Pepper and Spice


Aside from Mt. Mayon and pili nuts, my home province of Bicol prides itself with the ubiquitous little pepper. We prepare and prefer our food to be spicy hot and usually mixed with coconut milk. One outstanding dish is called “Bicol Express”. It is an extremely spicy dish generally made up of pork slices cooked with coconut milk, shrimp paste and lots of green chili and red chili peppers. Looks very appetizing when served. But if your tongue and palate is not programmed for spicy food, just one small gulp of Bicol Express would make you wish you had the fire department beside you. It sure is H-O-T! No wonder bicolanos are locally known to be passionate and romantic lovers or “URAGONs”. Is it because of our love for spicy food? Perhaps it is a myth. Bicolanos are a daring breed of people. They want to prove their gastronomical courage to savor and enjoy spicy food. And besides chili, chili peppers are known for their medicinal properties. It is a good source of calcium, vitamin B, phosphorous and iron. Most linaments and oil rubs contain pepper properties to counter pain or irritations and also serves as an analgesic. It can cure arthritis, muscle pains, diabetes and obesity. I know of some lady friends who love to pick and munch those tiny but very fiery red peppers we call “labuyo” as if they were simply chewing peppermint gum. Labuyo’s are found in every home garden.

Well, please don’t get me wrong. Not all Bicolanos are fond of spicy and peppery food. However, a great majority of our men folk can’t do without it. They are known to be better cooks than their wives. It is an inherited culinary culture that makes Bicolanos a unique breed. Yes, a chili pepper is sure HOT but I guess it is more of the excitement and daring that spells the difference!

[Originally published at rated 4/5 Star]


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