The original objective was a meaty, spicy and creamy bowl of bicol express. :) But one critical assumption was dead wrong, and it reminds me to taste, taste and taste again rather than relying solely on the word of a market vendor. I purchased a lot of incredibly fresh siling mahaba or finger chilies at the FTI market earlier today. From another vendor who specializes in Ilocano produce, I bought a huge hand full of smaller dark green chilies, which she volunteered were NOT SPICY at all. I said “are you sure?” and she said, “milder than the chilies I had just purchased at the next stall”. Yeah, right. :)
Back at home, we removed the piths and seeds of 3/4 of the siling mahaba, and chopped up all the “milder chilies” with seeds and all. One of the crew looked at me funny and said the little green chilies were SPICY but I wasn’t that alarmed, confident the Ilocana knew what she was talking about. As a precaution, I set aside almost half of the small chilies, and removed the seeds from all of the siling mahaba. Sauteed some ginger in a tablespoon of lard, added about 250 grams of pork belly, sliced into small pieces, and sauteed for a few minutes. Added some chopped garlic, then a few minutes later some coconut cream/milk. The chilies went in next, and then two tablespoons of bagoong alamang or shrimp paste. Stirred and let this simmer for 5-8 minutes and added a touch of salt. Tasted it with a teaspoon and my head nearly exploded like a New Year’s eve firework. It was so darned spicy it cleared my sinuses in milliseconds. Much more incendiary than most people can handle. So I was facing absolute disaster if I couldn’t remedy this.
Looking around the kitchen, I noticed two small bunches of sigarilyas or winged beans that I had also purchased at the market, and lots of Gejo’s tomatoes from this delivery. So we washed the sigarilyas, chopped them quickly and added them to the pot. I also added in a handful of tomatoes for color and bulk, and a half a can of coconut cream to add sweetness and dilute the spice. Two tablespoons of sugar was also added to try and counter the spice. A few minutes later we took it off the flames and I dipped a spoon to taste it. Nice! Disaster avoided. It was still very spicy, so most of us at lunch ate the veggies and meat, but avoided the creamy thick sauce laden with capsaicin. It would have been a lot nicer with half the spicy chilies, but at least we didn’t have to throw the food out. The tomatoes added color and texture, but that’s about it… put them in if you like, but they are by no means essential
The slight crunchy/chewy texture of the sigarilyas worked really well in the coconut based stew of sorts. Will definitely be making this again, but a lot less fiery chilies. You will need a lot of rice to finish this bowl of bicol express gone wild. I suppose this is one way to create new recipes, out of unintended mistakes. :)