As the downstairs of the condo is pretty dark what with a high fence and huge trees surrounding the perimeter, I usually shoot my food photos at the outside front of the house (yes, I get plenty of curious stares from passing neighbors) to get the best natural light. This means I have to plate the food in the kitchen and lug food, props and all outside to set on a portable table for picture taking. I was in the middle of balancing the blue plate of mangoes, jar of ginisang bagoong and a couple of mangoes with both hands and trying to open the door with one leg when G came down from his room. He took one look at my sliced mangoes with a glob of shrimp paste on the side and the resident smarty pants remarked, “Ewwww, you eat mangoes with shrimp paste?“. Yes, G. We, Filipinos, eat mangoes with shrimp paste. Weird as it may be to the uninitiated, crisp mangoes are indeed the perfect canvas for generous dollops of pungent shrimp paste, with the sourness of the fruit beautifully complimented by the saltiness of the bagoong. It is a combination needed to be experienced to be better appreciated.
Bagoong is a fermented condiment made of minute shrimp or krill. Also widely used in other Southeast Asian cuisine, it is a common ingredient in Filipino cooking such as in pinakbet and binagoongan. Although it can be consumed “fresh”, a further step of “sauteing” makes it a better pair for dishes such as kare kare and of course, green mangoes. In this ginisa, the fresh bagoong is cooked in vinegar to cut through the brine and brown sugar to achieve a nice balance of sweet and salty.