Coconut is one of the top 5 major crops of Bicol so it is to be expected that coconut milk is a prominent ingredient in this region’s cuisine. Like adobo sa gata, laing is another classic example of the Bicolano’s affinity to chili peppers and their wide use of gata (coconut milk) in cooking.
Laing is a vegetable dish made with dried taro (gabi) leaves, coconut milk, shrimp paste and chili peppers. It can be prepared meatless, with shrimp, dried fish or in this case, succulent pork belly strips. As raw gabi leaves are high in calcium oxalate, they can cause an “itchy” sensation in the mouth when eaten under cooked. In the Philippines, the leaves are dried out under the sun and then shredded into pieces before cooking to prevent this irritation. According to old-school wisdom, it’s also best not to stir the gabi leaves during the first 15 to 20 minutes they are added into the pot. How about you? How do you cook laing?
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 onion, peeled and sliced thinly
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 thumb-size ginger, peeled and minced
- 1 pound pork belly, diced
- 1 tablespoon shrimp paste
- 4 cups coconut milk
- 4 cups dried gabi leaves
- 6 to 7 Thai chili peppers, chopped
- 1 cup coconut cream
- salt to taste
- In a pot over medium heat, heat oil. Add onions, garlic and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, until limp and aromatic. Add pork and cook until lightly browned. Add shrimp paste and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add coconut milk and bring to a simmer. Add gabi leaves and with back of spoon, push down into the liquid until moistened. Add chili peppers. Lower heat, cover and cook for about 25 to 30 minutes or until leaves have softened. Add coconut cream and continue to cook for about 10 to 15 minutes or mixture is almost dry and begins to render fat. Season with salt to taste.