For travellers, Bicol Express may sound like a transportation option, perhaps a bus or a train. While there is indeed a train that connects Manila to Naga in Bicol, this is not what this article is about. Instead, it is about the spicy hot, yet delicious delicacy that many Bicolanos, Filipinos, and yes, even foreigners love to eat. |
An interesting name
It is quite peculiar that a famous dish in the Philippines can have such as name that can otherwise be linked to some form of transportation. Nonetheless, “legend” has it that it got its name due to an interesting fact that when people first try to eat it, they usually end up running fast for water as a result of too much spiciness in the dish. You could say that any person running fast can be compared to a Bicol Express train of sorts.
However, the dish actually evolved from a similar spicy dish called “Gulay na may lada” (vegetable with spices). Hence, while it is true that the Bicol Express has been popularized in Bicol, its origins are somewhat not of that place. Even so, many Filipinos cook the dish today and attribute the spiciness to the region of Bicol, where spicy food seems to be the norm.
Today, there are so many ways to cook Bicol Express. Despite that fact, the dish is cannot be called Bicol Express if it does not have these fundamental ingredients: pork, hot peppers, coconut milk, and bagoong (fish sauce) or alamang (shrimp paste). What makes the dish so popular is the super spicy taste. In the Philippines, where the weather is usually hot, many Filipinos love to eat spicy foods. In a way, it acts as a sort of body temperature control. As the spice heats the body up, sweat comes out of the pores and quickly evaporates. The quick evaporation causes the body to cool down quite as fast.
In some cases, families cook Bicol express using green pepper. Although it may not taste as spicy, it is a great delicacy that can be served safely on occasions where there are children around. It would not be fair for guests who may not be used to spices to suddenly burst into a frenzy looking for water because of the hot sensation in their tongues.
While the dish is usually cooked at home, many businesses serve the dish as a specialty. Various restaurants in the Philippines often cook Bicol Express for their customers who love spicy foods. There are also many catering services in Bicol that provide the dish as part of their menu. If you plan to celebrate an occasion in the region, Bicol catering businesses are more than willing to serve Bicol Express to your guests.
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