Shrimp paste, also known as "bagoong alamang," is a uniquely flavorful and essential ingredient in Southeast Asian cooking. Its concentrated and robust flavor adds umami goodness to various dishes.
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.
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?
Shrimp paste has nutritional benefits as it contains essential nutrients like protein, vitamins, and minerals.
However, moderation consumption is important due to its high sodium content from the fermentation process. Those with shellfish allergies should avoid shrimp paste altogether to prevent adverse reactions.
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 Shrimp Paste (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. It has a rich and savory flavor complemented with umami-rich fermented shrimp paste.
- 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. It is spicy, creamy, and flavorful with a stew-like consistency.
- Pinakbet (Braised Mixed Vegetables): A vegetable stew with a medley of local vegetables and a flavorful sauce made with aromatics, shrimp paste, and shrimp stock.
- Bagoong Fried Rice (Shrimp Paste Fried Rice): A fried rice dish infused with the umami goodness of sautéed shrimp paste, along with aromatic ingredients. Originally from Thailand, this dish has been embraced by Filipinos, becoming a staple in households across the country.
- Mango Salad (Ensaladang Mangga): A refreshing salad that combines firm mangoes, tomatoes, onions, and umami-rich sautéed shrimp paste.
- Ensaladang Talong (Eggplant Salad): Smoky and custardy grilled or fire-roasted eggplant paired with tomatoes and onions, then tossed in a blend of vinegar and sautéed shrimp paste.
- Bagoong Guisado (Sautéed Shrimp Paste): It is made by sautéing shrimp paste with garlic, onion, and tomatoes. Some variations may include pork, adding an extra layer of richness.
- Laing (Taro Leaves in Coconut Milk): A creamy, savory dish with dried taro leaves cooked with coconut milk and shrimp paste.
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