Bicol Express is one of the Filipino dishes that use coconut milk. Coconut milk or kakang gata in Tagalog is widely used in Southeast Asian cooking. I hardly ever cook with coconut milk since I grew up in a household that isn’t overly fond of eating food made with “gata.”

This dish is a favorite of my husband and he would always get this at the Cafeteria-style Filipino restaurant in our area. Since their Bicol Express is too spicy for me to handle, I made this so I can adjust the level of heat and amount of chiles in the dish.

Get a large saucepan and place over medium to high heat. Add 2-3 Tablespoons vegetable oil and saute 6 cloves of minced garlic. Once the garlic is fragrant add 1 medium-sized chopped onion. Cook until onions are translucent. Add 1 1/2 lbs pork butt cut into cubes. Stir and cook until no longer pink and has turned a bit brown on the edges. Place 2 Tablespoons “shrimp bagoong” and stir fry everything for about 2 minutes. Pour a 13.5 oz can of coconut milk and 1 cup of water, and let this come to a boil. Lower heat and continue cooking at a simmer for 35-40 minutes until meat is tender and coconut milk has thickened. Make sure to cook at low heat so that the coconut milk will not curdle. This will give your sauce a creamy consistency. Then add 1/2 cup chopped “siling haba” or Korean green chili peppers and 2-3 pieces thinly sliced Thai chiles or siling labuyo. You may add more if you want it spicier. Season with some salt and pepper to taste. Let this cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.