Chicken Bicol Express is a delicious and spicy Filipino stew dish that originates from the Bicol region of the Philippines. It gets its name from the spicy, coconut-based sauce that gives the dish its distinctive fiery flavor.
If you love my easy Pork Bicol Express Recipe, you should try this Chicken version too. It is a delightful culinary adventure that brings together succulent chicken, creamy coconut, and spicy flavors. It is one of my ultimate comfort foods with big flavors.
- Chicken: Start with boneless and skinless chicken pieces for a convenient and quick preparation. Thighs or breast meat work well, offering a balance of tenderness and flavor. Thighs have more fat content that keeps the chicken moist after cooking. Chicken breast on the other hand has more protein content than thighs.
- Coconut Milk: A crucial element that lends a rich and creamy texture to your dish. Use fresh coconut milk for an authentic taste, or opt for canned coconut milk for convenience.
- Bagoong (Shrimp Paste): Bicol Express gets its umami depth from bagoong, a fermented shrimp paste. Adjust the quantity based on your taste preferences, as it adds a unique salty and savory kick to the dish. You can also substitute shrimp paste with fish sauce in the same quantity.
- Chilies: The heart of the spiciness in Chicken Bicol Express comes from long green and red chili peppers. Adjust the quantity based on your spice tolerance, and feel free to add bird's eye chilies for an extra kick.
- Garlic, Onion, and Ginger: These aromatic ingredients form the flavor base of the dish. Sauteeing them together creates a fragrant foundation for the other flavors to build upon.
Step 1. Heat a skillet and pour 2 tablespoons of cooking oil. Sauté the sliced onions, minced garlic, and ginger until aromatic.
Step 2. Add the chicken to a pan and cook, stirring occasionally until it turns light and no longer pink.
Step 3. Add the shrimp paste, stir well to combine, and cook for 2 minutes.
Step 4. Pour in the coconut milk. Simmer for 20-30 minutes until the coconut white sauce becomes thick.
Step 5. Add the sliced green and red chili and cook for about 2-4 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. For a thicker and creamier sauce, add coconut cream at the end of cooking and let it cook for a few minutes. Serve on a serving plate with a bowl of warm rice on the side.
- Use boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Chicken thighs stand up well to the braising cooking method used for Bicol Express. Boneless thighs make the dish easier to eat.
- Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces so they braise quickly and absorb all the flavors of the sauce. Pieces that are too large will take too long to cook through.
- Don't skimp on the chili peppers. The heat and flavor of the peppers are essential in Bicol Express. Use fresh siling labuyo or bird's eye chilies if you can find them. If not, another small red chili-like arbol works well.
- Add eggplant or green beans for extra texture.
- Toast the chili peppers. Quickly toast the chilies in a dry pan over medium heat before adding other ingredients. This intensifies their flavor so they impart more kick.
- Saute the aromatics thoroughly. Be sure to saute the onions, garlic, and ginger until very fragrant and translucent to build maximum flavor.
- Simmer low and slow. Once all ingredients are added, simmer very gently for about 20 minutes or longer for the chicken to braise until fall-apart tender.
- Serve over rice. As with Pork Bicol Express, chicken Bicol Express goes perfectly with steamed rice to mellow out the spiciness.
- If you love more chicken recipes, check out my Chicken Wings Adobo, Chicken Marsala, Glazed Pineapple Chicken, and Chicken Tocino.
About Chicken Bicol Express
While accounts differ, most food historians trace the Bicol Express back to the time when the Bicol railway opened in the early 1900s. The train was nicknamed "Bicol Express" as it passed through towns known for their chili peppers and spicy cuisine. Vendors at train stations created the stew to appeal to passengers' tastes.
Over time, Bicol Express became better known and spread to restaurants across the Philippines. It remains a specialty of Bicol but is now a popular comfort food for many Filipino families across the country and even abroad. The tasty combination of chicken and chilies makes it a classic.
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Chicken Bicol Express
- 1 pound chicken thigh (boneless and skinless) or chicken breast
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 1 small yellow onion
- 2 teaspoon garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon ginger minced
- 2 tablespoons shrimp paste
- 2 large serrano pepper or green chilli
- 2 large Thai red chilies
- 1 can coconut milk 14 ounces
- Heat a skillet and pour 2 tablespoons of cooking oil. Sauté the sliced onions, minced garlic, and ginger until aromatic.
- Add the chicken to a pan and cook, stirring occasionally until it turns light and no longer pink.
- Add the shrimp paste, stir well to combine, and cook for 2 minutes.
- Pour in the coconut milk. Simmer for 20-30 minutes until the coconut white sauce becomes thick.
- Add the sliced green and red chili and cook for about 2-4 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper.
- For a thicker and creamier sauce, add about ¼ cup of coconut cream at the end of cooking and let it cook for a few minutes. Serve on a serving plate with a bowl of warm rice on the side. Enjoy!