BY VINA MEDENILLA
Pampanga is labeled the culinary capital of the Philippines for its delicious classic recipes and rich food culture. Sisig, bringhe or paella, and burong Kapampangan are some of the Kapampangan dishes that have not only marked the local culinary scene, but have also placed the country on the global food map.
This Filipino Food Month, the Department of Agriculture (DA) puts local dishes on the center stage through the free webinar series aired via the Facebook pages of the DA and Agricultural Training Institute (ATI).
One of the dishes that Pampanga is famous for is called burong Kapampangan. Burong Kapampangan is a recipe that has been passed through generations. Buro is a Tagalog word for preserved, fermented, or pickled.
A farm that offers this traditional Kapampangan recipe is Diaspora Farm Resort found in Bacolor, Pampanga.
Annette Patdu and Claire Cortez, owner of Diaspora Farm Resort and her sister respectively, demonstrated the process of making burong Kapampangan, otherwise called tag-ilo if fish is the main ingredient used and balo-balo if shrimp is used in the fermentation.
Three main ingredients
One does not need to spend a lot in making this dish as it can be created out of the materials that are grown in many local farms and are considered staples in most Filipino households.
For tag-ilo or fermented fish, ingredients are one-fourth kilo of fish (either tilapia, dalag, hito, or any available fish), four cups of cooked rice, and four tablespoons of salt. While for balo-balo, ingredients are the same, except that shrimp is used instead of the usual tilapia fish.
Patdu said in Tagalog, “The fresher [the seafood], the better. The smaller [the seafood], the better. This way, you won’t have to remove their heads.” As long as they are clean and fresh, any fish can be used.
Making the fermented fish and shrimp
If tilapia is your choice of fish, fillet the tilapia and slice it into smaller sizes. To start the tag-ilo, mix the fish and salt in a bowl. Then, add the cooked white rice next. Mix it properly using your hands. Patdu said that the texture of rice can be adjusted (soft or a little firmer), depending on one’s taste preference.
Using a glass jar or container, put the mixture in and make sure to fill the spaces properly. Afterward, cover it firmly with the lid and place in a shaded part of the kitchen with no access to sunlight. Ferment it for five days.
For the balo-balo or fermented shrimp, removing the head of shrimp is not necessary, especially if using small sizes, said Patdu. She adds that the secret of these recipes lies in the freshness of the ingredients used.
Making balo-balo has the same process as tag-ilo. Mix the shrimp and salt in a bowl. Add the rice and mix them properly to absorb the flavor of the shrimp in rice. After that, fill the glass bottle with it.
These recipes do not have to be put in the refrigerator. “You only place it in the refrigerator if you want to stop their fermentation,” said Patdu. After five days of fermentation, Patdu added that there will be slight color changes. By this time, the fermented fish and shrimp will be ready for cooking, which is carried out to enhance its flavor.
Serving balo-balo and tag-ilo
Preheat the pan for a few minutes, pour about one-fourth cup of cooking oil, add the chopped garlic, then follow the onions and tomatoes. Put the fermented shrimp or fish in next. Other seasonings and flavorings can also be added, according to one’s liking.
These two dishes are often served and partnered with vegetables like mustasa, okra, and ampalaya in many restaurants and households in Pampanga. It can also be a dip, side dish, or can even be matched with other dishes like pritong tilapia.
For Patdu, these variations on the same dish are some of the best ways to show the ingenuity of Kapampangans.
For more information about the event, visit Filipino Food Month on Facebook.