13 May2012

When was the last time you made bagoong alamang from scratch? Never, is the likely answer of the vast majority of readers of this blog. I certainly had never thought to make it myself, except that I realized we used a lot of bagoong over the years, and “wouldn’t it be nice to know how it was made”? Such a fundamental building block of Philippine cuisine (and other Asian cuisines), shrimp or krill paste is right up there with superb locally made vinegar and fish sauce as essential flavors. Few people realize that in Ancient Rome, they used a seasoning probably similar to patis or fish sauce, called garum, and made from fermenting/rotting fish. That’s how long and esteemed the history of small fish/crustaceans mixed with salt and allowed to get smelly and flavorful really is… :)

Making bagoong alamang was dead simple. Start with a kilo of fresh alamang, or tiny little shrimp or in some cases krill. Add roughly 300 grams of good, NOT iodized sea salt, mix it all up with your hands, and put it in a bottle and let it sit in the fridge for 2-3 weeks before using. That’s it.

Of course this is the modern way to do it. Purists would have it ferment in vats, hopefully covered with nets to ward off flies and insects, rather than in the fridge. The non-refrigerated version builds a slightly different and probably better flavor profile, but I wasn’t keen on experimenting on the “warm” version unless I was there to check up on the progress of the fermentation/rotting myself.

Most folks these days are used to the brightly colored or at least red bagoong, a result of food coloring. In fact, a specific kind of red food coloring, the hue names “strawberry red”. I didn’t want to add food coloring to our first batch, and actually, after having cooked the results a few weeks later, I am not sure food coloring is really essential at all.

The bagoong was placed in the back of a fridge and “cured” for roughly 3 weeks. It was extremely salty and you actually need to give whatever portion you are about to cook a quick rinse and squeeze to extract some of the saltiness. But overall, this was a VERY SIMPLE thing to make, and we had enough stocked to make several dishes in the weeks ahead.



  1. markymarc720 says:

    You might also want to try making garum.

    May 13, 2012 | 2:29 pm


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  3. cesbdu says:

    My 88 year-old grandmother supplies me with my bagoong alamang ever since I could remember and so I never ever had to buy the bottled stuff. I thought everyone’s lola did the same thing and I used to wonder why people buy the bagoong in the bottle. :))

    May 13, 2012 | 3:11 pm

  4. Chris says:

    My dad experimented making bagoong/patis and suka some years back. The yield was so good that friends and family would keep asking him to make more. I got a bit spoiled with the home made stuff. :-)

    May 13, 2012 | 3:54 pm

  5. Mimi says:

    Yay, bagoong! I tried the ‘warm’ fermentation and kept the bagoong under the sink cabinet. I had made it way too salty and it wasn’t the palengke bagoong. I will try the fridge method. Thanks!

    May 13, 2012 | 4:22 pm

  6. Mimi says:

    I was googling bagoong, and a bagoong isda recipe used ‘angkak’ or red yeast rice. I will try to look for this ‘angkak’ for colour and try the fridge method soon.

    May 13, 2012 | 4:48 pm

  7. Footloose says:

    For sure, there is such a thing as over-salting bagoong since the aim is controlled putrefaction. Too much salt inhibits the desired bacterial action and yields only one dimensional salted krill. In my home town, this skill (as with most traditional artisanal skills) is learnt and passed down mostly along family lines.

    May 13, 2012 | 7:10 pm

  8. rhea says:

    mix with a little kalamansi then pair with fried fish, namit a!

    May 13, 2012 | 7:19 pm

  9. marichu ramos says:

    Just got back from Botolan, Zambales, my husband’s hometown and we bought a kilo of freshly-caught alamang. The beauty of freshly-caught alamang is in its pinkish hue and the smell of the sea still lingers. Our kasambahay readily washed it and put salt in it. My husband usually puts banana catsup when he decides to saute the bagoong.

    May 13, 2012 | 7:47 pm

  10. josephine says:

    Apparently the Romans had a way of testing if the mixture for garum had enough salt. A raw egg would be broken onto it – if the egg floated there was enough salt, if it sank more salt was needed. I don’t know what they did with the egg afterwards – scooped it out and ate it?

    May 13, 2012 | 8:09 pm

  11. Footloose says:

    When there was a glut of old bagoong to deal with, they boil it with additional water to make patis alamang. The fine foamy bagoong-like paste that floats on the surface is skimmed and used pretty well just like bagoong. It’s called heko.

    May 13, 2012 | 8:34 pm

  12. Roderick says:

    Alamang… when i was still a kid my cousin gave me this ginataang alamang. And the flavor got stock in my mind. Then last year when I attended a town fiesta in Amadeo, Cavite I saw this alamang ontop of the table and it looked like the one my cousin gave me.. I quickly tasted it and it was the one… But unfortunately I forgot to ask about the recipe… Does someone here knows how to cook this ginataang alamang?

    May 13, 2012 | 10:41 pm

  13. kcmc says:

    my aunt has taken it into her own hands to make her own alamang after gettting a bad batch of market sold alamang..she uses fresh small shrimps/fishfry, salt and a bit of lemon zest and yes, the rest of the family makes orders from her because its really good and you can bet its cleanly made, making her now –officially the bagoong maker of the family.

    May 14, 2012 | 2:18 am

  14. Ariel Nievera says:

    now that is extreme cooking..my wife and kids do not want me to cook bagoong at home so i get the pre-cooked one

    May 14, 2012 | 6:04 am

  15. PITS, MANILA says:

    My mom used to make her own bagoong because she wanted to control the salt in it. No coloring for her. I have never tried making it on my own, simple enough as it sounds. When I find fresh alamang, maybe we will experiment on making it. Thanks, MM!

    May 14, 2012 | 6:29 am

  16. Betchay says:

    Yeah,never made bagoong from scratch.Will have to try this soon.Thanks MM!

    May 14, 2012 | 6:57 am

  17. pixienixie says:

    I didn’t know bagoong is this easy to make! :D

    Have any of you experienced any problem accessing this site a few days ago? I kept on getting this message from Cloudflare that the site is offline.

    May 14, 2012 | 7:08 am

  18. Marketman says:

    pixienixie, sometimes, when the server goes down, I am backed-up on cloudfare. But it has been happening more often lately, it seems. Also, it seems if you have the site on for too long without any activity, and you try to return to it, you can’t. So you have to close the window and re-access. Not sure if that is a mechanism to manage volume of activity/visitors/bandwidth usage, etc.

    May 14, 2012 | 7:29 am

  19. greens_blossoms says:

    we have always had bagoong from scratch…my lola used to make it and now our household does…sharing you our recipe: fresh alamang and we don’t rinse it but take out the “dirt” or small fish included at times and shells…for every 1 kilo of fresh alamang, 3/4 rock salt and stored under the sink for 3 days….the “secret” is you would portion the salt to the alamang and make “lamas” the salt to the alamang little by little..until all of alamang has been “lamased” with the salt..then put in a container and under the sink for 3 days… (we just made a batch the other week even with the hot weather)…after 3 days ready to cook…fry a few pieces of pork with fat to extract some oil then remove pork and add more oil and saute garlic, onions and tomatoes..add the fermented bagoong and cook then simmer until it dries up…the color will be deep violet..add sugar if you want your bagoong sweeter…

    May 14, 2012 | 9:24 am

  20. Marketman says:

    greens_blossoms, is that 3/4 cup of salt or 3/4 kilo salt? Thanks.

    May 14, 2012 | 11:42 am

  21. greens_blossoms says:

    MM…that’s 3/4 cup…our alamang suki texted this morning to tell us he has 2 kilos of fresh alamang…bagoong mixture fermenting now…

    May 14, 2012 | 4:50 pm

  22. jane says:

    My tatay never pass the chance of making his own bagoong isda especially if them tiny shrimps are in season. He never puts them in the fridge and has only 3 days of patience before gorging them in with grilled fish and tomatoes.

    May 14, 2012 | 7:39 pm

  23. Odessa Ates-Villareal says:

    i just made one for the first time a week ago…i remembered my mama rosing (grandmother who is now 94 years old!!!!) used to make it when i was growing up in our home in capiz… she actually adds cooked rice to the bagoong alamang mixture and it is so masarap…. we love it especially on pinakbit, apan apan (ginisang kangkong)and on summer, indian mangoes!!! hay….!!! the one that i made was a bit salty but still tolerable in fact malapit nang maubos kasi masarap sya talaga sa mangga!!! i bought 1/4 kg na fresh alamang from marikina market and added 4tbsp of salt in it, mixing well and after a week, i sauteed it with plenty of tomatoes and white onions ,garlic and sugar…. i will make one again this week end hopefully…. it’s really satisfying making it yourself!!!! thanks!!!

    May 15, 2012 | 4:11 pm

  24. Novie says:

    we put ginger from the usual garlic, onion and tomatoes. Cook for at least 2hrs until alamang becomes brown because of sugar. It’s good to know that you can add cooked rice to the sauted alamang..i guess, so it would not be too salty…btw, we rinse palengke bought alamang to take away the saltiness.

    May 15, 2012 | 4:32 pm

  25. greens_blossoms says:

    ooops we only saute it with lots of garlic and no onions or tomatoes…simmer for about 2 hours until it dries up and watery stuff gone and it’s “nagmamantika”….

    May 16, 2012 | 2:04 pm

  26. greens_blossoms says:

    When you are sauteing the bagoong mixture, for every 1 kilo mixture add 1 cup of sugar while mixture is boiling…add additional sugar as it’s being cooked if it’s still salty…

    May 16, 2012 | 2:18 pm

  27. Arlene says:

    Green blossoms, wouldn’t it be better to rinse the alamang to take away some saltiness or reduce the salt, rather than neutralizing it with a lot of sugar? (more for health reasons I suppose, while not affecting the flavor)

    May 17, 2012 | 7:12 am

  28. greens_blossoms says:

    Arlene…when you buy the fresh alamang in the market it is not salty and no taste..It gets salty when you have to preserve it for 3 days and need to “lamas” it with the salt so it does not get “baho” ….This has been a recipe that my lola has handed down to us and we have never experimented to rinse the fermented bagoong mixture (3 days)…yes you are right that for health reasons, that added sugar to the salt mixture is not good…sometimes we can indulge in “bad” stuff…lol…but trust me this bagoong is really good! ;-)

    May 17, 2012 | 1:28 pm

  29. Fards says:

    oh boy, this is easy to make. Since we cannot take bagoong on the plane anymore I will just make it myself. The problem is how to get this alamang or krill here in the Pacific NW. Does anyone know? Thank you, MM, for the recipe and also for those who shared their recipes.

    May 19, 2012 | 1:04 am

  30. Mimi says:

    greens_blossoms: Your ‘lamas’ technique is the secret! No colouring needed and it is a nice bagoong pink. I had to double plastic gloves as I did not want to mush with bare hands. Thank you for your lola’s recipe and secret.

    Jun 5, 2012 | 7:22 pm

  31. Rida Mendoza says:

    I’d like to respond to #11 comment from Roderick on May 13, 2012 as I saw his question when I was searching patis or ginataang alamang.

    I wonder if he is talking of the same ginataang alamang that we traditionally make in Pagbilao, Quezon. It is made of salted alamang, coconut milk, flavored with either ginger root or kaffir lime leaves and chili pepper for spicy flavor.

    If anyone wants to check it out, I have it posted on my Facebook page as:

    Patis ng Pagbilao

    Jun 17, 2013 | 2:46 pm


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