ULTIMATE TASTE TEST DISCOVERIES SERIES
We got a lot of raves about Bangga’s special bagoong (shrimp paste). It garnered an Ultimate Taste Test (UTT) rating of 3.4 out of 5.0.
Even before the UTT Event, we were already enjoying Bangga’s special bagoong. It is different because the first impression is that it is sweet. But it has a lingering salty taste at the back of your mouth and is highlighted by chili spikes in the end. You can actually eat the bagoong on its own and it is quite addicting. We find it a perfect companion to an extremely sour green mango. It can also make simple rice into something you can finish even without other ulam (dishes).
Our family is from Bicol and we did not find the laing anything special, and we like it with even more gata (coconut milk).
The Story of Bangga’s Special Bagoong
by Patrick Cruz, son of Bangga
Our bagoong recipe was the product of a personal quest by Ms. Victoria Cruz in the early 80’s to perfect this popular condiment to suit her own palate, as she found those in the market as salty, commercially made and quite unhealthy. Vicky, or Bangga, as her family and friends from her hometown Gubat, Sorsogon fondly called her, stumbled upon a well-kept bagoong recipe from her mother-in-law, the late Felipa Cruz of Malabon. With Lola Ipay’s blessing, Bangga studied the recipe and experimented on it to come up with her own version of the said viand.
The secret is in the cooking process, as the ‘alamang’ (shrimp fry) is cooked for almost three hours to ensure its savory flavor remains intact. After simmering to an almost ‘heavenly’ scent (as bagoong is known for its strong smell), it is then enhanced by freshly picked and delectably secret ingredients for it to achieve a distinct taste. No preservatives, MSG or any artificial ingredients are used to ensure that such comes out to be a healthy treat.
Bangga first introduced her bagoong recipe to family, friends and officemates who all swore to its addicting effect; as it leans towards a sweeter, tangier side. They used it as a substitute for ‘patis’ (fish sauce) or soy sauce, serving as an apt dip for Kare-Kare, Sinigang (of any meat), Nilagang baka/baboy and other Pinoy staple viands, as well as the perfect partner for pregnant moms’ favorite ‘lihi’ fruits like manggang hilaw, pinya, santol etc. (a recent patron swore it tasted well with bananas). Word of mouth spread regarding this homemade product, enabling it to reach the US, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand and other parts of the globe, with orders coming in from those who’ve heard it from their relatives here. Such helped it gain a steady stream of foodie orders on a regular basis, helping Bangga earn both revenue and recognition for this condiment that is very much Pinoy as its pungent and mouth-watering taste.
Along with her bagoong, Bangga was also able to concoct her own ‘laing’ recipe, which was a product of her Bicolana heritage, with her version using more ‘gata’ (coconut) compared to the others seen in the said region. Coconut milk is prepared and cooked for hours, separately from the dried taro leaves used to prepare this dish — also done to ensure richness and creaminess of taste. Special toppings like large shrimps, ‘tinapa’ (smoked fish) and crispy chicken skin are used to add presentation value to the said dish. Those who’ve tried it have also expressed appreciation for such, by spreading the word about this delicious dish, with orders also coming in from various parts of the world to have a taste of this appetizing pride from the Bicol region.
BANGGA’S BAGOONG AND LAING