bagoong is a Filipino fermented shrimp paste with a pungent taste and flavor. It provides a lot of umami – like fish sauce but more shrimpy and stronger. It smells very pleasant (as you would expect fermented shrimp to be).
There’s a type that’s pink and fresh and raw, and there’s a brown type that I use more often because it’s so versatile. It is cooked very slowly, so the sugar caramelises. It can be eaten straight out of the jar, although this is not recommended. There is a classic beer snack in the Philippines that consists of sour green mangoes that you dip into bagoong. The sourness offsets the salty spice. My favorite dish to use it is binagoongang baby. It is pork braised with baguong, tomato, onion, garlic and ginger.
I’ve added it to pasta, it’s like adding anchovies. Bagoong, butter, lots of garlic, some chili…just toss through some pasta. It’s really quick and easy to do – when you can’t be bothered to do anything else. For anyone who hasn’t used it before, add a little less than you need. It’s such a strong flavor and it can overpower a dish.
Ferdinand Montoya is the head chef and founder of Sarap. 10 Hayden St., London W1B