A Guide to Bicol’s Spicy Cuisine

Bicol, a region in the Philippines, is known for its spicy cuisine. This is due to the abundance of chili peppers and other spices used in most dishes. From Laing and Bicol Express to Pili Nuts and Sili Ice Cream, the food of this area has something for everyone.

In this guide, we’ll give you a look at some of the most popular dishes from Bicol and tell you where to find them. We’ll also provide instructions on how to prepare these delicious dishes yourself, as well as information about the ingredients used in each dish.

A Guide to Bicol’s Spicy Cuisine


The Bicol Region and its Cuisine

The Bicol Region is situated in the southeastern peninsula of the Philippines, an area comprising six provinces that are historically known for their beautiful beaches and volcanoes. But what makes it unique is its cuisine.

The cuisine of the Bicol Region is characterized by its spicy flavor, which comes from chili peppers such as siling labuyo (bird’s eye chili), sili (long pepper), and lada (habanero). Spices like ginger, garlic, and onions are also used to add more depth to dishes. Coconut cream and milk are also popular ingredients in the region, as they are used to thicken and mellow out the spiciness of the dishes.

The main ingredients usually come from local markets and consist of various vegetables and fruit from tropical coastal areas. With a unique blend of Filipino, Chinese, and Western flavoring, Bicolano cuisine is regarded as one of the most delicious in the world!

The Bicol Region and its Cuisine


Must-Try Spicy Bicolano Dishes

Popular Bicolano dishes are renowned for their intense spiciness and unique combination of flavors. Most dishes traditionally consist of different types of chili peppers, coconut milk or cream, garlic, onions, ginger, and other spices that give the food its signature kick. From savory stews to sweet desserts, here are some of the most popular Bicolano dishes:


1. Laing

Laing, a popular Bicolano food in the Philippines, has become well-known outside of the Bicol region due to its unique flavor and ingredients. Made of taro leaves cooked in coconut milk, then combined with chilies and other spices, this dish is an interesting blend of salty and spicy.

It is often served warm with shrimp or fish added to complete the meal. As it can be very hot depending on how much chili is used, this dish is best enjoyed with a bowl of steaming white rice. The popularity of the Laing speaks volumes about its taste and affordability, making it a favorite among Filipino households.



2. Bicol Express

Bicol Express, a classic dish of the Bicolano region of the Philippines, is an expertly designed combination of aroma and flavor. Made with chilies, onions, garlic, pork or prawns, coconut milk, and shrimp paste, it gives off a delicious spicy-smoky fragrance that will tantalize your senses.

It can be enjoyed either mild or extra-spicy depending on your preference. An excellent accompaniment to hot steaming white rice; Bicol Express can be prepared with either pork or prawns for added depth of flavor and texture.

Whether you want something comforting or energetic; this beloved traditional delicacy offers a memorable experience that will not soon be forgotten.

Bicol Express


3. Pinangat

Pinangat is a popular Bicolano dish from the Philippines. This traditional dish is usually made with tamarind leaves and fish, cooked in coconut milk until it becomes tender.

In addition to its delicious taste, Pinangat also has a unique presentation; the tamarind leaf provides a hearty flavor to the food and serves as an attractive plating vessel when served. It can be eaten alone or with rice.

Considered an integral part of Bicolano cuisine, Pinangat is an excellent way to experience authentic Filipino food culture!



4. Sili Ice Cream

Sili Ice Cream is a unique and popular ice cream found in the Philippines. It is an iconic Bicolano food, made with carefully chosen ingredients and local chili peppers. This spicy ice cream has become quite a craze in recent years, and many adventurous eaters have begun to explore its bold flavors.

Unlike traditional ice cream, the spicy bite of Sili Ice Cream makes it stand out amongst other desserts. Furthermore, because it uses natural ingredients like coconut milk and real chilies found around the island region, this special kind of ice cream comes with a healthy dose of flare that cannot be rivaled!

Sili Ice Cream


5. Pili Nuts

Pili nuts are a truly unique and delicious delicacy enjoyed notably in the Bicolano region of the Philippines. They are native to the area, and you will find them served in restaurants and markets throughout the region.

The taste of Pili nuts is mildly sweet with a hint of bitterness and a light saltiness, making them incredibly indulgent. Many dishes feature Pili nuts as important ingredients such as pastries, breakfast options, ice creams, and savory snacks.

An interesting fact about these nutritional wonders is that they contain 16% protein content which helps keep our bodies healthy! So whether you’re looking for a delicious treat or something nutritious to snack on, try some locally sourced Bicolano-style Pili nuts; you won’t be disappointed!

Pili Nuts


6. Ginataang Santol

Ginataang Santol is a traditional, flavorful dish originating from the Bicolano region of the Philippines. It is a delightful blend of santol, a type of fruit found in tropical climates, simmered in coconut milk with ingredients like garlic, onions, chili peppers, and ginger, plus shrimp or pork.

The result is a unique and delicious combination of sweet and spicy tastes that make it a favorite among Filipinos who enjoy traditional local cuisines.

As a healthful meal, Ginataang Santol is an excellent source of protein and other essential vitamins and minerals, making it a great choice for those who are looking to include more nutritious dishes in their diets.

Ginataang Santol


7. Dinuguan Bicol

Dinuguan Bicol is an authentic Bicolano dish that is popular throughout the Philippines. It is made from pork, liver, intestines, and other pork parts that are boiled and cooked in rich and spicy coconut milk with chili peppers and other spices.

The flavor of this delicacy is further enhanced by lemongrass, garlic, and ginger, giving it its distinct taste. Dinuguan Bicol is made with a lot of care, which makes it ideal for special occasions such as weddings or birthdays.

Eating this delicacy is both a treat to the eyes as well as to the palate due to its unique combination of flavors. Those who try it once often come back for more!

Dinuguan Bicol


8. Sinapot

Bicol region is popular with bananas and one of the most famous dishes, Sinapot is made using these fruits. It is a sweet dish traditionally served as an accompaniment to savory meat dishes, but it can also be enjoyed on its own.

This unique delicacy combines ripe bananas, coconut milk, and spices like garlic, onions, ginger, chili peppers, and other local flavors for a mouth-watering dish. Sinapot is also delicious served either warm or chilled and can be enjoyed with hot steaming white rice.



9. Pansit Bato

Pansit Bato is an authentic Filipino dish popular among the Bicolanos of the Philippines. The dish consists of stir-fried rice noodles cooked in a flavorful stock, aromatics, and vegetables like bok choi or tenga ng camaru (tiger ear mushrooms).

Common toppings like small pieces of chicharron, tinapa flakes, pork fat, and green onion leaves add an extra layer of flavor to the savory dish. Pansit Bato is usually served during special occasions but can also be enjoyed as a regular meal due to its easy-to-make preparation.

All that’s required is access to locally sourced ingredients and a hot pan! With its unique taste and robust flavors, Pansit Bato is definitely a must-try for anyone looking for an authentically delicious Bicolano experience.

Pansit Bato


10. Puto Bukayo

Puto Bukayo is a traditional Bicolano food that has become increasingly popular throughout the Philippines and abroad. This delicious snack is made with grated coconut, brown sugar, and sweetened glutinous rice flour.

It is usually cooked in banana leaves or woven bamboo strips and then steamed over a pot of boiling water. Puto Bukayo is often served alongside chocolate or hot chocolate, giving it an even more delightful taste.

It can be enjoyed any time of day – as breakfast, afternoon snack, or dessert after meals – making it a great treat for anyone looking for some adventure in their culinary experience.

Puto Bukayo


Where to Try Authentic Bicolano Cuisine

If you’re visiting the Bicol Region, you don’t have to look far for a taste of its signature cuisine. Popular restaurants around the region serve dishes like Laing and Bicol Express, as well as other traditional dishes like Pancit Bato (noodles), Dinuguan, and Pili Nuts.

Here are some of the best places to try authentic Bicolano cuisine:


1. Waway’s Restaurant – Legazpi City

Located in Legazpi City, Albay, Waway’s Restaurant is known for its traditional Bicolano dishes such as laing (taro leaves cooked in coconut milk), pinangat (fish cooked in coconut milk and spices), and Bicol express (pork cooked in chili peppers and coconut milk). The restaurant also offers a variety of seafood dishes that are popular in the region.

Address: 317 Peñaranda St, Legazpi City, 4500 Albay

Phone: (052)4808415

For pictures, booking, and more information, click here.

Waway's Restaurant - Legazpi City


2. Bob Marlin – Naga City

Bob Marlin is a chain of restaurants that specializes in Bicolano cuisine. The restaurant’s menu includes classic dishes such as kinunot (shredded fish cooked in coconut milk with malunggay leaves) and tinutungan na manok (chicken cooked with burnt coconut cream). Bob Marlin has several branches across the Philippines, but its original location is in Naga City, Camarines Sur.

Address: Magsaysay Ave, Naga, 4400 Camarines Sur

Phone: (054)4731339

For pictures, booking, and more information, click here.

Bob Marlin - Naga City


3. Small Talk Cafe – Legazpi City

Small Talk Cafe is a cozy cafe located in Legazpi City that serves traditional Bicolano dishes with a modern twist. Their menu includes unique offerings such as sili ice cream (ice cream made with spicy chili peppers) and adobo sa gata (chicken or pork adobo cooked in coconut milk).

Address: 15 Doña Aurora St, Old Albay District, Legazpi City, 4500 Albay

Phone: +639176249279

For pictures, booking, and more information, click here.

Small Talk Cafe - Legazpi City


4. Balay Cena Una – Daraga, Albay

Balay Cena Una is a family-owned restaurant located in Daraga, Albay that specializes in home-cooked Bicolano meals. Their menu includes classic dishes such as Bicol express and laing, as well as lesser-known specialties like sinantol (shredded santol fruit mixed with shrimp paste).

Address: 4501 Daraga – Legazpi City – Tiwi Rd, Legazpi City, 4501 Albay

Phone: +639178279520

For pictures, booking, and more information, click here.

Balay Cena Una - Daraga, Albay


You can also find food stalls in the streets selling freshly cooked meals from pre-made ingredients that have been spiced up with local flavors. Locals are often more than happy to recommend the best places to eat, so don’t be afraid to ask around!


Tips for Eating Spicy Bicolano Food

If you’re a fan of spicy food, then you must try Bicolano cuisine. Bicol Express, in particular, is a popular dish that packs a punch of heat and flavor. However, if you’re not used to eating spicy food or are worried about the aftermath, here are some tips to help you enjoy your Bicolano meal:

Tips for Eating Spicy Bicolano Food


1. Start with milder dishes: If you’re new to Bicolano cuisine or have a low tolerance for spiciness, start with milder dishes like ginataang gulay or laing. These dishes still have a hint of spiciness but are more manageable.

2. Take small bites: When trying spicier dishes, take smaller bites to avoid overwhelming your taste buds.

3. Drink milk: Milk can help neutralize the heat from spicy foods. Have a glass of milk nearby while eating Bicolano food.

4. Pair with rice: Rice can help absorb some of the spice and provide relief from the heat.

5. Try adding coconut milk: Coconut milk can help balance out the spiciness in Bicolano dishes. If a dish is too spicy for you, try adding some coconut milk to it.

6. Don’t be afraid to ask for less spice: If you’re dining at a restaurant, don’t be afraid to ask for less spice in your dish. Most restaurants will accommodate this request.

7. Embrace the heat: Lastly, embrace the heat! Spicy food releases endorphins which can make you feel good and happy. Plus, it’s a great way to experience Bicolano cuisine in all its fiery glory!


In Conclusion

The distinct flavors and spices of Bicolano cuisine are truly unique, making it a must-try experience on any trip to the Philippines. With its wide variety of dishes, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

From sweet desserts made with chilies and coconut milk to savory stews cooked in rich sauces; this region has something delicious to offer. No matter what kind of food you prefer, there is a Bicolano dish to satisfy your cravings!