I’ve been back in Manila for almost a week now but I still can’t help but think about Bicol especially its food. I went home to Iriga City for almost eight days and I literally did nothing but indulge myself with Bicolano dishes that I rarely get to eat in Manila. I guess we are like that to some extent. No matter where we go, nothing beats home. I, for instance, would not trade Bicolano food for anything else. I may not be good at eating hot food but I love my share of anything with coconut milk (ginataan in our dialect) and recado (mix of tomato, onions, garlic, ginger, salt and black pepper). So let me share to to you some of the Bicolano food that I really love. Let me call this “eating in a day the Bicolano way”.
I usually eat rice for breakfast but I would not mind a combination of pansit and fried banana. There’s a particular type of pansit that can only be found in the Rinconada district of Camarines Sur. It’s called pansit bato. It’s either made of squash or malunggay leaves. One thing I love about this pansit is even if you just saute it in onion, garlic, tomato and a little bit of salt and black pepper, it’s already very tasty.
Pansit bato goes well with fried banana but it’s not your ordinary banana. It should be the saba (or kalibo, in the Rinconada dialect) variety, ripe enough and dipped in flour with little water. The end product is a dish we call sinapot which literally means “packed side by side”.
What is the best companion for a steaming cup rice? Oh, nothing will beat the famous laing. Each town in Bicol has its own way of preparing laing. Some prefer the fresh leaves while some prefer the dried ones. In Iriga, we usually use the dried leaves and we let the coconut milk evaporate before we put out the fire. My mom calls this state, “naglalana“. We also add libas leaves to add a bit sour flavor and reduce the oiliness and of course tons of red pepper.
Laing goes will with another ginataang dish, sinanglay. One can use tilapia, mud fish or even carp to prepare this. We usually stuff the fish with a combination of kamias (iba), tomato, onion, garlic, ginger and tomatoes, then top it off with young jackfruit, libi libi (niyog-niyogan) or pechay, and finally boil it with coconut milk.
Here’s another fried banana dish for snack: baduya. One can use any variety of banana for this but the inisko variety is the best because it’s already very sweet so one doesn’t need to add sugar anymore. Baduya is prepared using overriped bananas. The bananas are mashed, mixed with flour then fried till golden brown. This is best eaten with a cup of cold softdrinks!
Finally, conclude the day with a another unique Bicolano dish called tinuktuk (or pinangat). These are usually made of gabi leaves stuffed in the inside with young coconut meat, recado and shrimps or crab, then cooked with coconut milk. Again, the preparation varies from town to town. In Iriga, the stuffing is usually thicker than the gabi leaves wrapped around it but in some towns the emphasis is more on the gabi leaves wrapping. Either way, it tastes really good when prepared with red pepper and eaten with a bit of vinegar.
There you have it! You just had a peak on what to eat in Bicol. So next time drop you drop by our beautiful peninsula, try looking for this dishes because I guarantee you, you’re trip would be useless if you don’t eat any of this or anything with coconut milk and red pepper. Happy eating!