Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Lasang Pinoy 24: Laing


I fell in love in Bicol.

During my visit there last year, my friend K and I fell madly in love with the region’s culinary trifecta – Laing, Bicol Express, and Pinangat. All three dishes proudly bearing the two elements that Bicolano food is famous for – gata (coconut milk) and chili. Our kind hosts would valiantly try to make us eat other dishes, but we were having none of it. Really, it was unusual for us to have blinders on when it comes to food, but we could not see beyond those three dishes, devouring them with an almost angry passion. And K doesn’t even care for food that is too spicy! How do you explain that?

To this day K and I keep our eyes and noses on red alert for fine Bicol fare. We text message each other fervently when we chance on something promising and do many taste tests. When K’s nose and palate sense a good find you will hear her say softly and sweetly, “Hello friend!

Bicolano food has me whipped good and proper. It has wound its coconut milk and chili tentacles around me and refuses to let go. And I’m not struggling.

I’m making my own.

Laing (pronounced lah-ing)
(adapted from Flavors of the Philippines by Glenda Rosales-Barretto)

  • 100-150 grams “dried laing” (dried gabi/taro leaves)
  • 250 grams pork belly, boiled for 5 minutes and diced
  • 200 grams shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons chopped ginger
  • 125 grams bagoong alamang (shrimp paste)
  • 50-60 grams long green chilis (sili pangsigang), depending on how spicy you want it, half cut in two, half left whole
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 liter coconut milk
  • 400 ml coconut cream

- In a bowl, mix the pork, shrimp, onion, ginger, bagoong, the cut-up chilis, and the coconut milk. Pour this into the pot, over the leaves, and season with freshly ground black pepper.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Don’t stir…just press down on the leaves every once in a while so it soaks up the liquid.
- Add the whole chilis and the coconut cream and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Stir gently to make sure all is incorporated without mashing the leaves too much.

I based my recipe on the one found in Flavors of the Philippines by Glenda Rosales-Barretto…which incidentally (drum roll please) is my very first Filipino cookbook! I love cookbooks, but when it comes to Filipino food, relatives and friends seem to be much better sources of recipes than any book could. But it bothered me that I didn’t own even one local cookbook, so with the recommendation of a friend, I chose this one. I like it because it has a little bit from each region – Bicol included (yay!). I’ll be exploring more of this book soon :)

Glenda (first name basis already!) uses fresh gabi leaves and stalks, but I used dried (you can find this in the groceries labeled as “dried laing” or “dried gabi”). If you want to see fresh gabi leaves check here. I used the dried version because, aside from it being easier to find, fresh gabi leaves require special handling…or else they make your throat itch like the devil! I know this firsthand. Imagine thorns suddenly sprouting on the inside of your throat. You get the idea. Dried gabi leaves for me, thank you. I also used less chilis than in the original recipe and didn’t add any sili labuyo (our oh-so-spicy bird’s eye chili). This will make a fairly mild laing with just a touch of spice. Add more chilis, or use sili labuyo, to increase the heat.

Of course, K is the first person I text message when I see my brew starting to resemble the laing we know and love. I have a big batch, so I can give her a fair amount of takeaway. She comes over as soon as work is done with hot, steaming rice in tow and sits down to try my first ever laing.

Hello friend! :)

This is my entry to Lasang Pinoy 24: Loco over Coco hosted by Kai of Bucaio. I’m late! But I couldn’t miss this round…I love coconuts! :)


Manggy said...

Joey, thanks for sharing the recipe. That looks really good, even if (are you sitting down? ok? good...) I have never tried it before! (God forbid I have the canned laing.) MegaMom wanted me to try to make a laing pizza, so I have to start somewhere, right? :) But just reading about the salty, spicy flavors gets me going!

oggi said...

Your laing looks so yummy! I made laing a few months ago, I will make it again because your post is making me drool...coconut milk plus hot chiles..mmm.:)

Franco said...

Hi Joey,

I love laing (especially with a streaming bowl of rice)!!! Thanks for the recipe.

I'm considering learning how to climb coconut trees and husk coconuts just so that I can get my own coconut milk.:)

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

A wonderful dish! It's a pity I can't find those leaves... Yummy!



Kelly-Jane said...

I used to have a lovely Philipino neighbour, and she just seemed to cook from her head and her friends recipes too.

Glad you are having fun with Glenda, and sharing good food is always a good thing!

Jescel said...

hmmn.. the picture made my mouth water.. too bad i can't get all the ingedients here in miami, fl

katiez said...

I know I can't get the ingredients but I really should have a filipino cook book in my collection... One with lots of pretty pictures. Added to my Amazon wish list this day!

Bordeaux said...

I can see why you and your friend only ordered laing. The ingredients and preparation process sounds mouthwatering and yours look fantastic. I hope I can find gabi leaves at our market to try it out soon.

mtan said...

Ah Joey, you made the laing! Next Bicol Express!!!

(I can see Franco climbing up the coconut tree now...)

You know how much of a chillihead I am so I'll be adding more siling mahaba to it.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Manggy! No way! Really? It's really yummy...if you like things with gata. And knowing your coco-relationship I'm not sure? Anyways, it's a snap to make and so good :) I had laing pizza in Bicol...YUM!

Hi Oggi! Thanks...and that's saying a lot cosidering laing is not the most glam-looking of dishes ;) I saw your laing and Bicol Express posts...oohlala!

Hey Franco! You're welcome :) I'll be making the Bicol Express recipe from your site soon! I know what you mean about the coconuts...just count yourself lucky that we are in a country where access to them is relatively easy :) What I would like is that little stool/grater contraption that they have been using to grate niyog since the olden know that one? :)

Thanks Rosa! :) It is quite yummy and comforting :)

Hi Kelly-jane! Yes, a lot of Filipinos, when it comes to Filipino cooking, just cook from their heads (using recipes handed down from grandmas and old aunts) -- which is part of the reason I think our cookbook industry is so small!

Hi Jescel! If you have relatives visiting you maybe they can bring you the dried leaves...all dried up it reminds me of loose tea leaves and that shouldn't be a problem I think -- although I have to say, it doesn't look so innocent squashed into a ziplock bag!

Hi Katiez! Yours and Jescel's and Rosa's comment is making me think of a possible substitute...after all this is basically a dish of greens braised in coconut milk...hmmm :) If you ever try a Filipino dish in any shape or form please let me know!

Hi Bordeaux! native dish thanks you :) It is truly delicious if you are fond of coconut milk...which I am and I think you are too :) If you find fresh gabi leaves be careful though as they require special preparation, unlike dried which I can just toss it the pot! :)

Hi Mila! I know! I was so thrilled and it was so easy! :) Yes, Bicol Express next definitely :)

Kai said...

Hmmm, I never made laing because I thought it is hard to make, but you make it sound so easy. Good thing dried gabi leaves are available in the market, I'm raring to try it.

Thanks for joining LP24, Joey!

JMom said...

oh my, I could almost smell it cooking, reading your post. :) I'll have to try looking for dried gabi leaves. Maybe our local Pinoy store will have it.

christine said...

Aw I can't believe I missed this LP! Wish I checked out what this round was about, cos if I knew it was about coconut I would have surely joined! That laing sounds and looks so good, I've been meaning to get myself a copy of that cookbook. :) Now I really will!

zlamushka said...

Hey Joey,

What a fab dish. I have never tasted taro leaves. Anything close to spinach or morning glory?

ChichaJo said...

Hi Kai! Thank you for choosing a fantastic theme! I really enjoyed making (and eating!) this :) It is a lot simpler than I thought…for such great reward!

Hi Jmom! It’s really easy with the dried gabi leaves :)

Hi Nens! Aw! I know…you are certainly “loco over coco” ;) I’ll make you timbre next time :) I like this cookbook because for a “first Filipino cookbook” it covers a lot of ground and you can explore dishes by region…which I like :)

Hi Zlamushka! Thanks :) In taste/feel, it would be kinda similar to morning glory or spinach, however, if you cook it you will need to use a green that would stand up to the longer cooking time, which spinach will if you cook you may have to use something like Swiss chard...

bursky said...

my rumbling tummy must have this soon. :D ahaha... are those stalks or sili?

ChichaJo said...

Hi Bursky! Those are sili (pangsigang) :)

Pinaybackpacker said...

I really like this concept of Lasang Pinoy. Thanks for coming up with this. :D

ChichaJo said...

Hi Pinaybackpacker! It was actually some other Filipino bloggers who came up with the event...but I try to participate when I can! :)