In her essay "Culture Ingested: On the Indigenization of Philippine Food", the late Doreen Fernandez, noted food critic and author, observes that bagoong, small fish or shrimps usually preserved in brine, is "used not only to salt food but to give the food an acceptable Filipino taste."
It is a pasalubong many migrants and OFWs take pains to bring back to the US and Europe. My Lola Pacing used to have her stash of Guinamos, the Ilonggo version of bagoong, canned so the US customs won't stop her when she went back to San Diego where she retired with my lolo.
I do have family who have trouble eating this condiment. Not because of the smell but because they have developed allergies to shellfish.
I found a solution for those who find themselves in the same situation- the Vegetarian Bagoong.
Mitos, the owner of Hill Station in Baguio where I got this shrimp-free condiment shares that it's made from vegetables salted with tausi, salted and fermented black beans, a flavoring that originated in China as far back as 165 BC.
Tried it out today with my eggplant salad. The bagoong texture is almost the same as bagoong alamang (fermented krill or minute shrimps). It is salty with a little bitterness and smoky flavor. You'll find bits of tomatoes in it, too.
EGGPLANT SALAD WITH VEGETARIAN BAGOONG
3 pcs. eggplants, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1/2 cheek of green mango, cut into slivers
4 pcs. medium -sized tomatoes
1 onion, sliced into slivers
1/2 cup sweetened fresh fruit juice (I use pineapple or orange)
1 itlog na maalat (red egg), cubed
2 tbsp.vegetarian bagoong
1/3 cup sukang paombong (White vinegar)
1/3 cup honey
salt and pepper to taste
Over high heat, boil the eggplant. Once the eggplant is tender, drain and allow to cool.
Chop the onions and soak in the sweetened fruit juice. Later, drain it before adding to the salad. Chop the tomatoes, green mango and itlog na maalat (red egg).
To make the dressing, mix the sukang paombong and the honey. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Once the eggplant has cooled down, shred it. Add the minced garlic and mix in the vinegar and honey dressing.
Address: Hill Station, Casa Vallejo, Upper Session Road, Session Road, Baguio
Phone:+63 74 423 9100