Monday, June 20, 2011

Bagoong: A True Filipino Condiment

There is no other name or word for bagoong in international terms and in the Philippines. However, in the Visayas, it’s called ginamos. Bagoong is used as a condiment for everyday Filipino meals and is a familiar sight in almost every household.

Making bagoong is said to be a time honored tradition and a way of life for the people of the Ilocos region. Their daily meals consist almost always of bagoong. It is said that the making of bagoong came about as a necessity because in a time where there were still no refrigerators in the world, for fishermen who had an excess of fish that had not been sold, instead of letting it go to waste, it was essential to preserve them by making bagoong. The smaller leftover fish from the catch would always be made into bagoong. The bigger ones were dried and salted, and these were called ‘daing’.

Bagoong is made from fermented shrimp or fish such as ipon (a type of goby), terong, alamang, monamon(anchovies), sardines, etc. and brine. The fish is fermented in clay jars (palayok) or in Ilocos it is known as burnays (large earthen jars) for several weeks, usually 10-12 months. But modern methods have introduced ways to shorten the fermentation time. Some manufacturers just package the fermented fish straight from the clay jars. Others grind it and sell it as fish paste. This is not to be mistaken as fish sauce which is called patis, the liquid derived from fermentation.

A similar condiment or sauce called garum was made in Ancient Rome as ancient studies claim. But this type of sauce is made out of fish intestines whereas bagoong is made from the whole fish.

There are several varieties of bagoong such as Bagoong Balayan, which is made from either dilis(anchovy) or galunggong (big-bellied round scad), Bagoong Monamon (anchovy) or shrimp. I prefer the bagoong made from shrimp which is the more popular type of bagoong. The odor of bagoong is exceptional and characteristically Filipino. Some Filipino dishes such as kare-kare, enchiladang mangga (mango enchilada) and most of the sinugba or inihaw (grilled) dishes would be incomplete without it. Bagoong is uniquely Filipino and remains to be a definitive gastronomic experience.

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