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food odyssey

laing Mar 29, 2009

Laing (Pinangat) and Bicol Express

Bicol has always been known for its hot and spicy culinary dishes prepared with coconut milk, the 2 most famous being the laing and Bicol Express.

What is Bicol Express?
Bicol Express is pork cooked in coconut milk and spiced up with hot peppers. Interestingly, this dish was born in the Malate district of Manila, but done in the Bicol style of cooking.

What is Laing?
Laing, I later found out, is a Manila term applied to Bicol's pinangat. While laing served in Manila has pork and spices added to it, Bicol's pinangat is a vegetarian offering, cooked in coconut milk until reduced, and wrapped in gabi leaves. I'll use the words laing and pinangat interchangeably. There is a right way to prepare the taro leaves. If not prepared right, it will leave a stingy itch in the mouth.

Hit or Miss Laing
As a general rule, I go for the region's culinary specialty whenever they have one. Being in Bicol, my radar was up for the best laing and Bicol Express. To my dismay, I've had a few misses. I thought laing was good everywhere in Bicol. After asking around, I was repeatedly told that the best laing could be had in the town of Camalig - a jeep ride away from Legazpi proper. Needless to say, I was on the jeep for my laing treat.

Camalig
In Camalig, specialty laing restaurants were lined up side by side along a section of the main road. They all specialize in 3 dishes - laing (again, locally called Pinangat), Bicol Express snd inulukan (don't ask me about this. I was too full to order this third option). I would always order laing and Bicol Express + rice.

Food Synergy
Laing by itself is a stand alone dish. Its soft milky texture leaves an agreeable finish on the palette. Bicol Express on the other hand has a much stronger flavor, edgy and leaves a bite. By combining both, I get a dish offering the best of both plus an added bonus. The resulting dish offers the texture and consistency of laing's taro leaves, the edge and robust taste of the meat in Bicol Express, while underscoring the coconut flavor that binds them both. I don't know what to call this dish but to me, it's more than the sum of the laing and the Bicol Express. Analogy? Hmmm...think French Bordeaux. It has the roundness of Merlot grapes and the strong tannic presence of Cabernet Sauvingon. Together, they bring balance to this great wine - same thing for this Bicol dish.

Ending Thoughts
I cannot help but be reminded of my batchoy experience in Iloilo where you are always assured batchoy is good. You cannnot have bad batchoy in Iloilo. Here in Bicol, that's not necessarily the case. You have to go to Camalig to enjoy genuine laing and Bicol Express. I'm sure good laing can be had in one-off restaurants within Bicol, but that's playing Russian Roulette if you don't have local guidance. If you want a sure thing, short of being invited to a home-cooked meal, Camalig is the place.

But don't let Camalig be the last word on laing and Bicol Express. If you know of any other place (anywhere, not just Bicol) where laing and Bicol Express is at their best, please let me know, and I'll post it in this story.

--- TheLoneRider

    Visitors' Feedback on good Laing/Bicol Express places:
  • i know this really good laing place in p.tuazon, malapit sa chocolate lovers palace...katapat ng dating LVN studios. Laing, Atbp. pangalan. carinderia style pero saraaap -- Vyzx
  • laing pizza at CWC Camsur -- Bernz
  • laing/bicol express pizza (P210) at CWC is fab! Also, P30/serving at a local carinderia in Kamias (k-6 st corner k-h) -- Wanderosa
P3240141 P3240172 P3240176 P3240177
P3240180 P3240182 P3240183 P3240184
P3240185 P3240186 P3240187 P3240189
P3240192 P3260258 P3260259 P3270378
P3270379 P3270380 P3280503  

Reader Comments:

Berns BrillantesBerns Brillantes
(Oct 27, 2012) Bumatay...they have Laing and Bicol Express authentic from Bicol.



Richard R
(September 12, 2012) ano ba 'to, puro na lng tagalog terms, pati laing ginawang tagalog origin? laing and pinangat are two different dishes prepared in two different ways.


Charo D. Listana
(Nov 8, 2011) Hi, without battlng an eyelash, I can tell you that my husband cooks laing in its finest. We'll be joining in the Pasko sa Busku at Don Bosco Parish Makati City this November 17 and 20. See you at Kiosk 17 and you'll come to taste laing like never before! :)


TheLoneRider"Laing is not wrapped in coconut leaves, but in gabi leaves" -- Mech
TheLoneRider
(Jan 19, 2011) Of course! That was quite observant of you, Mech. The correction has been done. Much thanks!


MechMech
(Jan 19, 2011) Laing is not wrapped in coconut leaves, but in gabi leaves. A strip of coconut leaf is used to secure the wrapping :)


VyxzVyxz
(Aug 28, 2009) i know this really good laing place in p.tuazon, malapit sa chocolate lovers palace thingy, na malapit din sa bahay ko. they have bicol express too! and cheap! katapat ng dating LVN studios. Laing, Atbp. pangalan. carinderia style pero saraaap


WanderosaWanderosa
(Aug 27, 2009) Didn't have time to go biking in Camalig so settled with pinangat in Naga City. I sampled the pinangat of Geewan... it was very, very good with shredded fish inside. The coconut sauce was creammmmmy.
There's a restaurant near the palengke just off Panganiban Avenue. I also found an outlet at the fastfood section at SM Naga City (P50/serving). Yum!
And, yes, the laing/bicol express pizza (P210) at CWC is fab!
In QC, I sampled good pinangat (P30/serving) at a local carinderia in Kamias (k-6 st corner k-h).


Bernz"I'm sure there's lots of good laing places in Manila too....kaya lang, saan?" -- TheLoneRider
Bernz
(Aug 27, 2009) It was really, really good in an unexpected sort of way. Hmm will have to think about this a bit. I remember there are in Manila but I'm not sure again where. Will get back to you on this :)


TheLoneRider"You should try the Laing pizza we ate at CWC Camsur" -- Bernz
TheLoneRider
(Aug 27, 2009) ay...sayang! I was already at CWC 3 days earlier. I'm sure there's lots of good laing places in Manila too....kaya lang, saan?


BernzBernz
(Aug 27, 2009) You should try the Laing pizza we ate at CWC Camsur :) Really good!


Liezle Sabinorio"let me know when you guys serve Laing...I'll be there!" -- TheLoneRider
Liezle Sabinorio
(Aug 27, 2009) sure!


TheLoneRider"...meron din nyan dito sa KAISAHAN" -- Liezle
TheLoneRider
(Aug 27, 2009) he-he...let me know when you guys serve Laing...I'll be there!


Liezle SabinorioLiezle Sabinorio
(Aug 27, 2009) meron din nyan dito sa KAISAHAN hehehe, pero mabuti yan nakarating ka sa Bicol mas marami kang napag-pilian. Sana ay na-enjoy mo rin ang aming probinsya at nakakain ka ng pinaka-Masiram na produkto nin Bikol.





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