fermented fish/shrimp paste

Bagoóng is a paste made from fish or small shrimps that are salted and fermented for several weeks. The color varies from light pink to dark brown, the texture from firm to watery.

Different areas of the Philippines have their own version of bagoóng. For example, the Ilocos region has its bagoóng terong, which is made with bonnetmouth fish.  Another Ilocano bagoong is bugguong munamon, made from anchovies. There is also bagoong padas.

Other fish used are hairtail, roundscad and sardinella. Bagoóng alamang is a variant that uses small shrimps or krill as the main ingredient.

Bagoong at Mangga

The Visayas region has guinamos, which is a thicker, denser version traditionally made by mashing the mixture with the feet (think of Italians crushing grapes by stomping on them).

Green, unripe mangoes (hilaw na mangga) are often eaten in the Philippines with either salt or bagoóng.

Many Filipino soups and stews are flavored with bagoóng. Popular dishes that have it as an essential ingredient are  dinengdeng and pakbet.

Binagoongan refers to a dish that heavily uses bagoóng for flavor. It is frequently a stew that uses pork as a main ingredient.

Kamayan Bagoong
Kamayan brand of Ginisang Bagoong (Sauteed Shrimp Paste) available on Amazon in variants of Regular, Sweet, or Spicy

There are many brands of bagoong available on Amazon, both in these stout jars and in thin bottles — Barrio Fiesta, Dagupan, Florence, Tropics, and Kamayan.

Barrio Fiesta's Spicy Bagoong
Barrio Fiesta’s Spicy Bagoong

Always check the label of the “Filipino” food items you buy. Don’t assume that just because it’s using a logo and a brand name you’re familiar with that it’s made by the same company with the same formulation that you knew back in the Philippines. Quite a number of USA companies have pirated trademarks from the old country, using them without license in order to dupe consumers into thinking they’re buying a genuine “Product of the Philippines.” And many Filipino American stores lie about the providence of what they sell. You have to be a smarter consumer.

If you care about buying real Filipino products, you have to be proactive and don’t just trust the tindero who says all his products are directly sourced from the Philippines. The very least you should do is check the label.