The Bicol region is known for their coconut milk dishes and this is one of my favorites. I also consider it a comfort food. In Western countries, you can find the dried Taro (Gabi) leaves in the Asian supermarkets. In the Philippines, the Gabi leaves are found in the wet markets and sometimes, the stalks are still included. There are some tales about some Gabi leaves that if itâ€™s not the right variety, it can cause an itchy throat. So better ask the vendor if itâ€™s the right one. I also remember that the leaves must be very dry that is why it uses so much water and coconut milk to cook. I put in water and not pure coconut milk to cook it because it can be too rich if itâ€™s pure coconut milk.
- 1/4 cup cooking oil
- 2 liters (8 cups) water
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon crushed garlic
- 2 cups onion – chopped
- 1 tablespoon ginger – finely sliced julienne (like matchsticks)
- 1/2 cup bagoong alamang guisado – sautÃ©ed shrimp paste – give it a quick rinse in water and drain well
- 500 grams pork belly (liempo) – sliced into tiny pieces 1/4-inch by 1-inch strips
- 120 grams dried taro leaves (gabi leaves)
- 1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes or 2 lady finger chili (siling mahaba) cut into little rounds
- 3 cups coconut cream – from the first squeeze of coconut or boxed coconut cream
- salt to taste – start with 1 teaspoon
- In a cooking pot that can hold around 12 cups, place over low fire.
- Pour in the cooking oil and saute the garlic and onion till the onion is translucent; around 8 minutes.
- Add the ginger, bagoong, and pork slices.
- Stir around for 2 minutes.
- Pour in 8 cups of water and 1 cup coconut milk.
- Add the gabi leaves, chili flakes or siling mahaba and stir to just mix the gabi leaves.
- Cover the pot and let simmer for 1 hour over low fire; do not stir.
- To prevent it from sticking, with a spatula, slide around edges to bottom of pot.
- Pour in the 3 cups of coconut cream; again use spatula to just blend in cream.
- Simmer for another 30 minutes or till the mixture becomes oily and the coconut cream is slightly coagulated.
- Taste and season with salt, starting with just 1 teaspoon.
- Serve with steaming hot rice.
- This makes a good pot of Laing for 8 to 10 persons.
- You can freeze this in smaller portions for serving later.
- Thaw and reheat.
- You can make it more spicy by adding more chili; that is up to you. This is a mild version.
- You can also put in spooned-scooped young coconut (buko), from 2 buko, when you simmer with coconut cream.