As the downstairs of the condo is pretty dark what with a high fence and huge trees surrounding the perimeter, I usually shoot my food photos at the outside front of the house (yes, I get plenty of curious stares from passing neighbors) to get the best natural light. This means I have to plate the food in the kitchen and lug food, props and all outside to set on a portable table for picture taking. I was in the middle of balancing the blue plate of mangoes, jar of ginisang bagoong and a couple of mangoes with both hands and trying to open the door with one leg when G came down from his room. He took one look at my sliced mangoes with a glob of shrimp paste on the side and the resident smarty pants remarked, “Ewwww, you eat mangoes with shrimp paste?“. Yes, G. We, Filipinos, eat mangoes with shrimp paste. Weird as it may be to the uninitiated, crisp mangoes are indeed the perfect canvas for generous dollops of pungent shrimp paste, with the sourness of the fruit beautifully complimented by the saltiness of the bagoong. It is a combination needed to be experienced to be better appreciated.
Bagoong is a fermented condiment made of minute shrimp or krill. Also widely used in other Southeast Asian cuisine, it is a common ingredient in Filipino cooking such as in pinakbet and binagoongan. Although it can be consumed “fresh”, a further step of “sauteing” makes it a better pair for dishes such as kare kare and of course, green mangoes. In this ginisa, the fresh bagoong is cooked in vinegar to cut through the brine and brown sugar to achieve a nice balance of sweet and salty.
How to Make Ginisang Bagoong
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 small onion peeled and chopped
- 4 cloves garlic peeled and minced
- 2 Thai chili peppers optional
- 1 large tomato chopped
- 2 cups bagoong alamang
- 1/2 cup vinegar
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
In a pan over medium heat, heat oil. Add onions , garlic and chili peppers. Cook, stirring regularly, until limp and aromatic. Add tomatoes and cook, mashing with back of spoon, until softened.
Add bagoong and cook, stirring regularly, for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add vinegar and bring to a boil, uncovered and without stirring, for about 3 to 5 minutes. Add sugar and stir to combine. Lower heat, cover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 to 20 minutes or until liquid is mostly absorbed and bagoong lightly browns. Remove from pan and allow to cool. Transfer to container with tight fitting lid and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.