This vegan vegetarian Bicol Express is a favorite Filipino food that is heartwarming, creamy and spicy. It’s best served with steamed rice and will bring a smile to anyone who enjoys authentic Filipino Dishes, but without the meat.
Many times, I eat Filipino dishes without knowing the actual name of the Filipino food I’m eating and this is one of those dishes. I usually called this recipe Tofu with Green Beans.
And sometimes I didn’t include coconut milk when cooking this dish, but the coconut milk gives the authenticity of this vegan vegetarian Bicol Express. So as much as possible include it when you make it.
Anyways, I hope you enjoy this recipe and let me know what’s your favorite Filipino food in the comments.
Why is it called Bicol Express?
The famous and long-time favorite dish of the Filipinos, Bicol Express was named after a public passenger train who travels from Manila, the capital city, to the region of Bicol. (Very anti-climatic, right?)
The Bicol region is very well-known as the place of all the spicy cuisine in the Philippines since they grow a lot of chili peppers and the Bicolanos are pepper lovers. There are several chili peppers that can be used for the Bicol Express dish. Some use the long chili peppers which are green in color.
Others use the small chili peppers that are very tiny but gives out a very spicy taste. But if you don’t like spicy food, feel free to omit the chili peppers.
Tips and Tricks for Making This Vegetarian Bicol Express Recipe:
- After slicing the tofu into cubes, make sure to tap it dry using a clean kitchen cloth. Allowing the tofu dry will prevent you from getting burns because tofu can sometimes be watery. When you fry watery tofu, it tends to splatter oil and it can be a cause of burn in your skin.
- The original Bicol Express recipe has its ingredients finely chopped. So in cooking this vegetarian version of Bicol Express, try your best to chop the vegetables and tofu in almost the same sizes. It also makes it prettier when plating it 🙂
- You can reduce the number of chili peppers in the recipe if you are not very tolerant to spicy dishes.
- When adding the coconut milk, make sure not to add too much water to the grated or ground coconut meat. Adding too much water will make your coconut milk too thin and we want the Bicol Express to be creamy, not too soupy or watery.
- The vegetarian bean paste replaces the original ingredient shrimp paste. It’s optional to use vegetarian bean paste, but it certainly makes the recipe better if you can get it.
How to Make this Vegetarian Bicol Express Recipe:
Gather the ingredients for this Vegetarian Bicol Express and once the ingredients are all ready, let’s begin!
- coconut oil
- vegetarian bean paste
- coconut milk
- soy sauce
- string beans
- Baguio beans
- chilies (siling haba)
Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat and add oil. Add onions, garlic, and saute for 1 minute or until translucent:
Add tofu and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Then add bean paste and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 1 to 2 minutes:
Add coconut milk and bring to a simmer, then add soy sauce:
Add 1 cup of string beans and mixed cover it for 3 minutes:
Then add 1 cup Baguio beans then cover for 2 minutes:
Add chili peppers and mix:
After about 5 minutes or when veggies are cooked (beans will be tender) and the liquid has evaporated, add the remaining coconut milk and continue to simmer until it thickens and begins to render the fat:
Add salt and season with pepper and more salt to taste:
See how easy and quick that was?!? This Vegetarian Bicol Express is best served hot. It can be eaten by itself or with a cup (or even more) of steamed white or brown rice. Yum!
Plate your Vegetarian Bicol Express in lovely white plates 🙂
This dish is spicy and so appetizing!
Frequently Asked Questions for the Vegetarian Bicol Express Recipe:
Q: Where can I find Vegetarian Meat?
A: Vegetarian meat is available in Asian grocery stores and also in regular grocery stores. Also, there are vegan vegetarian specialty stores that sell everything vegan and vegetarian.
Q: Who invented Bicol Express?
A: Bicol Express was first cooked and invented by a lady restaurateur in the Philippines named Mrs. Cecilia Villanueva who was born and raised in the place of Laguna, Philippines.
Q: What is the use of coconut milk in the recipe?
A: The coconut milk is the thickening agent in the recipe. It makes the Bicol Express creamy and it binds all the flavors of the spices and vegetables together.
Q: Can I add in other vegetables aside from Baguio Beans and string beans?
A: Yes, in fact, you can add in eggplants, okra or patola in this dish.
Q: Can I cook this ahead and freeze it?
A: Yes, freezing this dish is a must since dishes with coconut milk or coconut cream tend to spoil a lot faster. Just make sure that you thaw it before serving. You can also warm the vegetarian Bicol Express in a microwave or a stovetop.
More Delicious Authentic Filipino Recipes:
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 onion chopped
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 250 grams tofu cut into half-inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon vegetarian bean paste*
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 cup string beans thinly sliced
- 1 cup baguio beans thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- pinch of pepper
- 4 pcs finger chilies siling haba, sliced
- Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat and add oil. Add onions, garlic and saute for 1 minute or until translucent.
- Add tofu and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned.
- Add bean paste and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add coconut milk and bring to a simmer, then add soy sauce.
- Add 1 cup of string beans and mixed cover it for 3 minutes.
- Then add 1 cup baguio beans then cover for 2 minutes.
- Add chili peppers and mix.
- After about 5 minutes or when veggies are cooked (beans will be tender) and the liquid has evaporated, add the remaining coconut milk and continue to simmer until it thickens and begins to render the fat.
- Add salt and season with pepper and more salt to taste. Serve hot.
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