alamang camias bilimbi baguc bagoong chicharron

Summertime in the Philippines is hot and humid. The heat can be oppressive and renders one lethargic. March is just the start of summer but it already feels like an oven in here! Even the normally hyperactive cats are asleep all day, waking up to drink every few minutes. I am tempted to follow their example.

The onset of summer means light and quick meals. Why stay in front of a hot stove for long periods when cool and refreshing food can be prepared from the produce straight out of the garden or refrigerator mainstays? This month’s Is My Blog Burning? with the theme Make it in 30 minutes! is wonderfully synchronised with my summer cooking or semi-cooking, if you will.

This dish may seem like a salad but it is more than that. In the Philippines, anything savoury can be eaten with rice to make up a meal. This alamang and camias salad is then considered as a viand.

Alamang (Acetes sibogae) are tiny marine shrimps sold fresh in marketplaces. They are made into fish sauce (patis or kesiap), salted and made into paste (baguc or bagoong), battered and fried like burgers or simply boiled and eaten with vegetables.

For as long as I can remember, my mother would buy alamang, boil them and store them in the freezer, much like how there should always be cans of sardines and tuna in the pantry for emergency situations. We also have a camias tree (Averrhoa bilimbi) in the backyard which has fruits almost all year round with summer as the peak season. Salted shrimp paste is also made from alamang but the process of fermentation gives it a different flavour. We always have a bottle of baguc/bagoong bought fresh then sautéed in garlic but grocery stores now sell it bottled, cooked and ready-to-eat.

A simple dish with just three ingredients – alamang, camias, with a teaspoon of baguc – I’ve always associated this with summer meals. We either have it as part of a more elaborate spread or on its own when wanting to refresh the palate with something simple.

The version on this page is a recipe one of our neighbours gave me when she learnt of my quest to document our town’s everyday food, a.k.a. peasant cuisine. She said this is a usual accompaniment prepared for drinking sessions, the crushed chicharon’s fat slowing down the alcohol’s effects.

I don’t drink but hey, this is perfect for lunch or dinner! Easy, fast and most of all, tasty!

Alamang & Camias

1/2 cup boiled alamang
6 large camias, cold if possible
1 teaspoon cooked baguc (bagoong, salted shrimp paste)
5 pieces chicharon (pork cracklings)

  1. Thinly slice camias cross-wise. (3 minutes)
  2. Place the sliced camias in a bowl and mash lightly with fingers to soften. (3 minutes)
  3. Arrange it to form a bed then layer the alamang on top. (2 minutes)
  4. Drizzle the baguc over the mixture. (30 seconds, a minute for slowpokes like I sometimes am)
  5. With a rolling pin or on a mortar and pestle, crush the chicharon. (2 minutes)
  6. Sprinkle the chicharon over the mixture. (30 seconds)
  7. Serve and toss/mix together before eating. (1 minute)

Total time: 12 minutes

This is of course eaten with steamed rice, the timing of which I did not include because in Filipino homes, there is almost always rice over the stove or in a rice cooker. If I factor in the cooking time for rice (good for 1-2 persons), it only takes 10 minutes on a rice cooker or 15 on a stovetop.

Total time: 22-27 minutes

But just to complicate things more, what if my alamang were not yet cooked and I still had to boil them? To finish the challenge I’d need a stove with at least two burners (or my grandmother’s two clay wood-burning stoves) or one stove and one rice cooker.

Procedure:

  1. Wash and cook rice.
  2. While the rice is cooking, rinse and boil the alamang. (steps 1 & 2 simultaneously, 10-15 minutes)
  3. Prepare the salad. (12 minutes)

Total time: 22-27 minutes

Challenge met with enough time to shoo away the kitties who woke up after smelling the shrimps!

Thank you Barrett, for hosting this month’s IMBB! Why isn’t there an Iron Chef Philippines?

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