Laing (spicy pork, shrimps, taro leaves and coconut milk stew)


This is an updated version of a recipe originally published in March 1, 2005.

Laing is a dish whose origin is attributed to the Bicol region where coconut milk figures prominently in the local cuisine. I’ve tasted so many versions of laing — from almost dry to creamy, from meaty to meatless. Although I absolutely love the almost dry and practically meatless version, I have to admit that the carnivore in me prefers distinct pieces of pork in my laing. Pork is more traditional although I have used beef and it was good too.

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Now, about the taro leaves. Many people balk at taro leaves because they can cause an itchy sensation in the throat. I was told that drying taro leaves under the sun prior to cooking prevented itchiness but, lately, I’ve been using undried taro leaves to cook my laing and there has been no itchiness at all. I buy the taro leaves in the supermarket where they are sold in pre-weighed bundles and packed on styrofoam trays. At this point, I’m just as in the dark as most people are about what causes the itchiness and how the taro leaves should be prepared to avoid it.

For Filipinos living abroad who have no access to fresh taro leaves, shredded dried taro leaves are now exported all over the world. If you decide to use them, one tip: they swell tremendously during cooking so don’t think you’re adding too little to the pot. Once the dried leaves get in contact with liquid, they absorb the liquid like ever-thirsty little sponges.

That said, let me give you the recipe for laing.  

Ingredients

  • 300 g. of pork belly, cut into half-inch cubes
    2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger, peeled and julienned
    4 to 6 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
    1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
    4 to 8 chilis, roughly chopped (I used red and green finger chilis, the level of hotness varies from one chili variety to another, so you’ll have to make your own calculations as to how much you need)
    1 to 2 tbsps. of hibe or dried shrimps (for best results, get the shelled kind)
    2 tbsps. of vegetable cooking oil
    4 c. of coconut milk (if using fresh, combine the first and second extractions)
    about 600 g. of fresh taro leaves
    patis (fish sauce), to taste

Instructions

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    Heat the cooking oil in a pan. Add the pork and cook, stirring, until they change color.

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    Add the garlic and ginger and saute for a few minutes.

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    Add the sliced onion and continue sauteing until the onion starts to caramelize. At this point, the pork cubes will start to turn brown around the edges too.

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    Add the chilis…

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    … and the tomatoes and saute for a few minutes more or until the tomatoes start to liquefy.

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    Add the dried shrimps.

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    Add all the taro leaves to the pan. Don’t panic if it looks like you have a huge mountain of taro leaves. Fresh taro leaves wilt like anything once they are heated.

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    Pour in all of the coconut milk. Cover the pan to bring everything to the boil.

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    When the stew is boiling, stir, pressing the taro leaves into the sauce. Season with fish sauce and stir some more.

    Turn the heat to low, cover the pan and simmer the stew for an hour.

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    After an hour, the taro leaves will be soft and so will the pork cubes. Taste a piece of pork and some of the sauce. Add more fish sauce, if necessary.

    If you prefer your laing to be rather dry, turn up the heat and continue cooking the laing, uncovered, until the mixture is dry enough for you.

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    Serve the hot laing with rice and have a great meal.

Cooking time (duration): about an hour and a half

Number of servings (yield): 4 to 6

Meal type: lunch / supper


Comments

  1. Richie says

    Hello Connie!

    My name is Richie and have been living here in Los Angeles with my family for almost 4 years now. I have three kids aged 13, 11 and 7.

    To tell you the truth I have never ever cooked a single dish in my entire 37 year old life so when we first came here in the US we always go for take out. We finally got tired of take out so I decided I should try my hands on filipino cooking. I come from a family of good cooks. My grandma, my mom, aunties and uncles are masters of filipino cooking and I miss them a lot.

    I stumbled on your site when I was searching the web for pancit canton, my first dish, and I must tell you your canton was the best. From that day on I was hooked on your website. I have tried a lot of dish from your recipes from then on and the kids now have their favorite, the classic pinoy beef steak. My mom was so proud of me when I started cooking for her during our annual Thanksgiving get together.

    I would like to thank you for sharing all those recipes to pinoys like us here in the US and I pray that you continue your good work. Because of you I now have a cooking tradition that I could pass on to my kids. Thank you so much Connie and more power to you!

    Richie
    Van Nuys, CA

    PS: I noticed you did some changes on your archive, can you pls show me how to get to the complete recipe archive?

  2. says

    Richie, I’m overwhelmed. And I feel so good and glad and happy. And you’re very welcome.

    Ah, the changes. Had an “accident” that deleted my database. Had to reconstruct from a old backup. Still trying to being back the “old look”, including the printer friendly pages, but it may take time.

    Complete archives. I will be upgrading the software in a bit and that will allow me to install a page where the complete archives can be accessed. :)

  3. precy says

    hi Connie!

    I am a newlywed and just starting to learn how to cook. I really love browsing at your site and read all the people responses, they are very satisfied at your recipe. I am now based here in australia.My husband really love vegetable dishes specially laing back in the Phils. I really love to try your recipe but my problem is there is no gabi leaves here. My friend said that I can use spinach as replacement do you think that will work…. thanks…..

  4. says

    i never tried using spinach for laing, precy. but why not? the flavor of the cooked dish will probably be different but it might turn out to be something equally wonderful. don’t be afraid to experiment. :)

  5. Ernest says

    Mrs.,
    I’m 17 yrs old. I’m a guy, but I cook alot and enjoy it too. I just wanted to share a recipe with you. It’s for VERY simple pancit. It’s Pancit Canton with mushrooms. Perfct for vegetarians or to eat along with beef rendang. I use the big block of pancit canton, champignon or button mushrooms(preferably fresh), oyster and hoisin sauce and kuchay. I mix the hoisin and oyster sauce half and half. Usually just the usual small bottles; half of each. The mushrooms, I slice thinly. If it’s the canned version drain it well, lest it be soggy and diluted tasting. I simmer them first with some of the hoisin-oyster misture and very little water. About a 3 is to 1 ratio. Cook the noodles as you would and when you add the water to boil it in, put half the hoisin mixture in already. This flavors the noodles til the inside I think. When most of the liquid has dried out already, mix in the rest of the sauce and the mushrooms. Let it reduce to desired state of sauciness. Take it off the heat first and then add the chopped kuchay leaves. I make a big batch of this and just leave refrigerated for easy microwaving… hope you try it out!

  6. says

    Hi Ernest, half hoisin and half oyster sauce sounds delicious! I will try it soon. And I think I’ll add a drizzle of sesame seed oil. Thanks. :)

  7. Lyn says

    Connie,
    I can’t find gabi leaves here in US. Any suggestion what I can use to substitute?
    Thanks,

    Lyn.

    • symone says

      you can buy dried taro leaves in filipino stores..if theres a seafood city and island pacific supermarket in your area they have it.

  8. delia co-david says

    Hi Lyn and Connie,

    Spinach makes a good substitute—the result is similar to cooking fresh gabi leaves. Yes, it IS ok to cook fresh (and not dried) gabi leaves. Just make sure you cook it for a long time so that the evil needle-like crystals of calcium oxalate in the fresh leaves break down.

    Still, there’s nothing like the flavor of laing made with dried gabi leaves.

    Cheers,
    Delia

  9. cherryblossoms says

    you can add tinapa(shred it)and small shrimps(not alamang ha!)…And you should wash your hands first because it’s best to eat laing with your hands than with a spoon and fork…( ^ ^ ) V, plus don’t forget to make a “sawsawan” vinegar and sili…hehhehehee…perfect!

  10. emy M says

    hi connie…surprised to see beautiful,fresh taro leaves at a fil. market in la,i bought a small
    bundle for $1.76 & quickly went home & excitedly checked my reference..YOU!!!
    “sun-dried”…oh,no it’s raining…so i spread the leaves on a cookie sheet,put in the oven,set it at low broil & waited until it wilted…i put dried shrimps instead…the finished dish was only 2 1/2
    cups…glad i’m only cooking for my husband & me
    that was dinner 3 hrs ago..ate w/ fried smoked
    tawilis sans spoon & fork…yes,it’s still raining
    connie….this was my 1st time to cook this dish
    sooooo good & flavorful….i should have taken pics
    lesson learned today: cooking is an adventure…
    like life… it’s full of surprises
    thanks connie…sending you my hug

  11. michelle says

    Hello Miss. Connie,

    Do you know how to cook tinomok? I was looking over the internet and was not able to see one. PLease share.Thanks!

  12. Ernest says

    Thank you po, for taking notice! I’ve been following your site for a while, albeit silently. :P
    It amazes me how our food “trips” are so similar such as the rumaki and the fried sinigang chicken. :)
    Dito ako nagbasa nang iniwan ako ni mama to fulfill her duties din to my lola. Parang kitchen talks din lang namin. :D

    Happy Happy New Decade, Ms. Connie!

    • says

      My best wishes to you too, Ernest. We’re having another family reunion in a week and I’m doing an Asian menu — including your pancit canton. Thank you so much for that. :)

    • says

      I can eat little by little now — after my gall bladder was removed. What the connection is between crustaceans and gall bladder — I really don’t know. :-P

  13. esong says

    laing is itchy if undercooked. do not stir for the first 20 minutes of boiling. just press the laing to come in contact with the coconut. lower the heat and check the bottom of the pan if it is getting burned. stir only occasionally to even out the cooking and prevent burning. cook until the coconut starts to turn into oil. covering the pan for the first 20 minutes will also ensure that the laing is not undercooked. make sure you have enough coconut milk. we don’t use tomatoes.

  14. Janet says

    We dont use tomatoes and we also add lemongrass. A tablespoon of vinegar is a good idea…since I “drown” mine with vinegar with labuyo. Thanks for the inspiration Connie.

      • says

        Some readers say it’s a good substitute; personally, I haven’t tried spinach. Spinach wilts fast and can’t withstand the prolonged cooking that laing requires.

  15. Doddie Householder says

    Connie,

    A Bicolana told me that not stirring the stew for the first 20 minutes is key to get rid of the itchiness. I have never experienced itchiness in the laing dishes that I have cooked. And yes, fatty pork is a key ingredient in mine.

  16. says

    I’m a bicolana and my mom makes great laing! She says, to avoid the itchy gabi leaves, don’t use the ones where the stalk is violet colored. and air dry it for a day first.

    I’ve never tried laing with tomatoes in it. does it spoil fast when you make a big batch?

  17. waswi28 says

    hello, ms connie! last sunday was my very first time to cook laing, and i never wanted to fail because my dried taro leaves were imported from Singapore ( i’m in KL btw), a pasalubong from a friend! not to mention, my late father-in-law was a great laing cook,so my husband was expecting a lot! so, before heading to the kitchen, i googled a lot for the simplest and most looking good laing recipe, and of course! i chosen yours! and know what? wonderful!!! it was the best laing my husband has ever tasted!! can’t believe it, rating of 1-10, my husband rated me 10! (p.s. i omitted dried shrimp coz i didn’t have it at hand)
    thank you so much for sharing this recipe.
    more power, and happy halloween!

  18. Ben says

    I cooked this last night with a few tweaks (bagoong for hibe, dried leaves for fres) and it turned out spicy, salty, and according to my wife, even authentic. Salamat!

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