Bicol Express (Chilli and Pork in Coconut Gravy)

Now this dish is for the brave who would dare to take one of the hottest dishes in the Philippines. Bicol Express originated from Bicol which is a Southern Luzon province which is popular for its chillies and coconuts, the chillies grown here in are called “siling labuyo” or Birds Eye chilli which on my own opinion is one of the hottest chilli I tasted and it’s definitely hotter than Jalapeno Pepper. To see how it is scaled on the Scoville Heat Scale here are some popular chillies with their rating:

  • 100,000 – 350,000 Habanero (Capsicum chinense Jacquin)
  • 100,000 – 225,000 Birds Eye pepper
  • 50,000 – 100,000 Thai pepper (Capsicum annuum)
  • 30,000 – 50,000 Tabasco pepper (Capsicum frutescens)
  • 30,000 – 50,000 Finger Chillies
  • 2,500 – 5,000 Jalapeño (Capsicum annuum)

So if you think Thai food is hot then this is 2x hotter than a regular Thai dish. Usually Bicol Express is cooked with lots of chillies and pork cooked in a coconut milk, I remember going to that province they use at least the same amount of chillies (mixture of Birds Eye and Finger Chillies) as with the pork, 1:1 ratio. In my recipe I will use a finger chillies only which is milder and smaller amount so my daughter and wife can handle it.


800g pork belly, diced (small)
1/2 cup dried shrimps or 3 tbsp bagoong (shrimp paste)
6-10 finger chillies, julienned
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 red onion, chopped
3 cups coconut milk
freshly ground black pepper


1. In a pan sauté garlic and onions.
2. Add the pork belly stir fry for a couple of minutes.
3. Add the 2 cups of coconut milk and dried shrimps then bring to a boil and simmer in medium heat for 20 minutes or until the coconut milk had reduced to a thick oily gravy.
4. Add the chillies and add the second can of coconut milk and continue to simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Add salt and pepper to taste.

If you can’t find bagoong in your place you can easily order them at Amazon

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29 thoughts on “Bicol Express (Chilli and Pork in Coconut Gravy)

  1. I’m not sure if I could do this one or not…but I’m always up for trying new things. My grandpa on the other hand could probably eat bowls of this and not break a sweat. The guy puts spicy food away like no one I’ve ever seen before. ;)

  2. the finger chilis are just for show and color :D it’s the siling labuyo that will do the trick. lots of it. technically, it is ginataang sili. There’s always one frozen pot of bikol express in my ref, ready for action whenever the hankering for spiciness comes. I’m from Bikol by the way.

  3. Hi! This is my first visit to your blog. It’s wonderful that you’re featuring and promoting a lot of Filipino dishes. :) I’m from Bicol but I’ve been living in Japan for years. Anyway, I’m thrilled to see Bicol Express featured here.May I share how we cook it back home. Localities in the region may have a slightly different version. The ingredients are garlic, onion, ginger, lots of alamang, some diced pork (not the main ingredient), lots of finger chillies, coconut milk (normally we don’t use coconut cream) and salt. Mix everything, boil down until the oil from the coconut milk comes out. The longer you cook it (i.e., the more oil comes out) the better it keeps.
    Here’s wishing that you’d feature many more dishes with coconut milk like laing, gulay na santol, sinanglay (fresh water fish stuffed with garlic, tomatoes and onions, wrapped in pechay and stewed in coconut milk. Some versions add achuete to color the coco milk). :)

    • Thanks for visiting my site and those suggestions, I appreciate it specially the recipes that I had missed out. Will try those dishes you mentioned if I have a chance to grab those ingredients here in NZ. BTW did you get my site though the Philippine Digest there in Japan?

  4. 1:1 Pork and Chilies? That’s crazy. As a sucker for coconut and chili kicks Bicol Express is my favourite Filipino dish. But I never found the heat (certainly not in Manila) to be close to Thai dishes. But as above 1:1 chilies and pork. You don’t get that in Thailand. If you know somewhere that does it good and hot let me know ;)

  5. hi..this is d 1st tme i visit ur blog,u knw i really lve,it gves more xcitng 2 me,that s 1 of my favorite dishes…cnt wait 2 do tht on my own…

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