The Bicol region is home to many cultures and cuisines. With its cultural richness hailing from its many diverse ethnic groups, the region has offered various eclectic dishes. It is home to many types of cuisines, ranging from Spanish to Chinese influences with its Filipino interpretation. Because of this, Bicol cuisine leaves many tourists trying it with memorable experiences.
Bicol Cuisine: What Sets it Apart?
People from neighboring regions frequently travel to Bicol because of its unique and diversified food. Who wouldn't want to travel to a location with great food, a pleasant environment, and beautiful beaches? These elements have long drawn tourists from other parts of the Philippines to the cuisine of Bicol. The variety of ingredients and cooking styles distinguish Bicol cuisine from other regional cuisines. The annual Bicol food festival highlights all the delectable dishes of Bicol, luring many food enthusiasts from far and wide. It showcases the various food preparations that Bicolanos love, and that a lot of tourists can enjoy. Kickstart your journey with our list of the top 10 foods of the Bicol region:
[caption id="attachment_3459" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Image from Knorr[/caption] This Filipino dish is famous among the Bicolanos and other Filipinos alike. Bicol Express is a spicy pork stew made with shrimp paste, tomatoes, onions, and green chilies. It is most well-known for its spiciness, which goes well with all its other ingredients. The dish has a rich taste that will appeal to even the most skeptical palates.
[caption id="attachment_3453" align="aligncenter" width="706"] Image from Panlasang Pinoy[/caption] If you grew in the Philippines, you'll remember santol and may have enjoyed this tropical fruit. Santol, or cotton fruit, is the star in sinantol or ginataang santol. They make it with coconut milk, chilies, shredded santol, and either fish or pork. It perfectly balances the flavors of salt, sour, spice, and cream. The traditional way to eat it is with a chunk of pork fat inside.
[caption id="attachment_3455" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Image from Kawaling Pinoy[/caption] Another well-known food in Bicol is laing. They make this dish with taro leaves, coconut milk, siling labuyo, lemongrass, garlic, and shrimp paste in its most basic form. You may also add meat or fish for a more savory version.
[caption id="attachment_3452" align="aligncenter" width="631"] Image from GMA News[/caption] If you love crab, then this is the meal for you! Another well-known Bicolano meal is tilmok, which is cooked with coconut and crab meat, both of which are readily available there. It is prepared by baking pieces of crab meat and coconut together, then wrapped in banana leaves and steamed over an open fire until done.
[caption id="attachment_3457" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Image from Vogue[/caption] This indigenous nut is grown in the Bicol region. These can be enjoyed raw or roasted as a crunchy snack, but Pili nuts taste better when charred to bring out their nutty and sweet taste. The caramelization alters its flavor and makes it the most distinctive of all nuts, allowing for a wide variety of potential toppings on your pili nut dish.
[caption id="attachment_3458" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Image from Ang Sarap[/caption] Kinalas, a noodle dish from Naga, is one of the most popular comfort foods in the entire Bicol region. Kinalas is a combination of firm noodles, with a substantial soup and a garnish of scraped meat from a cow's or pig's heart. With the garnish on top, just one bite of the Kinalas noodles will have you hooked.
[caption id="attachment_3456" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Image from Lutong Bahay[/caption] Pinangat is almost identical to Laing, which is also delicious, but Pinangat has slightly more vegetables and spices. They wrap pork or fish in taro and banana or coconut leaves to create a meat-and-vegetable "pouch" that is slowly cooked in coconut milk, peppers, and spices.
[caption id="attachment_3454" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Image from Ang Sarap[/caption] Kinunot is a coconut cream-based dish made with flaked padi (stingray), malunggay (moringa) leaves, siling labuyo, and coconut cream sauce. You may also find versions made with shark meat, crab, and other types of fish.
[caption id="attachment_3450" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Image from Byahero[/caption] The Bicolanos customarily create a meal called kandingga. One of the dish’s most fascinating aspects about kandingga is that it’s made with swine organs like the heart, lungs, and spleen stewed in coconut milk and vinegar or lemon juice with siling labuyo.
[caption id="attachment_3451" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Image from Yummy[/caption] Pancit Bato is one of the most popular pancit recipes. The dish starts off by simmering pig and chicken livers in broth with chopped vegetables like cabbage, carrots, and green beans. They are occasionally served with broth or topped with dinuguan for a more flavorful taste. Many culinary specialties originate from the province of Bicol, and each region has its own distinctive cooking style. It is undeniable that many people love the taste of Bicol’s delicious and authentic food. Not only are they rich in culture, but they are also very rich in food and ingredients. Bicol’s cuisine is appreciated in the Philippines and globally. When you plan to visit Bicol or if you come across a place where Bicol cuisine is served, make sure you get to try these delectable dishes.