No it’s not fast food because it’s called “Express”, although it’s pretty simple to make. Bicol Express is a delicacy popularized by the Philippine province of Bicol, where you’ll find tons of delicious, spicy coconut curry dishes.
My vegan version cuts back the cooking time because you don’t have to worry about cooking pork. You will have to cook raw jackfruit but that just involves boiling it in water until it’s soft. You may find raw jackfruit fresh or frozen at your Asian supermarkets.
I relied heavily on the spicy notes of garlic, onion, black pepper, and chillies, and just simple seasoning of salt. If you’d like to make it more savory, feel free to also use black bean sauce. As for the nice fattiness the pork version is known for, I used refined coconut oil instead. You may also use olive oil or vegan butter.
The traditional version also had more coconut milk. I wanted mine to just have a nice glaze. Feel free to add more coconut milk if you prefer it to be soupy.
VEGAN BICOL EXPRESS
- 5 tbsp. refined coconut oil or 4 tbsp. olive oil or vegan butter
- 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1/4 cup onion, minced
- 1/4 cup dried bean curd sticks (available at most Asian grocery stores).
- 1 block tofu, cut into cubes
- 3-4 tbsp. black bean sauce (or vegan bagoong, available here: http://astigvegan.bigcartel.com/product/vegan-shrimp-paste-or-bagoong
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 5-6 Thai chillies (2 of them minced)
- a dash of salt
- a dash of black pepper
- Remove excess moisture from the tofu using a paper towel. Heat a medium pan in high heat, add cooking oil then fry the tofu. (Tip: Fill the frying pan with tofu only half way. Never put alot of tofu all at once otherwise they won’t fry well. A splatter screen will help prevent the moisture from splattering all over your stove.) Once the tofu cubes are crispy on the outside, remove from the pan and set aside.
- Add the refined coconut oil then saute the garlic until light brown.
- Add the minced onion and saute some more until the onion is slightly tender and translucent.
- Put the, tofu, dried bean curd sticks, and Thai chillies. Mix well.
- Pour the coconut milk. Season with black bean sauce, salt and black pepper. Simmer for about 15- 20 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and serve with rice.
Even though I’m not from Bicol, I love to consider (vegan) Bicol express as my comfort food. Feel free to make one and you’ll find out why. This hearty spicy dish will make your day. Enjoy!