A few years ago I bought a jar of Filippiono fermented shrimp paste called Bagoong alamang in an Asian grocery, simply out of curiosity. When I looked up what to do with it I was delighted to learn that one of its main uses is actually to make a sauce for pork. Binagoongang Baboy (Pork with bagoong) is a very popular comfort food on the Philippines, and I have been making it at home semi-regularly since I discovered it.
For us Europeans it seems odd to combine pork and fermented shrimp. But rather than making the meat taste of seafood, it is a very efficient way of adding umami flavours to a dish. It is really not different from the use of fish sauce in Thai cuisine for just about everything. In this dish the shrimp paste is combined with tomatoes, onions and garlic, a common mediterranean sauce base that shows the strong Spanish colonial infuence on Filippino cuisine. So actually this is Asian/European fusion food that already has a long tradition.
My version uses a special ingredient that is neither European nor Filippino but works very well: A spoonful of Sichuan pickled chili gives the sauce an acidic zing that counterbalances the salty shrimp but also is a good match for the tomatoes.
Ingredients (serves 2):
- 500 g boneless pork belly
- 200 g tomatoes (fresh or canned), chopped
- 100 g Bagoong Alamang Guisado (sauteed shrimp paste)
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon Sichuan pickled chili
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- Green parts of 2 scallions
- Vegetable oil for deep frying
- Parboiling: 60 minutes
- Deep frying: 20 minutes
- Simmering: 15 minutes
Deep frying and the final simmering phase can be done in a wok, but there is no real advantage to it, so a saucepan and a large skillet will do as well.
In lightly salted water gently simmer the pork belly for one hour, removing all froth that shows on the surface. Cut the pork belly into small slices, about 2 x 2 x 0.5 cm. Reserve the cooking liquid.
In a wok or a medium size saucepan heat enough vegetable oil to cover a few pork pieces to 170 degrees. Deep fry the meat in small batches until nicely browned, then set aside. Be extra careful to protect your kitchen and yourself from oil bursts that are likely to happen when deep frying pork belly. You can of course just sear the pork pieces in a skillet, but the result won’t be as good.
In a wok or large skillet heat some vegetable oil on medium to high heat. Add the pickled chilies and sautee for a minute until fragrant. Then add onions and garlic and sautee until they start to turn brown. Add the tomatoes and sautee some more until most liquid has evaporated. Add the bagoong, sugar and 200 ml of the pork stock. Turn the heat down to low and let simmer again for a while until most water has evaporated.
Add the pork pieces and let them heat up a few minutes in the sauce. Garnish with the scallions and serve with rice. Recommended drink: water or beer.