Utan Bicol: Our Family’s Very Own Recipe

Type utan bicol in your search bar and you’ll never find anything about it.  Literally, utan is a Cebuano word which means vegetable and Bicol is a region at the southernmost tip of Luzon which comprises of the provincesAlbay, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Sorsogon, Catanduanes, and Masbate.  You might get confused here.  A dish’s name originating from two places that are miles apart, Bicol and Cebu and the dish found its way to Ozamiz.  Now, that’s the whole Philippines involved – Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.  And to add more to your confusion, it was our grandma, Pacencia Lim Naluz-De La Torre, a Kapangpangan, who brought the dish here in Ozamiz.  Pampanga by the way is a province in Central Luzon also miles apart from Bicol.  Gah!  That’s a total tour of the whole country!  And the mystery of the dish still remains a mystery ‘coz I never got to talk with my Lola for she died when I was still 3 or 4 years old.

Gladly, 3 people from our family came to know how to cook the dish.  Auntie Lourding, Kuya Jun2x, and Kuya Monching are the best cook in our family who mastered the art of cooking utan bicol.  We always have the dish during birthdays, reunions, outings, or even no occasion at all.  In fact, my sister April brought some to Singapore and her housemates just got crazy over it!

Well, the dish is just so simple.  It is mainly made of string beans (sitaw), a little pork fat, rich in coconut milk (gata), a bit appetizer for the shrimp paste (bagoong), and super spicy for the added chili (sili).  Here are the ingredients:

However, cooking the dish takes courage.  I’ve been cooking since I was 12 years old and never did I attempt to try experimenting on this family recipe.  I could never be that good compared with my aunt and cousins.  It will always be better to just make lambing to them and request them to cook.  Hehehe…..  But yesterday, I saw plenty of string beans at the tabuan at OSROX Park so I instantly said to mama that I’ll cook utan bicol!  So I did!  And here’s what I did:


1.  Cook pork fat with a pinch of salt and pepper in low heat to release its oil.
2.  When browned, sauté garlic and onion with it.
3.  Add in string beans and coconut milk.  Simmer until string beans get tender.

4.  Mix in shrimp paste and chili.  Cook in low heat until string beans get mushy.

That’s just it.  Super simple steps, simple ingredients, a very simple homegrown family recipe.  Now I claim that this is ours, a heritage of the De La Torre family that is passed on from our lola to her children and to her grandchildren.  Hope this recipe will live on for generations!  I am proud of this pamana!


And that’s my finished product!  They say it tastes as it is na raw but there’s still something lacking.  Mama says that by tomorrow, this will surely be a hit!  For this dish is also like wine, habang tumatagal, lalong sumasarap.  But you have to put it inside the fridge for dishes with coconut milk easily spoil.  For a first-timer, I’m proud I finally got the guts to do this spicy, appetizing, and scrumptious family recipe!  Beware if you’ll try this native Filipino dish for you’re gonna be asking for more rice once you started digging into it!

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