Friday, April 22, 2011

Bicol Laing with Taro Leaves & Coconut Milk

We visited my Auntie Nas' place in Portland, Oregon where she shared her secrets of making one of her many signature Filipino dishes, Laing. This dish is originally from the Bicol region, where my Aunt grew up, and is also where coconut milk is prominently in the local cuisine. Laing is an appetizing spicy vegetable dish with taro leaves that are slowly cooked in coconut milk seasoned with onions, garlic, ginger, fermented shrimp paste and chili.
Did you know: In Filipino, taro is called gabi and fermented shrimp paste is, bagoong.
I learned that the taro plant is native to Southeast Asia and is primarily grown as a root or a leaf vegetable. In laing, the leaf of the taro plant is the main ingredient. My Aunt told me that the taro plant is actually inedible when raw and even considered toxic. But she quickly reassured me that taro leaves that have been dried under the sun and have been cooked are completely safe to eat. Phew!

Auntie Nas shared with us an important tip: rarely stir the taro leaves while cooking! This allows the leaves to gently absorb the coconut milk like thirsty little sponges to create that creaminess in the dish, all the while not
causing that infamous itchy sensation in the throat. My goodness, but not to worry, this delectable dish is worth it!
Did you know: For those who don't have access to fresh taro leaves, you can easily find shredded dried taro leaves in stores that specialize in Asian foods. Plus, they are extremely affordable.



Ingredients:
1 can (400 ml) coconut milk
1 can (400 ml) coconut cream
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, diced
2 tbsp fresh ginger, sliced
2 tbsp shrimp fry
1 package of dried taro leaves
300 grams fresh whole shrimp
2 whole jalapeno peppers
1/4 cup green onions, chopped

Preparation:
1. In a deep pot, add the coconut milk, garlic, onions, ginger and shrimp fry. Let the coconut milk along with the other ingredient cook gently in a slow simmer for 15 minutes.
2. Add the whole shrimp to the coconut milk mixture, stir to cook.
3. Slowly add all the dried shredded taro leaves. Do not stir the leaves and cover your pot with lid to let the leaves absorb the coconut milk.
4. Once the leaves have absorbed the coconut milk, add the coconut cream to the top of the mixture and cover the pot with lid. Again, do not stir the leaves and let simmer for 15 minutes.
5. Add the jalapeno peppers and green onions and simmer for another 30 minutes. Now it's ready and laing is best served hot with plain white rice. Masarup!!!

Try this: Substitute whole shrimp with chopped pork belly.

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