Growing up Filipina some of the food my mom made us eat – I just didn’t want to eat. I wanted good ole American food like everyone else. I didn’t want my friends to come over and scrunch up their nose and say my house smells funny. But looking back, that was just me being a kid. I now crave the food my mom made growing up. It also gives me some of my fondest memories.
Pinakbet is indigenous to the Philippines. You will find some variation of this dish in any pinoy household. My mom used to make it with bittermelon growing up and unfortunately as an adult, it is still not a favorite of mine – so my version of pinakbet does not include bittermelon. But what makes pinakbet – pinakbet is the use of what we call bagoong (shrimp paste). You will find two kinds in the store – one is prepared – dark brown in color, and often has added onions, oil, and peppers. The other kind is more of a vibrant pink color – it doesn’t have the additions of the items and is typically just shrimp and salt. This is what I used in my recipe to keep it paleo.
And if you are still here reading – then KUDOS to you! Bagoong sounds funny to most – but it has the most depth of umami you can add to any dish. It is salty, tangy and has the taste of the sea. It is funky smelling, there is no sugar coating that. Especially once you cook it, the smell becomes pungent and strong. But once cooked – the flavors that develop are quite opposite. It becomes mellow and sweet.
I was hesitant to share this recipe. I was nervous that people would not even give this recipe a try and turn up their nose at the word “Shrimp paste”. But this dish is so flavorful and so delicious – that it is worth everyone trying at least once.
Even if you don’t venture to make this dish at home – I ask that you venture to a Filipino restaurant and try this dish at least once.