Ara’s bring home treat of belacan from Malaysia has been on my mind since I got my hands on it. But since I wasn’t sure how I shall use it, I tried to stick with something familiar. Pork Binagoongan was one of the first recipes in my mind, pinakbet was the next. But since this Kapampangan specialty (the pinakbet) is something I don’t eat, I settled for the former, but never really decided on making it.
We rarely have binagoongan at home. I’m not sure why, but I have actually never eaten it when I didn’t cook it myself. We always have bagoong (sauteed shrimp paste) at home since it is a staple of mom’s diet along with alubebe (fish paste/sauce). So reading about it on the internet was enough to spark an experiment.
Mom and I bought some kasim (pork shoulder) and cut it up into 1 1/2 inch cubes. We used less than a kilo of the meat. We prepared it the same way we do adobo, sans the soy sauce. I am not sure why the bagoong wasn’t immediately added to the mix, but I have the feeling it would taste the same if added early.
It took a full hour to soften, and it was during this time that the belacan was opened for some checking. After a few scared looks, I decided to just taste it. It was shrimp paste alright, but it doesn’t taste like bagoong. It tasted more like alubebe, so back into the pack it went and straight to the fridge, after being tightly packed in plastic.
So I went to mom’s stock and got a few spoonfuls of the bagoong. After browning the meat, removing it from the pan and sauteing the onions, I added the bagoong and then the pork. It took another few minutes to simmer. I tasted it and the dish lacked the depth that I was looking for. I actually debated on adding coconut milk, as other recipes called for, but decided to stick with the plain bagoong, I figured that simmering it for another 10 or so minutes would do the trick so I added some water, covered it, and let it simmer for a while. After that, damn, it was good.
I set it aside and prepared some sides that are usually served in Thai restaurants: fried egg and green mango. We sliced the fried egg into thick strips, and the green mango into julienne. Eaten with some rice, its a great experiment.
Pork Binagoongan Recipe
3/4 kilo pork shoulder, cubed
5 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 cup vineger
4 bay leaves
1 teaspoonful peppercorns
1 onion, sliced
3 tablespoons bagoong
Boil the meat, along with garlic, vinegar, bay leaves and peppercorns until softened. Ensure that the meat is submerged in the water and vinegar. It will dry up a bit, and soon, you will only have the oil of the meat serving as the liquid in the pan. Let the meat brown a bit then remove from pan and set aside. If there is too much fat, remove a bit, but remember that this really tastes good. In the same pan, with the oil, add the onions, and saute the bagoong a bit. Add the meat. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Add water if you need more water to simmer. You can serve it in a bit of sauce or dry with some oil drippings.