LINGAYEN, PANGASIAN, PHILIPPINES - 1997/05/05: A worker ferments pungent smelling bagoong in giant vats in one of the many fishing communities along the west coast of Luzon in the Philippines. Bagoong is a type of anchovy source and is well known for its unique aroma and texture. It is a speciality of the provinces of Pangasinan as well as La Union and Zambales.. (Photo by Ben Davies/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Food - Drink
The Pungent Filipino Condiment You Should Have In Your Pantry
Bagoong, a Filipino condiment made of fermented shrimp paste, may have a pungent smell and flavor that's unusual to those who aren't used to it, but many of the country's most beloved dishes are built on this paste. Filipina chef Yana Gilbuena explains, "bagoong is essential because it provides umami. It's the X-factor in our food."
Bagoong goes back to the 8th century, when people began mixing shrimp with salt and leaving it to sit in the open air, where it fermented into a paste that stayed shelf-stable for months. Today, this condiment can still withstand extremely hot and humid climates, and some bagoong is fermented in plastic bags, while others are aged in clay jars.
You can make your own version of bagoong by following Panlasang Pinoy's recipe. Add 1 ¼ cups of salt for every 2.2 pounds of clean and drained baby shrimp you have on hand; then, bottle the mixture, seal it tightly, and refrigerate for at least three weeks, mixing the bottle once in a while to distribute the salt evenly throughout the mixture.
Bagoong can be used in countless dishes, and Manila-based chef Mikel Zaguirre likes his bagoong "stewed for hours" before he cooks it into fried rice, uses it as a side for unripe green mango, or adds it to the classic dish kare kare. Chef Aaron Isip prefers mixing bagoong with vinegar and serving as a dipping sauce for grilled pork belly.