fermented fish/shrimp paste
Bagoóng is a generic term for Philippine condiments made from fish or tiny shrimps that are salted and fermented for several weeks. The color varies from light pink to dark brown, the texture from firm to watery.
In general, the shrimps produce a firmer, more colorful paste, while bagoong made from fish is liquid and darker.
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 padas, which is rabbitfish.
Other fish used are hairtail, roundscad and sardinella. Bagoóng alamang is a variant that uses small shrimps or krill as the main ingredient. (see photo right below)
The Visayas region calls their version guinamos, one of which is a thicker, denser type 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. The sour fruit kamias is also enjoyed raw with those dip options.
Jicama (singkamas), a fruit which by itself is bland and without any particular taste, is spiced up with this fermented condiment.
Many Filipino soups and stews are flavored with bagoóng. Popular dishes that have it as an essential ingredient are dinengdeng and pinakbet.
Binagoongan refers to a dish that heavily uses bagoóng for flavor. It is frequently a stew that uses pork as a main ingredient.
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.
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 provenance 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.
Enjoy Filipino food without guilt ~ 🙂