Bicol Express with a Major Twist

It started out with me wanting to make use of the Gochujang I have lying in our fridge for sometime now. My love for koreanovela introduced me to Korean culture especially their food. It was not a hard transition to make since I love spicy food and being Asian, there are some aspects of their food that I am familiar with.
So the recipe started out as Bicol Express or at least that was what I had in mind for dinner. I came across a YouTube video of 2 kabayan ladies who made fusion Korean Bicol Express using gochujang in place of fresh chilies and the result was tempting I thought I have to give it a try asap!

Gochujang is fermented chili paste which is a staple to Korean cooking. It used to be a rare find in Doha but I noticed that it is now readily available in supermarkets. If you are a spicy food lover like me, you will love it for its versatile yet unique flavor. Anyhow, this is the link to the fusion recipe I mentioned earlier:

My version of this Korean-Pinoy dish however, did not end with gochujang. I also added some more “aromatics” just because I’m so accustomed to adding them into almost every meat recipe I cook. I will be marking them as “optional” in my list of ingredients so you may omit them if you choose to. To cut through the fat and excessive richness, I squeezed in half a lemon and added some sweet peppers towards the end. I also incidentally had to add in some brown sugar as the dish turned out a little bit salty half way through the cooking. This addition unexpectedly brought a different dimension to the flavor.

My confused bicol express now tastes like sambal! I allowed another few minutes of simmering and the sharp saltiness and heat faded into the background, leaving behind a flavorful combination of sweet, spicy and savory. So would I still call this dish bicol express and risk offending the pioneers? I guess so…I could even call it panAsian express after all it is the amalgamation of many spices native to the region. At the end of the day it is still a backyard menu borne out of curiosity and innovation. Please give it a try and let me know how it turns out.

1/4 kg pork belly

1 cup dried baby shrimps or hebe (rinsed under running warm water, drained)

1 cup coconut milk (I used powdered version diluted in hot water)

2 tbsp gochujang (or depending on how spicy you want it)

1/2 bulb of garlic, minced

1 medium onion, sliced thinly

1 large ripe tomato, sliced

Patis or fish sauce to taste

1 thumbsized pc of ginger sliced(optional)

1 stalk of lemongrass (white portion only, bruised and cut into smaller pcs, optional)

Bay leaves and whole peppercorns (optional)

2 tbsp brown sugar (optional)

Sweet peppers, sliced (optional)

Juice of half a lemon (optional)


1. In a shallow thick-bottomed pan, fry pork cubes to render fat. If you want, you can lightly season the meat with salt and add in the aromatics such as bay leaves and peppercorns. Allow the meat to turn a little brown yet not well done.

2. Once there is enough oil in the pan from the fat, fry the garlic. A minute later, add in the onion, ginger and lemongrass. Once the onion turns translucent, add in the dried baby shrimps or hebe. Saute until fragrant.

3. Toss in tomato wedges

4. Toss lightly and then add in the coconut milk. Cover and simmer on medium heat for 10 minutes or until the meat is tender.

5. You can tell when the meat is fully cooked once the gravy becomes thick and glossy from all the combined fat of the pork and coconut milk ( I know, this dish is hips, waist and artery busting!).

At this point you can season it with patis and gochujang according to your preference. I made the mistake of liberally adding the patis and ended up resorting to adding brown sugar to counter the saltiness. But this step turn out for the better in the end because the sweetness added another dimension to the flavor, it almost tastes like sambal!

6. Toss in the sweet peppers and simmer for a few minutes uncovered. It should be done and ready once the veggies are wilted and the gravy has reduced to thick consistency. Serve with plain boiled rice. I added a handful of freshly roasted adobo peanuts as a side dish to mine, yum!

Sadly, this is just the first of the three servings I had for dinner. Oh well, there’s always tomorrow to reconsider dieting right?

2 thoughts on “Bicol Express with a Major Twist

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