Crispy Pork Bicol Express

Crispy Pork Bicol Express

Hello Everyone! I can’t believe that this is the last recipe for my Coconut series on the blog – time sure does fly by in the wink of an eye. I’ve enjoyed cooking up a coconut storm in the kitchen for the past month, though I’ve realised that all my recipes (expect for one) focused on using Coconut Milk instead of the actual fruit itself *whoops* Nevertheless, I still covered the brief for the month… Hopefully. I did say in my very first post of the year that I will be “cooking with fruits or their… Derivatives“.

For my last Coconut recipe of the month, I will be sharing with you the ultimate Filipino Comfort Food (well let’s face it, almost every Filipino dish is worthy of the ‘ultimate’ title), known as Bicol Express.

Now, I can get into the whole in-depth history of its origins and disputes, but I honestly have no mental power right now to paraphrase the information I’ve read up on. For those who are interested, here’s an article on Market Manila I stumbled upon while trying to figure out why this dish is named ‘Bicol Express’ – which by the way until now remains a mystery to me. Other than it being a catchy name, it’s name is also derived from an overnight passenger train service from Manila to the Bicol region; a region in the Philippines that is famous for their spicy cuisine.

Crispy Pork Bicol Express

Bicol Express is a dish made from pork, bagoong (salted shrimp fry), coconut milk, and lots and lots of chillies that is of course adjustable to your tolerance of spice. Bicol Express is traditionally cooked by stewing the ingredients altogether while crisping up the pork first is just another creative way of enjoying the dish. I prefer it this way just because I love a nice crisp skin when it comes to pork. Roasting it rather than deep-frying it also makes me feel a little less guilty *cheeky grin* but unfortunately, truth be told that this dish is not exactly waist-friendly. Succulent pork belly cubes and a creamy coconut sauce does come with a price to pay!

Crispy Pork Bicol Express Ingredients


*Allow of 24 hours of resting time in the fridge for the pork belly after boiled.


For the lechon kawali

  • 1 kg pork belly
  • 6 dried bay leaves
  • 1 tsp ground salt
  • 1 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • Extra salt, for roasting

For the Bicol Express sauce

  • 2 cups coconut milk (fresh, canned, or frozen)
  • 1/2 cup pork stock (from boiling the pork)
  • 5 red bird’s eye chillies, sliced
  • 3 long green chillies, sliced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small red onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 tbsp bagoong alamang (salted shrimp fry)
  • Ground black pepper, to taste


  1. Lechon Kawali: Score the pork belly skin with a very sharp knife. Place the meat in a large pot with water, 1 tsp of the whole peppercorns and half of the bay leaves. Boil for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and drain, placing in a large bowl and let to cool to room temperature.

Tip: Do not throw out the remaining pork stock. Reserve the pork stock to make other dishes or to use as a soup base. Keep in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

  1. Once the meat has cooled down, refrigerate uncovered for at least 24 hours for a better result. Refrigerating the meat will help to draw out any remaining moisture. Remove from the refrigerator and bring back to room temperature prior to roasting in the oven.
  2. Preheat oven between 220-240C (425-475F or gas mark 7-9). Rub oil and plenty of salt into the scored skin, really getting it into the slits of the score marks. The fat under the skin will react to the salt and that is what makes the skin puff up and crisp up.
  3. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes and then bring the temperature down to 160C (325F or gas mark 3) and roast for another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the meat rest for 20 minutes. Then cut the pork into chunks and plate.
  4. Bicol Express Sauce: While the pork is roasting in the oven, prepare the Bicol Express sauce by heating about a tablespoon of oil over medium-high in a medium-sized cooking pot. Sauté the minced garlic until golden brown and fragrant, about 30 seconds, and then add in the onions. Cook until soft, a further minute or so.
  5. Add the salted shrimp fry and cook for about 3-4 minutes before adding the coconut milk and pork stock. Lower the heat down and bring to a slow boil. It is important to bring it back to a boil slowly to avoid curdling the coconut milk. This happens when it is heated too quickly.
  6. Season the sauce with ground black pepper and add in the sliced red and green chillies (reserve some for garnishing later). Continue to cook the sauce until it starts to thicken and reduce by half, about 10-15 minutes further on low heat.
  7. Once the sauce is done, pour over the plated crispy pork belly chunks and garnish with the fresh chillies.
  8. Serve with steamed jasmine rice and pair with some sautéed long beans in garlic (or any other favourite vegetable dish of yours) to balance out the richness of the Bicol Express. Enjoy!

Crispy Pork Bicol Express

Before I end tonight’s post, I just want to say that next week I will be back with a new fruit to hero with my upcoming recipes to share so stay tuned for that!


– Ally xx

Mr. Crackles

Hello Everyone and welcome back to an all new Review Sunday! Just a little heads up, next week Sunday will the the last Sunday that I will be doing reviews. I’ve come to a point where I’ve pretty much covered all of the places I’ve been to when I was in Sydney and haven’t been to restaurants, cafés, and/or eateries around Brunei – well I have, but I haven’t been in a I-need-to-take-a-picture-of-this-so-I-can-review-it-for-later kind of mood lately. Don’t fret! I will still be posting on Sundays, they just won’t be reviews. Instead, I will be sharing with you some of my design works since I believe that the last time I posted anything design related on my blog was about a year ago; so you’ve got that to look forward to!

Back on topic, today I will be reviewing one of the best places, in my opinion, to get a fairly priced roll of tender, succulent, crispy-skinned pork crackling. Excuse me for a second while I wipe the drool that just dribbled down my chin as I typed that. Only kidding, but seriously, if you’re ain’t watching your calories, this is where you need to be at every opportunity you get! I’ve passed this place so many times before as it’s within probably a 10-minute walk away from campus, but I’ve never really gone inside and tried their rolls until August of last year I think (and I had been living in Sydney since 2011)! My high school friend (and still friends now) Andrew was visiting from Brunei/UK and I decided to take him here for lunch before his flight back to Melbourne, and then Brunei, eventually to the UK. Of course Jialing was with us too; no food adventure would be complete with my partner in crime.

The second time I came here was the Christmas of 2014 I believe, and that was when I saw my friend Marissa post a photo of their special Christmas roll; apple sauce and cranberry relish paired with crispy pork?! Hells yes! Of course I went back with Jialing; she indulged in her Sticky BBQ Pork again. I think I may have gone back a couple times more before I introduced this place to my family when they were over for my graduation in June. Everyone, and of course myself included, loved this place, and how I wish that a Mr. Crackles existed on one of the side streets of Brunei. I’d be their number 1 customer hands down!


Mr. Crackles: Crackles Christmas Roll
Crackles Christmas Roll: Crispy pork, apple sauce, cranberry relish, and herb crumb ($13.50)

As mentioned above, I could not resist saying no to this little gem. I think what got me was the apple sauce and cranberry relish; first, you can’t go wrong with crispy pork crackling being paired with some apple sauce. Secondly, the cranberry relish to really pull the idea of Christmas together in this man-sized roll. The pork was, as always, cooked perfectly; tender, juicy meat with a satisfying crispy crackling for that crunch we all look for in a great roast pork. Everything else complimented the roll nicely.

Mr. Crackles: Braised Beef Cheek
Braised beef cheek, parmesan mash, and gremolata crumble in a soft bun ($13.50)

I mean, I know the presentation of this roll is less enticing and extravagant than that of the other rolls, but trust me when I say that this is one pretty amazing combination of tender braised beef cheeks and parmesan mash in a soft bun. I had actually forgotten that there was mash in this bun when I came around to eating it. This was only because the mash isn’t actually visible when you first look at the bun; it was hidden below the braised beef cheeks. When I took a bite and realised that there was in fact parmesan mash in it, it was a nice surprise indeed. If this special ever comes around again, be sure not to miss out on it!

Mr. Crackles: Sticky BBQ Pork
Smokey bbq, ranch, salad, and onion rings in a soft bun ($13.50)

I must say that amongst the other rolls, this was by far the best looking one out of the bunch. I mean, I still love and prefer a nice crispy pork on my roll, but this was just something else. Onion rings in your bun? Don’t mind if I do! Smokey, sticky, check! A bit messy to eat if you’re biting into it instead of being posh and using cutlery, but who cares really.

Mr. Crackles: Crackles Classic
Crisp skinned slow roast 5 spiced pork belly served with Vietnamese salad in a roll ($13.00)

You’ve heard me talk about the crispy pork before in the Crackles Christmas Roll, so it’s basically that, tender, juicy meat with a satisfying crispy crackling, with a nice touch of fresh Vietnamese salad to compliment the meat.

Mr. Crackles: Manwich
Twice the meat and half the salad on any of our famous rolls ($17.00)

Its like their Crackles Classic Roll only twice as much meat on it for a man-sized bite, but who says women can’t have it too?


Mr. Crackles: Crispy Pork Nacho Fries

This would’ve been flawless for me if it weren’t for the tomato sauce(?) in the nachos. I can’t quite put my finger on what it tasted like to me, but all I know was that it was a bit strong and acidic for my liking. I had to pick out the fries that were least covered in the sauce as I did not want it to go to such a shameful waste. In the end, I ended up leaving about a third of the fries behind, but still eating all of the yummy crispy pork of course!

Mr. Crackles: Buffalo Wings with Blue Cheese Dip
BUFFALO WINGS ($9.00) + blue cheese dip ($1.00)

The chicken packed just the right amount of heat in them and let’s be real here, you can’t possibly go wrong with buffalo wings AND blue cheese dip! These were delicious indeed.

Mr. Crackles: Cup of Crackling

When I first saw these cups of magical cracklings, I knew I needed to devour one. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed with them as they weren’t quite what I had imagined them to be. They were a bit too salty for my liking, hard, and dry. I prefer the crackling on top of those pieces of meat on their rolls than this crackling.

Mr. Crackles is like a Western take on a classic Vietnamese pork roll. Overall, if you want your daily fix of crispy pork crackling, be it in a roll, salad, or topped with your nacho fries, then Mr. Crackles is the place for you. I’d say that their rolls are reasonable priced for the size you get, therefore I’d give value for money an 8/10. For those who haven’t been to Mr. Crackles on Oxford Street just somewhat opposite Taylor Square, you’ll notice that they have very limited seating – 8 seats to be exact. Every time I go there though, I still manage to snag a seat and that’s only because everyone that goes there gets their rolls to go. I guess I can’t really judge the ambience of the place seeing as it’s more of a place where you’d grab your food and eat elsewhere, but if you do end up sitting down at the place to have your food, it’s quite loud from all the traffic noise on Oxford Street. It can also get a wee bit crowded if you go during peak hour, which is usually lunch and dinner I’m guessing. I saw crowded because you’ve got a lot of people lining up and waiting around for their order. If I were to give the place a rating, I’d say 7/10 as it’s alright as a takeaway place, but I’d give it a 4/10 for a sit down place. Besides that, I’m pretty sure you all know that I’m definitely going to give the food a sure 10 for the rolls. The sides had some minor issues with me, but nothing too big that would make me take it out on the rest of the menu. You can’t fault a perfectly great roast pork like that from Mr. Crackles! If you can, than you are not my friend.

Mr. Crackles
155 Oxford Street
Darlinghurst, New South Wales
Australia, 2010

– Ally xx