve always wondered how Bicol Express could be cooked with lots of chilies but without making the dish too spicy that it practically scorches the mouth and throat. The answer was so simple I wondered why I never made the connection before — scrape off the seeds and membranes of some of the chilies. Gee, I wrote about that in If you want your chilies mildly hot instead of very hot — how could I not remember? Anyway, now I have, it’s time to post an updated version of my Bicol Express recipe (the old one is on page two).

Bicol Express is pork strips or cubes and siling haba (finger chilies) cooked with coconut cream or milk. Very rich. Very spicy. Some versions include ginger, some include dilaw (turmeric), some include bagoong or shrimp paste. I am allergic to shrimps, including bagoong, so I omitted it.


  • 300 g. of pork (shoulder or belly), cut into one-inch cubes
    12 to 15 finger chilies
    1 large onion (or two shallots), peeled and thinly sliced
    a thumb-sized piece of ginger, finely chopped
    6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
    2 stalks of lemongrass, finely sliced (see tips)
    3 to 4 tbsps. of cooking oil
    1 c. of coconut cream (see how to extract coconut cream / milk or substitute powdered or canned)
    patis (fish sauce), to taste



    If you like a very spicy Bicol Express, just slice the chilies into thin rings.

    If you want a Bicol Express that is just comfortably spicy, use less chilies. I could have simply done that. But chilies have a wonderful flavor and texture beyond the spiciness (not mention the color they add to the dish) and I really wanted to use a lot. The trick? Divide the chilies into two batches. Slit the chilies in the first batch vertically, scrape off the seeds and membranes then slice into thin rings.

    Simply slice the chilies in the second batch into thin rings.

    About the lemongrass, garlic and ginger. If you have the time or the inclination, you can mash them together using a mortar and pestle. I didn’t have the time so I just cut them all as finely as I could.

    Heat the cooking oil in a pan. Add the pork and cook over high heat, stirring often, until no longer pink. Optionally, you can wait until the edges start to brown a little.

    Add the ginger, garlic and lemongrass. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about a minute.

    Add the chilies and the onion. Stir. Season with fish sauce. Pour in about a cup of water (broth, if you have some, would be better). Bring to the boil, cover, lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until the pork is tender. Bicol Express

    Stir in the coconut cream. Adjust the seasonings. When the sauce starts to bubble, turn off the heat.

    Serve the Bicol Express hot.

Cooking time (duration): 40

Number of servings (yield): 3

The recipe posted on April 22, 2006 is on page two.


  1. Trosp says

    Once in a while, I’m asking my wife to cook this Bicol Express but without bagoong. Sometimes, bagoong steals the true taste of your dish. I like Bicol Express with dilaw, cocout oil, lot of chillies (she has to halves the dish with the other with no chille), and liempo as the main ingridients.

    Best as toppings for steaming hot rice.

  2. says

    i’m sure that the die hard traditionalists will say that bicol express without bagoong is not bicol express at all but then who cares what they say, eh? it’s great so long as the spiciness is just right and the coconut milk is thick enough. :)

    • Mitch says

      true… I really cook Bicol express without the bagoong because it causes allergy to most of my family. Just as long as it’s spicy enough and creamy…

  3. Shirley says

    Oh, this sounds so yummy right now (9:00 am-PDT) :wink:…the combination of coconut milk and sili. I think I’m going to make it with strips of boneless chicken thigh meat.
    What’s interesting is one of my comares is from Bicol and she even adds gata to her version of dinuguan. It’s sooo good!
    Actually I love anything with gata at room temperature over hot rice. :smile:

  4. says

    :smile: miam Sassy..a Bicolana here cooks Bicol express for her husband (French).. seems he loves it.. dont know if she uses bagoong.

    4 am here cannot sleep… well i said busy here from april to september… got a shop works only for 6 months spring till end of summer!..
    ciao! :razz:

  5. says

    thanks for the links, aggie. :)

    shirley, gata with dinuguan? wow, i can just imagine… i’m gonna try that really soon. thanks. :)

    relly, i always thought that appreciation for foreign cuisine is a learned thing. that frenchman sounds like a good example. :)

    • Arlene says

      Hi! Yes, dinuguan with gata — that’s the way Bicolanos do their dinuguan. The one I really like was the recipe of my Lola from Camalig, Albay which is very rich in taste and texture. It’s not soupy, the sauce is thick (coats the meat) and can last for a week if kept in the fridge due to the well-cooked gata and vinegar.

  6. says

    Thanks Sassy for this recipe. I’ve done some bicol express cooking from memory (Mom loves it) but have always wanted to do it right.

    Will try to do it tonight coz have got some pork belly in the fridge and tins of coconut milk too!

    My hubby likes typical asian ‘salty’ dishes with coconut milk really, i mean really, spicy so I might add sambal.:smile:

  7. says

    hello sassy!

    i cook bicol express too! my lola though told me that it taste better with alamang (shrimp paste) ahah. ok lng, i love shrimp paste (hindi yung isda) only.

    hi again, hope you’ll have a great summer

  8. says

    anna, it’s spicy enough without sambal. hehehehe

    thanks, kats. very hot summer that’s why cooking is a little slow. we consume more sandwiches and pasta these days.

  9. Trosp says

    I’ve erad the posts on Aggie’s links. All the time, I’m thinking that Bicol Express is without bagoong. It seems, if what Aggie said that it is the original recipe, then, I can say that the first Bicol Express I’ve eaten was without bagoong. Hanggang ngayon, I prefer it to be that way.

    There’s another recipe which I think is similar with Bicol Express – pork binagoongan.

    I’m still wondering if bagoong (shrimp) and coconut milk are really good combinations.

    • says

      uhurrmmn…bikolano here…jus wanted to clarify that the bikol express has been around for ages…and it has not been invented by anyone but the ancestors of bikolanos…and yes the dish is not complete without the shrimp paste…and pork binagoongan is a totally different dish altogether…

  10. says

    Trosp, I guess bagoong isn’t for everyone. Even if I weren’t allergic to it, I don’t think I’d be such a big fan.

    “I’m still wondering if bagoong (shrimp) and coconut milk are really good combinations.”

    Guess it’s a metter of what we grew up with and had gotten used to.

  11. Gina says

    Hi Connie,

    Making Bicol Express tonight makes me feel how much I miss the Philippines and my filipino food

    I prefer mine w/out bagoong. I agree w/Trosp that it steals the real flavour of the dish.


    Cheers, Gina

  12. says

    Am not a bagoong fan either, Gina. Well, actually, I’m allergic to it. Can’t say I regret it though. I even cook pinakbet without bagoong. LOL

    • zhay says

      same here ms. connie im cooking my pinakbet without bagoong :) oyster sauce lang katapat, pero yummy na rin :)

  13. Trosp says

    Yan ang mahirap kainin. Pakbet na walang bagoong!!! Pwede sigurong pure vegetarian or budgetarian (nagtipid) dahil walang pork na sahog. Pero bagoong!

  14. masc says

    Hi mam sassy. Cooked your version of bicol express last night. Ang sarap niya ! As you said, it was really exploding with flavor. There is really something about the combination of tomatoes and coriander which adds a twist to any dish. Hubby was really happy. Thanks again for sharing your recipe.

  15. says

    Masc, o di ba? Aside from being spicy, the coriander adds depth to the flavor. :)

    Hi marian. Maarte => artistic; full of artistry.

    Thank you. Inggit ka ano?

  16. bikolboy says

    for those who post comments, please make sure that you check your facts well before engaging in a myth-spreading scheme.

    bicol express has long been concocted for centuries in albay, especially in the first district where scalding-hot peppers make up the main ingredient of every vegetable dish. the name itself may have been coined somewhere else because we don’t even call it bicol express when i was a kid in the 70’s.

  17. elmoro says

    Good comments bikolboy. In our place (Camalig) we don’t call it “Bicol Express”. Old folks simply call it “Gulay na Lada”. with lots of fresh “balaw” of course and “ladang darakula”

    • L. A. BAD says

      Bikolboy and Elmoro got it right on target. I’m from Bikol, born and raised in Camarines Sur-Rinconada area. My family owned a resto there for 25 years. We call this dish Gulay Sili, because it’s supposed to be cooked with sili as the main ingredient(3/4 part) with small chunks of extra tender pork belly (1/4 part)as “sahog”. 1/2 big sili (finger peppers) for texture and taste, and 1/2 siling labuyo for spiciness. And for the coup-de-grace we used “balaw” for extra and another level of flavor, instead of salt. The secret to good cooking with Bikol vegetable dishes is to “COOK” the coconut milk with the onions, garlic and ginger very well until it’s creamy. Do not saute the onions, etc.

      • L. A. BAD says

        I might add, if you will, that this thing you people called Bikol Express is for the weak-hearted. Never did it originate from Bicol. Whoever concocted this dish probably could not tolerate the spiciness of Gulay Sili, reversed the sili and pork ratio and named it as such.

  18. says

    thanx talaga sa recipe… as in.. smell pa lang ng bikol express…my hubby is so excited to taste it… by the way, i grew up in bicol but transferred already to davao that is why i long for it…now that i am in norway i am trying my best to serve good food for my norwegian husband… again.. takk…thanx in norwegian

  19. khriz says

    hi. bicolano here.. i’ll share with you a secret ingredient..
    pineapple. yup!

    add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of pineapple syrup (preferably from the sliced pineapple in can the ones cut like donuts) while simmering the meat so that the pork meat would absorb the syrup.

    just before removing the dish from heat add sliced pineapple meat (the ones from the can as mentioned above – you could use pineapple chunks in can to save time just cut them in halves, since the pineapples should be smaller than the meat.:p )

    the sweet tangy taste of the pineapple syrup and meat would counter act the spicyness of the chili.

    try it poh! you’ll love it!

    • pangs says

      i tried this when my boss cooked for one of our office shindigs and it’s yummy….. di mo na mapapansin na napadami na kain mo ksi ung anghang and sweetness ng pineapple naghalo na…. :)

  20. says

    thanks to the bicolano readers for the clarification. at least, that’s been set sraight. :)

    khriz, your suggestion is one of the ‘projects’ lined up before the end of the month. Salamat. :)

  21. baby! says

    bicol express dish was really memorable for me coz my bf really love this dish & i have 2 learned how 2 cook it., tnx for my coz a bicolana and my bf and i will be getting married nxtyr after 6 long yrs eating bicolexpress :razz:
    i cooked it with the same old fashioned way but i added “SIGARILYAS” vegies to nuetralize with the hot flavor of chile (d green one) or filipino called it as siling haba.
    salamat po :lol:

  22. felixberto says


  23. uragon says

    yah correct ka jan bikolboy,,nun mabasa ko un post nila unfair diba??hmmp!!! the way i lyk this site than any other site na na puntahan ko…madali kasing intindihin,madling lutuin pero masarap kainin,oh di bah?? keep up the goodwill!!!!Ms connie & GODBLESS!!

  24. Rick says

    I’m looking for recipe of “PINANGAT”. cooked with shrimp and young coconut and coconut cream. I hope you can help me out, thanks and hope to hear from you soon.

  25. brenda says

    I agree with Felixberto. Am also from Bicol (Sorsogon) and we make bicol express just the way he describes it–no sauteing.. and its true that its not called Bicol Express in the Bicol province, just simply “lada” and we always cook it with bagoong. but of course you can always omit or add some of the ingredients. But if you’re in Bicol and you askfor the dish, its always with bagoong.

  26. flashpoint says

    I just wanna ask if the canned coconut milk will work with this dish? I never use them before for cooking. Sometimes I don’t have time to buy fresh ingredients like coconut milk in the local market.

  27. terry says

    I already tried this…masarap sya mas gusto ko yung ganito kaysa lagyan ng bagoong.Nagustuhan rin sya ng asawa ko.Thanks sayo Ms.Connie!marami akong natututunang luto.hindi nako nahirapan mag isip kung ano iluluto sa araw araw…check ko lang dito palagi,thanks sa site nato Napakalaking tulong lalo na sa katulad ko hindi gano marunong magluto.

  28. Raquel says

    I cooked this dish thinking it will only be for me, but my husband (Aussie) got curious with the smell and wanted to taste it. I ended up sharing it with him coz he loved it.
    I tried cooking it again for friends but doubled the quantity of meat, it didn’t turn out as good coz it was not as dry as my first attempt. If I double the meat quantity do I double all the wet ingredients or just leave it as is?
    Thanks for the cooking inspirations

  29. says

    Raquel, 1 c. of coco cream will probably do. Or you can remove the cover of the pan during the last 5 minutes or so of simmering to get rid of excess liquid.

  30. reebac says

    Regarding the origin of the name “Bicol Express’, I just saw a show on Philippine TV about bicol express. It originated, believe it or not, near the railroads of Sta. Mesa. Story goes that not long ago, a lady was cooking this dish rich in coconut milk and adorned with chilies that people would go to her stall come lunch time, since it was her own invention she didn’t had a name for it, one day her brother who was with with her, heard the train bound for Bicol rush by, told her siter “Yan ang itawag mo dyan, Bicol Express.”

  31. says

    annmariemarie, it gets rid of excess spiciness. see, i like spicy but my tolerance level isn’t that high. of course i can use less chilis but the texture of the cooked food will not be the same.

  32. hablon says

    bicol express! siram. i love this w/ lugaw or linanot na masabaw. it’s funny though how a dish that has been cooked in bikol since who knows when is claimed to be invented in sta. mesa. probably the name is coined there. since my grandma also just called this gulay na sili. bicol express reminds me of bicol bound train and the now defunct JB line, once king of bicol roads. i also had this funny experience about dish name in the case of laing. we only called it gulay na gabi or gaway w/c my mom would whip w/ either tinapa, sardines or whatever is available when she was not able to go to the market. thus, when i first got to manila my friends were excited about me cooking laing, and me was like ” laing?” it’s only when they mentioned gabi that i knew what they meant.
    ah food,it triggers happy memories of home. thanks and more power for this very nice blog.

  33. says

    Our mom usually cook the dish base from our family recipe in legaspi city every special occation. i found it really challenging when it comes to cooking the dish specially when you prepare the ingredients, oh by the way slicing the pepper really spice up your hands!!! and pressing the grated, one day, i decided to make it our family, our family recipe is available in 235 grams glass jar in our local supermarkets here…for people on the go…ika nga ng tita ko”kung gusto nyo kumain ng masarap, paghirapan nyo” same true in preparing the dish…so eat up and spice up your meal!!!

  34. april mae arciga says

    where can i buy bicol express in a jar here in Manila?…
    My location is Pasig City Philippines…

  35. Alexie says

    Ask ko lang po, will it make a lot of difference if i take out the wansuy? My family can’t stand the taste po kase… there’s a distinct taste to it daw that they can’t seem to get use to….

  36. cherryblossoms says

    i agree with bikolboy and elmoro since im a true bikolana… love bikol express that have “balaw” or alamang…with lots of chilies!

  37. JOEY TOSINO says

    di ko pa to nasusubukan lutuin.
    nagluluto ako ng gata sa hipon, kalabasa, etc
    pero ang bicol express, hindi pa talaga.
    ginanahan tuloy akong gawin
    lalo na dahil kakakain ko lang sa handaan na pinuntahan ko.
    try ko ng walang bagoong at meron bagoong para
    fair naman hehehe.

  38. rowena says

    as a daugther of bikolanos masiram yung may balaw at naglalana (nag lalangis) ang result ng pag kakaluto yung pinangat na may coconut at shirmp ang tawag dun tinumok talagang masarap yun da best ang mom ko mag luto nun!! yummm… di ko maluto dito kase mahirap mag hanap ng ingredients pag uwi ko nalang mag luluto nun hayy!! nag lalaway tuloy ako

  39. lakambini warlock net cafe says

    in our small lakambini foodhauz,beside warlock net cafe, padre gomez st. davao city phils..the hauz specialty are kalderetang kambing, papaitan, kilawin kambing, balbacua..but, everytime i cook my own style of Bicol Express, with carrots, pumpkins, siling labuyo, & people love it..!

  40. romy says

    suggest ko lang doon sa mga allergic sa pre-cook alamang,for bicol express at karekare pwede po kayo gumamit nung alamang na fresh yung hindi pa nabuburo, kaso nga lang you have to go to wet market (in bicol hindi problem yun dahil marami nag titinda)
    sa dinuguan na may gata naman ang partner dapat niyan ay puto sa bilao yung puti (plain)
    sa ginataan na langka crabs ang masarap na sahog diyan with lemon grass. sardines at smoked GG ok din kung gusto mo ng variations.
    ms connie, naluto ko narin ang karekare na walang alamang. napansin ng mga kumain na may kulang after na nang kainan :)
    thanks ms connie…

  41. camilo says

    The original Bicol Express is simply Gulay na Lada in Bicol. Based on my readings here, Cely Kalaw gave her version of it the name Bicol Express. Gulay na Lada has so many versions of cooking but I would surmise that it originated from Albay Province. Cooking of the Manila version of the dish starts by sauteing first the ingredients. The original Bicol version do not sautee the ingredients in oil. It is cooked by putting all the ingredients together in a wok – including the coconut milk, pork, urabang(the Bicol version of bagoong alamang where the shrimps are a little bigger), garlic, onion, pepper. Sometimes, a little tinapa is added. When the pork and coconut milk are cooked, the lada is added together with the kakang gata until it is cooked. Instead of pork, sometimes kinunot na pagi is used – so it is now called Kinunot.

  42. camilo says

    Here is one of the most authentic Bicol dish. It is called Dinuguan na Manok. A whole chicken is used (sliced of course). Preparation starts by burning the kinudkud na niyog by putting burning uling in it. When some of the coconut meat are burned it results into a very aromatic smell. Then when the slightly burned coconut meat is squeezed to get the gata, the blood of the chicken (or pig) is added. So the coconut milk’s color becomes brownish. The coconut milk is then place in a caserola and you put all the other ingredients, i.e., chicken, garlic, onion, pepper, urabang (optional), plus tanglad if you like. You simmer this but you should continue to stir so the coconut milk will not curdle. When the chicken is cooked you add green papaya sliced in small pieces. Simmer some until the papaya is cooked. Then voila, you have an exotic dish.

  43. Chef Archie Santok says

    Hi Im Chef Archie a Sous Chef In one Shangrila Hotel Property. Can I have an Authentic Recipe of Bicoanos Food we’ll promote that in our hotel for Regional food Festival. Thank you.
    I appreciate your help. Pls. contact me at 09273235016 or

  44. raja Mar says

    Bicol Express was the word mentioned by some when eating Bicols’ famous food. The original name of the dish “Linatik”. The Miraya people made this famous throughout the Bicol region and now adapted throughout the world. The Miraya cooking is quite different from the rest although with similar in concept, except it’s not saucy (dry) which makes this food taste better. Please try “An nag lana-lana” and you will be amazed of the taste.

  45. Romar says

    inang says:

    The original name of the famous Bicol Express is LINATIK.
    it means spicy or ma-anghang. Bicol”? “MIRAYA” among the bicolanos is noted for their spicy foods and ginataang gulay usually hot to taste. The MIRAYAN country is compose of Donsol,Daraga,Pio Duran, Jovellar, Guinobatan. Their cooking is quite different from the rest of Bicol, it is somewhat exotic.

    Remember Bicol Express or “LINATIK” is not only mixed with pork, balaw, but also exotic fishes such as Baluko or other meaty shell fishes,Shark PAGI of course my favorite We called this “KINUNUT”?. If you happen to be in this Mirayan country try this exotic Bicol Express known as “KINUNUT”?.

    So, Bicol Express was the name used for fun when asked about this exotic food from a local train bound for Bicol in early 60″?s with markings of Bicol Express.

    I am hoping this will open up the minds of filipinos that the original still being called LINATIK. Our “LINTIK SA ANGHANG ANG SARAP” invention. MABUHAY ANG MGA BICOLANO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Carlos says

      Thanks for sharing some thoughts about linatik I’m from miraya in donsol our favorite is kinonot, adobado, and tinolmok all with spice. Anybody know the recipe for tinolmok. Pls. Share

  46. kris says

    mam connie…

    i am marrying an indian vegetarian and i am tring to find out ways to modify our filipino vegetable dishes for him to try. was just wondering lang po how i can modify a bicol express to leave out the pork and bagoong pero me lasa pa rin?

    thanks so much from a longtime lurker and fan.

  47. Cars Philippines says

    Bicolano’s have been well known for their fiery obsession for centuries. They often use scalding-hot peppers as a main ingredient in most if not all of their vegetable dishes especially in the first district of Albay.

  48. ynah says

    Hi Ms. Connie..I cooked your updated version of bicol express, and my husband just devour it :) ..i also adapted d suggestion of pineapple juice (without the pineapple fruit though) and it gave me a sweet, tangy and hot bicol express..without a doubt, this is the best bicol express i’ve ever cooked and tasted :)

  49. evelyn says

    Hi! I cooked your recipe last weekend and my family loved it. They didn’t think that it can be cooked without bagoong. My husband asked me to add broccoli and it tasted great.

  50. heidi tuazon says

    hello connie, thanks for this recipe. great help for my small kainan business and it really tastes good tried it and it was a smash!

  51. mae says

    this one is really good ms connie, i cooked bicol express for dinner and boy oh boy! naubos ang rice! even my 1.9 toddler had more than her usual meal serving (i did not put lots of siling haba para subtle lang yung anghang) – kahit walang bagoong basta madaming tanglad, onions, ginger, garlic, and super creamy gata, ayos na :)

  52. tonette says

    Hi, Ms. Connie!
    I’m a regular reader of your blog.
    I’m living in Japan and I always miss Pinoy food.

    Anyway, the posts on the subject really amused me.
    Some weeks back, I read an article about Bicol Express in one of our local newspapers. Some chef was sharing his recipe. Coming from Bicol myself, I guess it’s understandable that I’m fiercely protective of the region’s culinary delights. After all, cooking with “gata” defines us as it is truly a regular ingredient in our cooking.

    Going back to the article, the chef’s version was so far off from the original that it made “Bicol Express” look like binagoongang baboy. I mean, being creative with a dish is one thing but claiming/naming another for a completely different dish is misleading.

    Even here in Japan, Bicol Express (and sinigang, adobo, halo-halo, lumpia to name a few) is a bestseller among my Japanese and Pinoy friends. It’s a pity though that no decent Pinoy restaurant in Tokyo is around to celebrate our great food.

    • Connie says

      The binagoongang baboy I know is more like adobo plus bagoong. If that chef’s version of Bicol Express is more like binagoongan, I guess he should have thought of a new name for a new dish. :-P

      • antonette says

        my point exactly, Ms. connie.

        By the way, I’m taking inspiration from your “chicken pie”. I have some smoked salmon that’s been sitting in my fridge . So, I thought of using it for the filling. :) Hope it turns out well.
        Have a great day! There’s almost not a day that passes that I don’t check your blogs. It keeps me close to home. :) And I so love the fact that your a mom who is passionate about what’s put on your family’s table or what goes/went in your children’s lunch boxes. I am a mom of a 23-month old and I try my best to expose her to nutritious meals as much as possible. It helps a lot that her meals at the daycare (Japanese daycare) are SO healthy and balanced.

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