They’re way too salty and a little too funky-smelling. Introducing Bagoong and its cousins Bahong and Lawlaw: indigineous condiments, occasional dips and sometimes viands.
Bagoong is basically fermented seafood paste. It comes from different sources: fish, shrimp/krill, oysters and mussels. It’s a by-product of fishing communities; a way of preserving the shelf-life of anything they have caught similar to drying (Read up on dried squid and fish here: https://whatinthephilippines.com/2019/02/13/squidward-look-away-😅/).
We got these goodies from the Tacloban Public Market, from the stall of Ate Grace and her husband. She was happy enough to share which were the best sellers among her products and what will go best with them.
The bagoong na alamang (or what my Mother calls hipon) is made of krills and is originally grey in color. The pink hue is achieved through food coloring. It’s best served as a dip to green mangoes, (the contrast of flavors is divine) and is usually stir-fried with vegetables or meat when being served as a viand.
Bahong is made from mussels and is usually paired with rice “raw” straight from the bottle with calamansi (Filipino lemon) and chili.
There is no “right” way of making Lawlaw (also called Guinamos); sometimes it’s made from one kind of fish but more often than not, it’s an amalgamation of different kinds. Also mixed in with calamansi and chili, it is best served as a dip to rootcrops and unripe saba (a type of banana) while some would also use it to salt their dishes.
I feel like I should warn you, though, these are acquired tastes. The smell may turn you off (nothing a few calamansis can’t fix) and the saltiness may be a little too much. My advice is to not eat any of these on its own (I learned this the hard way) but to take small doses and pair it with fruits or vegetables. You might just find that you like it.