Bagoong alamang, also known as shrimp paste, is a uniquely flavorful and essential ingredient in Southeast Asian cooking. Its concentrated and robust flavor adds umami goodness to various dishes.
What is shrimp paste?
Shrimp paste is made by fermenting tiny shrimp or krill with salt. It develops an intense aroma that may not be pleasant to everyone, but its taste is like no other.
This versatile condiment can be used as a dip, a base for sauces, or as a key ingredient in many traditional Filipino dishes, making it an integral part of our culinary heritage.
What does shrimp paste taste like?
Shrimp paste has a bold, savory flavor with a distinctive aroma. It is known for its rich umami flavor, adding depth and complexity to various recipes.
Varieties from different cuisines may have subtle differences in flavor and texture, but all share the unmistakable essence of concentrated shrimp taste.
Shrimp paste vs. fish sauce
Shrimp paste and fish sauce are fermented seafood products with deep umami flavor. While they share some similarities, they have distinct characteristics.
Shrimp paste has a strong, pungent aroma and flavor. It is intensely salty, with a pronounced shrimp flavor. The texture is thick and paste-like, ranging from slightly grainy to smooth.
On the other hand, fish sauce has a distinct fishy aroma, typically less pungent than shrimp paste. It is savory and can have sweet undertones, depending on the brand and the type of fish used. Used as a seasoning or condiment, its consistency resembles soy sauce or a thin Worcestershire sauce.
What is shrimp paste made of?
Shrimp paste is made by fermenting whole or ground tiny shrimp, such as krill, with salt and leaving it to age for weeks. This natural fermentation process produces a concentrated paste that becomes a flavor powerhouse in countless dishes.
Varieties of shrimp paste in Filipino cuisine
Shrimp paste can vary across Asian cultures, ranging from pale liquid sauces to solid chocolate-colored blocks. In the Philippines, you can find raw shrimp paste or the uncooked version, typically bright red or pink in color.
Another variety is sautéed shrimp paste, also known as ginisang bagoong alamang. It has a rich dark brown color and is sautéed with aromatic ingredients and a touch of sugar. This type has even more flavor and is perfect to use as a condiment or as a base for sauces.
Balaw is a distinct type of fermented shrimp paste originating from the Bicol region. It is commonly sold in dark brown or reddish-brown compacted blocks with a clay-like consistency and a highly pungent aroma.
Is shrimp paste good for you?
According to Asia Research News, shrimp paste is notably high in omega-3 fatty acid content, surpassing other varieties. The National Library of Medicine notes that these fatty acids, found in fish and shrimp, can help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and diabetes.
However, moderation consumption is important due to its high sodium content from the fermentation process. This can potentially lead to health issues like hypertension, kidney problems, or cardiovascular disease.
Those with shellfish allergies should avoid shrimp paste altogether to prevent adverse reactions. As always, consulting with a healthcare professional for individual concerns is advisable.
How to buy
Shrimp paste is available in Filipino and Asian grocery stores, where you can find it conveniently packaged in jars or plastic containers. Check the label to ensure it matches your preference, whether it's raw or sautéed shrimp paste.
Avoid varieties with artificial food coloring and preservatives, which are commonly found in bright red or pink versions. Opt for natural-looking raw shrimp paste for a more authentic and traditional flavor. You'll find good quality choices from Korean brands labeled as "salted shrimp fry" or "salted shrimp".
For the sautéed variety, stick with familiar brands like Barrio Fiesta or Kamayan.
How to store
To properly store shrimp paste and extend its shelf life, follow these steps:
- Keep it airtight: Transfer the shrimp paste to an airtight container. Ensure that the container is tightly sealed to prevent air from entering, which can cause the paste to spoil or lose its flavor.
- Refrigerate: Store it in the refrigerator. The cool temperature will help extend its shelf life and maintain its quality.
- Avoid direct sunlight: Keep the container away from direct sunlight or heat sources, as exposure to light and heat can degrade the quality of the paste.
- Use clean utensils: When scooping out shrimp paste for use, always use clean utensils to avoid contamination and extend its shelf life.
Properly stored shrimp paste can last for several months to a year in the refrigerator. The exact shelf life may vary depending on the brand, ingredients, and storage conditions. Always check the expiration date on the packaging.
Filipino recipes with bagoong alamang
Shrimp paste is a well-loved ingredient in Filipino cuisine, known for its robust flavor and versatility as a dip or base for numerous delicacies. Here are some of our favorites:
- Kare-Kare: A hearty stew with beef and vegetables in a delicious sauce made with peanut butter and annatto, then served with a side of bagoong alamang.
- Binagoongan: A pork dish prepared with sautéed shrimp paste and aromatics.
- Bicol Express: A regional dish with shrimp paste cooked with coconut milk, plenty of chilies, and some pork.
- Pinakbet: A vegetable stew with a medley of local vegetables and a flavorful sauce made with aromatics, shrimp paste, and shrimp stock.
- Bagoong Fried Rice: A fried rice dish infused with the umami goodness of sautéed shrimp paste, along with aromatics. Originally from Thailand, this dish has been embraced by Filipinos, becoming a staple in households across the country.
- Ensaladang Mangga: A refreshing salad that combines firm mangoes, tomatoes, onions, and sautéed shrimp paste.
- Ensaladang Talong: Smoky and custardy grilled or fire-roasted eggplant paired with tomatoes and onions, then tossed with vinegar and sautéed shrimp paste.
- Bagoong Guisado: Sautéed shrimp paste with garlic, onion, and tomatoes. Some variations may include pork, adding an extra layer of richness.
- Laing: A creamy, savory dish with dried taro leaves cooked with coconut milk and shrimp paste.
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