18 May 2020
Bagoong is the salty, fermented shrimp or fish paste that is often used as a seasoning in Filipino dishes. Bagoong is a household name in Filipino cuisine. Shrimp pastes have been made in Southeast Asia and South China for centuries.
There are, in principle, two forms of shrimp paste. Firstly, an opaque variant that is called trassi (e) in Indonesia, the Netherland,s, and Suriname. Secondly, a transparent gelatinous variant called heh kou in the Chinese Min Nan language and called petis udang in Malay and Indonesian and Bagoong in Filipino. The production process of the opaque variant consists of grinding raw shrimp (usually first). After that, it is mixed with salt (and sometimes sugar) and fermented for some time. During or after the fermentation period, it is dried in the sun. Most Indonesian and Malaysian shrimp pastes are then compressed into cakes and, if necessary, further dried. In the Chinese and Thai shrimp pastes, the dried cakes are first ground again into a pasty paste before they are sold. In the transparent variant, finely ground shrimps are first mixed with salt, sugar, and flour, after which it is fermented into a paste. This viscous, transparent variant is of course not dried.
Both variants are best kept in a tightly closed jar (glass or PET). Traditional shrimp pastes, because of their high salt content, have a long shelf life and can very well be stored at room temperature because they were developed in tropical countries where, for the modern era, refrigerators were obviously not available.
Bagoong is an ingredient with a very specific taste, so it is recommended not to use it in large quantities, as the other will dominate the dish. You should still heat the bagoong before consuming it.