[On the Universality of Seasonings and Condiments]
Seasonings and condiments are an aspect of Filipino cuisine that many Filipinos feel embarrassed about, perhaps because of the appearance, color, and smell of many of these food enhancers or modifiers; and maybe because they think that these are found only in the cuisines and dining tables of Filipino households.
Well, if they think that patis (‘fish sauce’) and bagoong (‘shrimp paste’ ), for example, are unique to the Filipino culture, then it’s about time that they open their minds (and their taste buds and olfactory sense, for that matter) to cuisines of other cultures. Only then will they know that such seasonings and condiments have been existing also in the cuisine and cooking of many other cultures for a very long time.
Not Only in the Philippines
Fish sauce or extract is a condiment derived from fish or shellfish that have been allowed to ferment. An essential ingredient in many curries and sauces that comes in varieties, it is a staple ingredient in Filipino cuisine (patis), Vietnamese (nu?c m?m), Thai (nam pla), Burmese (ngan bya yay), Indonesian (trasi), Cambodian (prahok), Korean (jeotgal), Japanese (ishiru), and many other Asian countries and even Western countries (Worcestershire sauce), which contains anchovies.
Soy sauce (toyo) is a condiment made of soybeans fermented along with water and salt. Some varieties are made with roasted grain. It is a traditional ingredient in East and Southeast Asian cuisines and, in more recent times, is used in Western cuisine and prepared foods.
Bagoong (shrimp paste or fish extract). While bagoong as many Filipinos know it may have originated in the Philippines, a similar condiment known as garum (composed mainly of fish intestines) existed in Ancient Rome.
Caviar—an expensive delicacy/appetizer popular in Canada, United States, and Europe—is made of salted fish roe, thus may be considered related to bagoong and other fish extracts.
Sa Madaling Salita
Hindi dapat ikahiya ang mga sawsawang Filipino anuman ang itsura, kulay, at amoy ng mga ito—dahil, una, malaki ang tulong nila sa pagpapasarap ng maraming pagkain; at ikalawa, hindi lamang sa kulturang Filipino makikita ang mga ito. Maging ang ibang lahi ay matagal nang gumagamit ng sawsawan at iba pang uri ng rekado upang pasarapin ang kanilang pagkain.
Or, in Simple Words
Filipinos should not be ashamed of their cuisine’s penchant for seasonings and condiments because, first, these have a big role in enhancing the taste and smell of food; second, not only Filipino but perhaps every culture in the world makes use of seasonings and condiments in making food tastier.v
Para sa akin hindi kumpleto ang sinigang kung walang patis o ang kare-kare kapag walang kaparehang bagoong, kaya sa tuwing iyan ang baon kong ulam sa trabaho, hindi ko kinalilimutan ang sawsawan. Sabi tuloy sa akin ng isang katrabahong Filipino noong minsang kare-kare ang baon kong ulam, “O, bakit ka nagbaon ng bagoong? Nakakahiya, mangangamoy.” Sagot ko sa kanya, e ba’t naman ako mahihiya, e parte ito ng putaheng Filipino. Bukod pa r’yan, kahit ang ibang lahi naman ay gumagamit din ng sawsawan sa marami nilang pagkain.