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by Danielle Faye Dimas

If you call yourself an Oragon, you most definitely know what it means to be a true-blooded Bicolano. Because aside from Bicol region’s boasted-upon Mt. Mayon, it’s not a secret that the province’s rich cuisine is equally note-worthy.  Bicol proudly serves a long list of dishes and delicacies made with Bicol’s known ingredients, chillies or sili and of course, coconut milk or gata.

Coconut milk, or more commonly referred to as gata, is a staple ingredient not only in Bicol region but in many parts of the country as well. With the Philippines yielding about 15 billion fruits from 350 million coconut trees a year, we know that there is so much more to do with coconuts than to devour its buko juice.

Inadobadong Manok From Bicol

Us Filipinos have much to be proud of when it comes to this “tree of life.” You can use virtually every part of the coconut tree, and it’s a major source of our livelihood. The United Nations’ Food And Agricultural Organization recorded that coconut production rose in 1911 and we’ve been topping the charts as the world’s largest producer of coconut products since.

Bicol was the country’s leading coconut and copra producer in the late 50s and continues to house coconut farms for export; no wonder the region is known for their delectable coconut creations!

Pinais Na Alimasag

Gata, as we have mentioned, is widely used when it comes to cooking Filipino dishes. This white, creamy, and rich ingredient screams decadence and versatility for it can be used as stew base, curry add-on, and even for dessert! Culinarily proven, you can never go wrong with gata.

Aside from the spotlight-stealer Bicol Express, other ginataan delicacies that are well-known in Bicol are their Ginataang Santol and of course, Laing. Just simmer these dishes’ main proteins in coconut milk then voila! You’d be getting an easy gata-fix right away.

While we all know that almost anything goes well with gata – Ginataang Isda, Ginataang Manok, Ginataang Hipon, Ginataang Kalabasa at Sitaw – we are very much aware how it magically adds a certain sweet and creamy touch that makes a dish extra flavorful. But if you think that this magical ingredient couldn’t get any more enchanting, maybe you have to think again. To all our vegan foodies out there, you might want to try these amazing uses of coconut milk and include it in your healthy diet.

Shrimp Laing Lasagna

And we all know coconut milk is vegan. But did you know that it’s packed with vitamins and nutrients? It’s good for the heart, boosts the immune system, and may even aid with weight loss. Indeed, gata is a gift for your vegan cravings – use it as dairy substitute for home-made ice cream or creamy recipes like pastas, seafood chowders, and curries. You can try out this 100% vegan recipe using classic Filipino backyard ingredients.

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