Monday, August 15, 2011

Bagoong Alamang Guisado

Ah, bagoong alamang.  Utter the words “Summer fun” and it stands just below fireworks and beach parties in the minds of Americans, both young and old.   

(SPOILER: Bagoong alamang is salted shrimp fry)

“But, Allison!”, you protest, picking under ripe green mango and baby shrimp from your teeth while adjusting your cowboy hat as Bon Jovi plays in the background. “What could be more mundane?  I not only consume bagoong alamang regularly, I make it myself!”  Well, rest easy, friends!  I wouldn’t just blog about bagoong alamang!  No, this is about bagoong alamang guisado! (By the by, this just goes to show exactly how much a filthy commie my friend Lauren is because, when I told her that I made some, she accused me of making up words.)   

You need:
A sweet yellow onion
Bagoong alamang (The Filipino kind if you want specifics)
Olive oil
Total cost: $10 - $20

The recipe itself is pretty simple.  If you know how to stir fry (and assuming that you’ve ever cooked anything, you probably do) you can make this.  Bagoong alamang is very salty…very, very, very salty.  I could not possibly overstate how salty it is.  I had to make it twice because I the first time around I didn't have the tomatoes or enough vinegar and I think I almost desiccated myself.

Finely chop a half cup of onion and a half cup of tomatoes and mince three cloves of garlic.  Sautee the veggies in oil over medium heat until the tomatoes are soft, the garlic is browned and the onions are slightly translucent.  Add a cup of the bagoong alamang and three table spoons of sugar.  Add vinegar to your taste and simmer for about 10 minutes.  You want this stuff essentially reduced.  Taste it periodically and add more vinegar as necessary. Serve it over rice.

It’s a plesant sweet and salty sauce.  The tomatoes absorb the vinegar and sugar, releasing a nice burst of flavor if you get a chunk.  The bagoong alamang guisado itself has very little substance, which the rice makes up for.  This is tasty but should be used sparingly because the flavor is a bit too strong in large amounts.  I can’t quite describe the flavor beyond sweet and salty.  You know that hint of almost sweetness you get from a fresh, properly cooked shrimp?  Sort of that, kind of.  Sorry, that’s the best way I can think to describe it. Stay queer!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Canned Grass Jelly?

You know, there comes a time when you have to face your own prejudices and ethnocentrism and either admit that you were wrong or scramble to let everyone in the room know that you have friends belonging to the group you just derided, thereby absolving yourself of all blame and accusations of racism, or at least that's what your racist brain will convince you, you racist, racist. 

You know that you did something wrong.  You’re just too defensive and confused to admit it…and everyone knows. 

Where was I going with that?  Anyway, call me a stupid American, but I just never thought of grass being a dessert food, with the exception of the mint grass from Charlie and The Chocolate Factory.  Apparently I was wrong.  Behold!

You need:
One can on Deluxe Grass Jelly Dessert

What’s in this?  The ingredients are listed as “water, grass jelly, sugar, mung bean, coconut sap and extracts, konjac, chickpeas and algae extracts.”


I’m not entirely sure what country grass jelly is from.  My extensive study of Asian characters (which consists entirely of watching the occasional dubbed anime and the opening quotes from Sun Tzu in the beginning of Romance of The Three Kingdoms 8) fails me, so I’m going to turn to the internet for assistance.  Ok, according to Wikipedia, grass jelly hails from Taiwan, China, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia.  It comes with its own spoon too. Let’s get this bitch into a bowl and see how it is.

Oh my God.

I’ve never had a dessert remind me of a festering wound before.  First time for everything, I guess.  I’m feeling…hesitant.  I think it's the color that's putting me off. It smells kinda like wheat grass.


The gelatin itself has a strange, sweetish, almost tea-like flavor.  There’s almost a hint of…honey?  The chickpeas taste as you would expect them too.  I think these cubes in here are konjac and they’re like really chewy gelatin.  The mung beans just sort of…sit there tasting like mung beans.  I don’t understand.  A bunch of bland stuff in a weirdly sweet gelatin.  I’m sure it’s good for you but it feels like I’m eating a bowl of condiment.  Like this is supposed to go on something else.  I can’t finish this.  It’s not “bad” per se, it’s just really strange to my pallet. I'm sure that properly prepared grass jelly is better though. I'm not soured to the dish, but I don't think I'll be having it from a can again any time soon. Stay queer!