Just by looking at the photo, you wouldn’t have guessed what accompanies the crunch fried espada (dried swordfish) I ate for breakfast.
Good morning, buro! For the uninitiated, balao-balao, or buro, is the fruit of combining cooked rice, salt, fish (usually dalag or tilapia) or shrimps and allowing to rot (excuse my French) for a week or two. The art of fermenting (and eating) buro is among the hefty contribution to the colorful mélange of flavors in Filipino cooking from the Kapangpangans, known for, among the lengthy list, popular delicious meat dishes such as bringhe, kare-kare, humba, morcon, lechon kawali, bulanglang (pork or beef ribs slow cooked in guava) and tocino; heavenly desserts such as tibok-tibok, halo-halo with pastillas de leche, sans rival and turrones de casuy (cashew pralines); and exotic dishes such as batute tugak (stuffed frogs), begukan, tidtad itik, adobong kamaru (crickets), taba ng talangka, bubuto, sisig (grilled pig face prepared a la ceviche, which Tony Bourdain has explored via his Pinoy food guide, celebrated Kapangpangan chef/artist Claude Tayag, for No Reservations).
Culturally motivated cooks, the Kapangpangans are also adept at food preservation. Traditionally, they use angkak (red yeast rice) to make buro.
The common practice of enjoying buro is sautéing it with garlic, tomatoes and onions and eating it with mustasa (mustard) leaves and fried hito (catfish). I have yet to see mustasa in Ilocos, I got tired of my kamias-buro routine, so I just played and experimented my way in the kitchen. Instead of cooking new rice, finding inspiration from rice cooked in aligue (fermented crab fat, another buro from the Kapangpangans), I sautéed store-bought burong bulig (mudfish), the works, and added some leftover rice, and paired it with fried espada from Damortis, La Union. My piping-hot buro-covered rice was just as funky wicked!
I don’t want to be way too graphic, buro might be a little difficult to embrace, but as they say, looks or smells can be deceiving.
Photographed by Blauearth © Blauearth™ All Rights Reserved 2009-2012