Bicol Express

Bicol Express is one of the popular dishes in the Philippines, natively known as “sinilihan” in Bicol. It is a spicy pork stew cooked in coconut milk and loads of green chilis.

Bicol Express is named after a train in Bicol Region, which is known for its spicy food. The train travels from Naga (Bicol) to Manila, but I definitely do not know why it derived its name from it. Bicol is popular not only from its perfectly coned mountain – Mount Volcano (Mount Mayon), but also pili nuts and its spicy food.

How to Make Bicol Express?

Making Bicol Express is simple and straightforward. Start by heating up cooking oil in skillet or pot with hot oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, saute onions until translucent and add garlic until it brings out its nice-sweet aroma. Then add 2 tablespoons ginger as it eliminates the “lansa” of the meat. Cook cubed pork belly until it turns light brown. At this stage, add in coconut milk, red and green chilis, shrimp paste and black pepper in any order. If you preferred it to be in a more spicy side, you can always add more chilis. Cover the pot and let it boil.

If the sauce has thickened and the pork is not yet tender, you can always add half a cup of water until the pork has cooked through. You know Bicol Express is ready if the pork is tender and the sauce has thickened enough for your liking. Cook it longer to achieve a bit oily sauce.

You may also like my other Bicol recipes like Laing (Dried Taro Leaves with Coconut), Adobong Bicol, Maruya, or my other version of Bicol Express with Bagoong.

Bicol Express Recipe


2 tablespoons cooking oil

1 onion, medium

4 cloves garlic

500 grams of pork belly

2 red thai chilis or more

4 jalapenos or more

2 cups of coconut milk

1-2 tablespoons shrimp paste

black pepper to taste


  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet or pot over medium-high heat. Saute onions until translucent, add the garlic and cook for about half a minute. Then add the ginger, continue to saute for a minute until its aromatic.
  2. Add in the pork belly and cook until its light brown in colour.
  3. Add in the red chilis, 2 cups of coconut milk, jalapenos, shrimp paste and black pepper.
  4. Lower the heat to low. Cover and let it cook for several minutes until the pork is tender and the coconut milk sauce begins to thicken and turns a bit oily. If you want it more oily, cook for another 5 minutes or so.

Serve and enjoy this Bicol Express with your family and friends!


  • Add more red and green chilis if you preferred it to be spicier.
  • Cook Bicol Express with ginger to eliminate the “lansa” of the meat.
  • If you don’t have shrimp paste at home, you can substitute it to “balaw” or simply add fish sauce.
  • When pork is not yet tender and the sauce has reduced, you can always add half a cup of water at a time until the pork is cooked through.
  • Uncooked shrimp is not always available abroad, so “guisado bagoong” can also be used for this recipe (although it will change the colour of the sauce).


Did you make this Bicol Express? Please leave us a comment below.

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