Shrimp paste is a condiment that seems to be famous in Asia. Though it comes in different forms all over, it is salted and fermented generally. At home, we cook up our own version of bagoong though we do buy the raw fermented shrimp from the wet market in Tarlac.
Up close, you can really see that these are tiny shrimp, complete with heads and the like. Every now and then, there is a stray fish or big shrimp in the mix, and sometimes, some weird stuff too that you clean out. At home, it takes a few hours to sort out the good from the bad, simply because of the hugeness of the batch.
Afterwards, my mom adds sugar, salt and vinegar to the shrimp mix and tastes it as it is (raw) before she deems it right. Then after, this is sauteed in aromatics of garlic and onion, then cooked.
The house literally reeks of bagoong for a day. It’s not a bad smell. But it’s a strong smell, one that you particularly don’t want to cling to your hair, clothes or lingering in your home. But after an overnight airing and a dose of scented candles, the smell is but a hint, or you just get used to it. 🙂
I am not a huge fan of bagoong. I don’t go gaga over it like some people, with them clamoring for unripe mangoes, or the local peanut stew of oxtail called kare-kare. I can live without eating it, actually, thought it is a requisite for a lot of local dishes. But it is a local food that every new person must try.