You can never go wrong with Bicolano dishes
Apart from the many processions and the solemn prayers, the Lenten Season is also best observed in the Filipino dining table. It is a time of the year where the best meatless family dishes are served, and on a greater scale, shared during karidad.
Thankfully, the Philippines has a plethora of delicious meals highlighting its produce even without the inclusion of pork, beef, or chicken.
The Bicolano cuisine alone has so many dishes to offer for the coming season. Its not-so-secret ingredient? Fresh coconut milk or gata. When cooked expertly, it creates a rich, creamy sauce gives dishes a decadent feel even without animal fat.
It’s no wonder three of Bicol’s most iconic dishes, namely laing, pinangat, and sinantolan, feature coconut milk as the main ingredient. Gata is inseparable from its heritage cuisine, as it gives Bicolano food its distinct flavor profile.
Whipping up those pesco-vegetarian dishes is an all-Bicolano led kitchen, Que Rica, as it showcases the region’s expertise in cooking seafood and vegetables.
Start with the vegetarian laing. Available in frozen and bottled versions, the laing is a great option for those looking for a low-carb, high-fat meal. It also has new varieties like laing with shrimps for those who need protein in their meals, and laing lasagna (layered with our homemade tomato concasse) for cheese-loving pasta fans.
Another must-try is the sinantolan. As the name implies, its main ingredient is santol, or cotton fruit. Minced, then stewed in coconut milk, shrimp paste, and aromatics, the santol becomes a creamy, tangy side dish that goes well with fried, grilled, even dried fish. You can pair it with the brand’s Abo dried fish (Tiger-Toothed Croaker) and Biti dried fish (dried, salted Abo bladder), or use it as a dip for crackers and chips.
You also can’t go wrong with the Bicol Pinangat. Originating from the town of Camalig in Albay, this rustic dish is a favorite among locals and tourists alike. If you’re unfamiliar with it, think of pinangat as the calzone to laing’s pizza. The main difference is that the proteins are stuffed inside the taro leaves instead of being mixed into them.
Its version of pinangat has shrimp, smoked fish, coconut meat, coconut milk, lemongrass, and aromatics which we cook for hours over low heat. This results in a smoky, fork-tender dish that goes well in rice or grains like adlai and quinoa. Pair it with fried or grilled fish for an authentic, country-inspired meal.
Sinanglay is another Bicolano favorite that also follows the cooked-inside-leaves technique. This dish swaps out the gabi leaves for pechay, the smoked fish for tilapia fillets, and adds onions, ginger, garlic, kamias, and tomatoes for aromatics. It’s a lighter option for those who prefer gentler, brighter flavors.
These dishes and more are available at Que Rica’s online store.
Images courtesy of Que Rica and @crave.karte.