The Bicolanos have a rich culinary tradition that incorporates plenty of chili and coconut – two great ingredients in the area, into their dishes. Ginataang Laing is perhaps one of the best representations of this culinary tradition.  This recipe uses dried taro leaves  which is steamed in coconut milk, along with other ingredients and condiments such as pork belly cubes, dried fish and bagoong (shrimp paste).

Laing recipe is a signature dish from the Bicol region, an area of the Philippines known for its spicy and coconut milk-based dishes. The main ingredient of Laing recipe is taro leaves, known locally as “gabi” leaves. For this particular recipe, the taro leaves used are sun-dried. The dried taro leaves are cooked slowly and carefully in rich, creamy coconut milk until they are tender and have fully absorbed the flavors of the milk and the other ingredients. Protein, often in the form of shrimp, fish, or pork, is also added to Laing, but vegetarian versions are equally popular. A unique aspect of Laing is the addition of shrimp paste or “bagoong,” which adds a distinct umami flavor to the dish.

Laing is a testament to the ingenuity of Bicol cuisine, a wonderful blend of local ingredients resulting in a uniquely Filipino dish. It has gained popularity not just in the Philippines but worldwide, and it’s often served in Filipino gatherings and fiestas, representing the warmth and richness of Filipino culture and hospitality.

Janis’s Laing recipe has a slight change in the process. While the traditional Bicol recipe is done by simply mixing all ingredients in a cooking pan and simmered until cooked, she on the other hand, boiled her pork ingredient before mixing it with the rest of the ingredients. It is mainly to better tenderize the meat for better consumption.

Ingredients: 4-6 servings

200 grams dried taro leaves (ensure these are not the young leaves)
2 cups coconut milk
1 cup coconut cream (first press of the coconut milk, optional)
2 tablespoons shrimp paste (bagoong)
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons ginger, sliced thin
2 pieces of green or red chili
1 lb of pork belly, cut into small pieces
1 piece of dried fish(mackerel) cut in small pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup of water

Procedure:

  1. Clean and boil pork belly cubes in a pan until tender. Remove pork cubes and transfer meat into a large cooking pan.
  2. Combine all other ingredients with the boiled pork, including the coconut cream or milk. Turn on the stove at medium heat and bring in the mixture to a boil, while occasionally stirring.
  3. Leave it to simmer for 5-10 minutes until the coconut sauce slightly thickens. Put the dried taro leaves into the pan but do not stir. Let it cook for a bit in the mixture.
  4. Cover the pan with its lid and continue to allow it to simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Remember to restrain to stir the taro leaves, as this could result in itchy particles being released.
  5. Add more water if needed. Carefully stir mixture to allow taro leaves to incorporate with the rest of its ingredients. Continue to simmer until taro leaves are fully cooked. For better result, allow the coconut mixture to appear thicker, curdy and slightly oily.
  6. Top it with chilies if desired (you can add more if you prefer it spicier). Add more salt if desired.
  7. Remove from the heat, then serve this delicious ginataang laing hot with steamed rice. Enjoy!

Note: that Laing is traditionally spicy, but you can adjust the amount of chili to suit your own tastes. The key to this dish is patience in letting it simmer until the flavors of the coconut milk, taro leaves, and other ingredients have fully melded together. Also, try serving ginataang laing with calamansi juice or spicy vinegar with fish sauce. Palatable combination!