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What is Bagoong?

By S. N. Smith
Updated May 16, 2024
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Bagoong (pronounced “bah-goh-ong”), or bagoong monamon, is a fish sauce used as a popular condiment in the Philippines. It is also used in Hawaii and other regions of the Pacific. The sauce is made with anchovies or other varieties of small fish that have been cleaned, salt cured, and allowed to ferment for a period of time, which may be as long as several weeks or even months.

After the fermentation process is complete, a thin layer of clear liquid rises to the surface of the bagoong. This liquid, called patis, is separated from the more viscous part of the sauce and is also used as a condiment. The two are similar in taste and odor, if not in texture, and may be used as substitutes for each other in recipes.

Bagoong is typically a dark brick-red color, though food dyes may be added to give it a purplish hue. In addition to dried fish, it may also be made with salted and fermented shrimp, in which case it is called bagoong alamang. The smell is extremely pungent and some consider it offensive, on par with that of rotten fish.

The sauce is typically used to replace salt and enhance flavor, as one would use soy sauce or a similar flavoring agent. It is a popular accompaniment to traditional Filipino dishes such as pinakbet, inabraw, and kinilnat. It is also served as a dip with green mango, hard-boiled eggs, sliced tomatoes, and fried fish.

Bagoong is sold in Asian groceries in jars. The texture may range from a smooth, pourable sauce resembling pureed fish to a thicker paste with chunks of salted fish suspended in it. If preparing a recipe that calls for bagoong but this ingredient is unavailable, other varieties of fish sauce may be substituted. The Thai nam pla, the Vietnamese nuoc mam, or the Japanese shottsuru may be used instead.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By jkrsta1234 — On Aug 17, 2012

I can still remember the wonderful home-cooked meals in my parents kitchen when they had bbq get-togethers and they religiously cooked with this bagoong and probably way too much patis. Anyway, today for my own family, I occasionally cook with both and the general rule should be that all heating will intensify their flavor and scents, so "less is more" is the way to go. Cold, use to your heart's desire.

Question for anyone however, before I call the health department, though: I've seen the Bagoong on shelves in different Asian stores at room temperature, like at one store I recently visited on vacation. Aren't they all supposed to be stored refrigerated, due to the fermenting?

When I brought home the recently purchased jar of bagoong sold at room temperature, I noticed I was able to 'flex' the lid up and down much like a mason jar when it's been opened, but the safety tape on this questionable bagoong was still intact. I knew as a child my parents immediately refrigerated all opened patis, soy sauce and bagoong for health and safety measures. So, I haven't used the this jar of bagoong and I am still debating whether it's still safe to consume? Also, finally, I placed this unused jar in the refrigerator. I checked it just now, and the top is flexed down, which is perplexing, since at room temperature a day ago, I was able to flex it up and down. What happened and would you use it?

Anyway, any comments and assurance will be appreciated!

By amypollick — On Nov 09, 2009

Anon51882: If you live anywhere near Montgomery, try looking in the phone book or online to see if there are any Asian grocery stores in town. They may have it. You could also get it at an Asian grocery store in Birmingham, and certainly in Atlanta, depending on what is closer to you. That would be your best bet other than looking to order it online. I'd try the Asian grocery stores first.

By anon51882 — On Nov 09, 2009

My Filipina wife loves Bagoong, but we live in Central Alabama and there are no Bagoong factories around here, that I know of. lol. Does anyone know where can i order some? Buying it is the only way I will be able to keep her from trying to make it. By the way, to say that it smells like rotten fish really misleads the average culinary artist. It smells much worse and tastes even worse than it smells, but my wife loves it. What a great Christmas present. Haha.

By anon45977 — On Sep 22, 2009

how do i make a bagoong? and what are the ingredients?

By anon27354 — On Feb 27, 2009

what are the procedures in making boneless bagoong?

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