It’s Lenten season once again and Que Rica is offering dishes perfect for the lent. For many of us, this is a time to take a break from meat and explore new seafood and vegetable-based alternatives. Thankfully, eating healthy doesn’t have to mean putting up with just salads or steamed fish anymore.
With lent-friendly offerings by Que Rica, you can still enjoy big, hearty flavors while following a pesco-vegetarian diet. These dishes are prepared in small batches by an all-Bicolana team, and they showcase the region’s expertise in cooking seafood and vegetables.
The not-so-secret ingredient? Fresh coconut milk. When cooked expertly, it creates a rich, creamy sauce that gives dishes a decadent feel even without animal fat.
It’s no wonder three of Bicol’s most iconic dishes, namely laing, pinangat, and sinantolan feature coconut milk as the main ingredient. Gata is inseparable from the region’s heritage cuisine, as it gives Bicolano food its distinct flavor profiles.
So, which of Que Rica’s lent essentials should be tried first? Start with Vegetarian Laing. It’s available in frozen and bottled versions and is a great option for those looking for a low-carb, high-fat meal. They also have new varieties like Laing with Shrimps for those who need protein in their meals, and Laing Lasagna (layered with homemade tomato concasse) for cheese-loving pasta fans.
Another must-try is Sinantolan. As the name implies, its main ingredient is santol or cotton fruit. It’s minced, then stewed in coconut milk, shrimp paste, and aromatics to create a creamy, tangy side dish that goes well with fried, grilled, and even dried fish. It can be paired with Abo Dried Fish (Tiger-Toothed Croaker) and Biti Dried Fish (dried, salted Abo bladder), or use as a dip for crackers and chips.
You also can’t go wrong with Bicol Pinangat by Que Rica. Originating from the town of Camalig in Albay, this rustic dish is a favorite among locals and tourists alike. If you’re unfamiliar with it, think of Pinangat as the calzone to Laing’s pizza. The main difference is that the proteins are stuffed inside the taro leaves instead of being mixed into them.
Que Rica’s version of pinangat has shrimp, smoked fish, coconut meat, coconut milk, lemongrass, and aromatics cooked for hours over low heat. This results in a smoky, fork-tender dish that goes well in rice or grains like Adlai and quinoa. Pair it with fried or grilled fish for an authentic, country-inspired meal.
Sinanglay is another Bicolano favorite that also follows the cooked-inside-leaves technique. This dish swaps out the gabi leaves for pechay, the smoked fish for tilapia fillets, and adds onions, ginger, garlic, kamias, and tomatoes for aromatics. It’s a lighter option for those who prefer gentler, brighter flavors.
And if these are still a bit too exotic for non-adventurous eaters like kids, you can always go with a safe pick like the Vegan Bicol Express (made with unripe Jackfruit and miso) for your everyday meals. Meanwhile, the Rakenrol Chips (Rainbow Cassava Chips) paired with Santol with Laing works great as a hearty snack.