Grandma’s Yummy Favorites in the Bicol Kitchen

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1. Ginota’an na Natong (Laing) is probably the most popular Bicolano food. It’s made of fresh or dried natong (dasheen bush leaves) bathed in gota (coconut milk.) It’s flavored with pork bits and spiced with superhot siling labuyo(chili,) garlic, ginger and shrimp.

In places like Iriga City, Ginota’an na Natong includes fresh libas leaves which give a tasty sourness to the dish. Ginota’an na Natong, also called Bicol Express, comes in many versions in different Bicol provinces. Green hot peppers, squash, young squash leaves and flowers, curacding (mushrooms,) balatong (string beans,) eggplants, lambo (bamboo shoots,) and langcawas tubers are ready natong susbstitutes.

2. Gulay na Lubi-lubi is a special treat from the tropical forest. The uncommon wild young lubi-lubi leaves are cooked in coconut milk with minched tinapa (smoked fish) and a cube of flavorful roasted dina’ilan (shrimp) from Camarines Norte. Similar gulay can be made from green papaya, jackfruit, marigoso, calunggay or young cassava leaves.

3. Because of environmental conservation, Kinunot, a dish made from sea turtle may recede in the background. That’s because pawikan, the endangered sea turtle is now a protected species like the tiny tabios (sinarapan) fish found in Buhi Lake. When cooked in coconut milk, chili, black pepper, salt and vinegar, sea turtle meat is as yummy as pating (shark) and pagi (stingray.)

4. Tabios, the diminutive endangered fish from Lake Buhi is wrapped in banana leaves, cooked over hot rice, and flavored with lemonsito (calamansi) juice. A yummy alternative is to cook it fried with cornstarch just like ukoy.

5 Sinanglay—tilapia, karpa or puyo (martiniko) fish garnished with chopped onions, ginger, tomatoes, and sour iba (kamias.) The fish is wrapped in fresh dasheen bush leaves and cooked low fire with thick gota (coconut milk) and a dash of hot peppers.

6. Baduya (Sinapot) is very popular with the children. Ripe native bananas dipped in cornstarch are fried. Versions like caling-quing (Bicol camote fries,) tinanok (boiled camote,) and banana/camote cue and linabonan na camote (boiled sweet potato) are excellent meriendas.

7. Sina’sa , common in Rinconada towns like Baao, Nabua, Iriga, Bato, and Buhi is made from charcoal-roasted freshwater fish like puyo (martiniko,) talusog (snakehead) or tilapia. It is garnished with finely chopped tomatoes, ginger, fresh onions, red peppers and a dash of vinegar.

8. Bokayo—young coconut meat, cooked brown with sankaka, sweet caramel prepared from sugar cane.

9. Paksiw na Casili—fresh-water eel (burirawan) cooked in vinegar, ginger, onions, pepper leaves, and black pepper. Paksiw can also be prepared from fish like mirapina, tuna, carpa or tilapia. Frying the eel and fish are good cooking options.

10. Tinuktok na Hito—a soup dish of chopped hito fish and young coconut made into fish balls with garlic, ginger, onions and red peppers; fresh camote tops or breadfruit slices (ogob or og-og.) are added.

11. Piga nin Carpa—carp ovaries and eggs sautéed with ginger, onions, garlic and marigoso (bitter melon.)

12. Adobong Orig—cubed pork meat cooked slowly on its lard with rock salt to taste and black pepper.

13. Tinolang Manok—hot soup of native chicken with lemon grass, fresh green papaya, sayote, calunggay (moringa) and pepper leaves.

14. Ogama—small boiled crabs dipped on salted vinegar, sili ng labuyo (tiny red peppers,) garlic, and onions.

15. Pinuyos—sticky rice with coconut milk and a dash of salt wrapped in banana leaves also called Binugtong. Ibos, a similar version is glutinous rice wrapped in young coconut leaves.

16. Sinabawan na Carabao—hot soup made from young tender carabao or beef meat with taro roots, pechay leaves, cabbage, and red pepper.

17. Lechon—roasted pig of Bicol is usually flavored with rock salt and tamarind leaves. It is served with a brown sarsa (sauce) made of roasted pork liver.

18. Balaw—baby shrimp fries, wrapped in banana leaves, flavored with generous lemonsito (calamansi) juice and cooked over rice.

19. Pancit Bato—noodle dish flavored with chorizo, slices of fish cake, pork or chicken meat, and wrapped in banana leaves.

20. Miswa—hair-thin white noodle soup with hibi (dried baby shrimps) and sliced green patola.

21. Sinugbang Talong—charcoal-cooked barbecued eggplant with a dash of lemonsito (calamansi) juice and salt. Talong can go with fresh garden tomatoes, dina’ilan with lemon.

22. Balaw—shrimp fries sautéed in oil, pork meat, green peppers, and lemon juice. Balaw goes well with blanched camote tops, kangkong, or upo (white squash.)

23. Linubak—boiled green bananas, taro or camoteng cahoy (cassava roots) pounded with grated young coconut, milk, and sugar.

24. Su’so—fresh water spiral black snails or river clams boiled with coconut milk, bamboo or pako (fern shoots,) onions, garlic and ginger.

25. Dila-Dila is sold by itinerant vendors on the street together with suman. It’s made of grounded glutinous rice, deep fried and topped with glazed sugar cane caramel (sankaka.)

Bicol cuisine is mainly dominated by the use of coconut and its derivative products. Scrumptiously hot with fresh siling labuyo and black peppercorns, the native Bicolano food is a fusion of Asian-Polynesian influences as demonstrated by the use of exotic lemon grass and tropical edible plants like dasheen bush, libas, lubi-lubi, kangkong, and calunggay which grow abundantly in the region. =0=

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