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What Is Bagoong? The Ultimate Guide For Philippines’ Most Famous Condiment

What Is Bagoong? The Ultimate Guide For Philippines’ Most Famous Condiment

Bagoong is a fish-based paste, a common ingredient in Filipino cooking. If you’ve visited the Philippines, chances are you’ve already seen or tried this fishy condiment.

Though some aren’t fans of its pungent smell, the popular condiment has a complex and intense flavor that can be added to many Filipino dishes.

Yet, you may wonder what bagoong is made from and why do many Filipinos love this condiment? 

This FAQ guide explains everything you need to know about bagoong, including how you can add the fermented product to your dishes, different types of bagoong, and so much more.

Bagoong (pronounced “bah-goh-ong”) is a fermented condiment (or dish) made from varieties of small fish (or seafood like shrimp), salt, and patis (fish sauce).

Seafood, like anchovies, sardines, shrimp, krill, or oysters, is thoroughly cleaned in saline water and combined with salt and fish sauce before being allowed to ferment for several weeks or months. 

Take note: Lengthening the aging of bagoong intensifies its flavor and different species of fish ferment differently. 

Bagoong comes in varieties—some of the common types of bagoong are bagoong isda (bagoong monamon), bagoong terong, bagoong sisi (bagoong macaebe), and bagoong alamang or bagoong armang. 

While bagoong has a briny and slightly cheese-like odor, many Filipinos are fond of its strong umami taste that serves as a flavor enhancer in soups and stir-fries. 

Furthermore, bagoong can be served alongside a bowl of hot steamed rice, or you can also turn the fermented product (alamang) into bagoong guisado or sauteed shrimp paste for green mangoes.

How bagoong is made

Every bagoong maker has his or her own style of making the fish paste but the process always involves adding salt and fermenting the product for a period of time. 

Others don’t even include patis or fish sauce and use salt only in their mixture. 

Either way, the result is inarguably topnotch, especially when the crustaceans used are fresh. 

To make your own bagoong isda at home, you need to gather the following:

    • Salt
    • Anchovies
    • Fish sauce
    • A clean glass jar for storage

Start by cleaning your anchovies in saline water.

It’s possible to clean the fish with tap water, but it’s best to use the mixture since you combine them with salt.

Once done, transfer anchovies to a large bowl and put a handful of rock salt then mix evenly. 

You need to put the salted anchovies in a glass jar and then add the fish sauce. 

Lastly, close the jar with a tight lid and let your bagoong age for a couple of weeks or months. 

For more details, check out this amazing Youtube video from bagoong maker, Princess Ester Landayan. 

What does bagoong taste like?

Thanks to the fish sauce, salt, and fermentation process, bagoong has that interesting umami flavor profile.

Apart from that, you’ll also notice a salty undertone. 

Due to its unique taste and texture, bagoong is often used as a flavor enhancer for stir-fries and soups—you can even use it as a dipping sauce for boiled unripe banana (saba) along with calamansi juice (citrus fruit similar to a lime) and siling labuyo (a small chili pepper).

Different types of bagoong

All bagoong features umami flavor but vary in texture and color. 

Some include vinegar and fish sauce, others do not. Here are the most common varieties of bagoong:

Bagoong isda

Also dubbed as bagoong monamon, bagoong isda is a fermented food made from combining anchovies or other varieties of small fish and salt (or sometimes with fish sauce). 

It’s best eaten as a dipping sauce with boiled saba banana or as a side with steamed rice and (nilagang baboy) boiled pork soup.

Bagoong terong

Bagoong is a Philippine fish paste made from a rare species of fish called bonnet mouth or commonly known as redbait

The meat of the fish is separated from its bones, combined with salt, and then fermented for a few weeks or months. 

You can use the fermented fish as a dressing for kinilhat (Ilocano salad made from the shoots and leaves of the sweet potato and bitter melon) or as a dip for fried fish and hard-boiled eggs.

Bagoong sisi (bagoong macaebe)

If you’re into oysters and clams, then you might like this version of bagoong—sisi or macaebe. 

Originated in the Visayas region of the Philippines, bagoong sisi is made from vinegar, salt, calamansi or lemon juice, and siling labuyo (chili pepper) for a spicy kick. 

It’s mostly enjoyed with fried fish, meat, and even sauteed veggies.

Bagoong alamang

Bagoong alamong or bagoong armang refers to a Philippine condiment made from small shrimps or krills that are being salted and fermented for several days. 

Its salty, umami, and earthy flavor are great as a sawsawan or dip for fish and vegetables. 

Bagoong alamang is usually turned into ginisang bagoong (shrimp paste) and served alongside manggang hilaw or unripe mangoes.

How to use bagoong

You can enjoy bagoong as is or incorporate it into different dishes like soups and stir-fries. 

People usually prefer to eat bagoong (specifically ginisang bagoong) with green mangoes. 

Here are other ways you can use bagoong in your daily recipes: 

The bottom line

Bagoong adds umami and satisfyingly salty flavor profiles to dishes like stir-fries and soups—you can’t go wrong turning the fermented product into a dip, too!

However, it can be difficult to create your own bagoong at home as this requires thorough preparation and patience (especially when it comes to waiting for the bagoong to be fermented). 

Let us know if you try making your own, or if you’ve recently made a dish that uses bagoong!

😋Check out our list of Filipino Desserts, too! 😋