Friday, December 14, 2007

LP22: Buro

[Buro'n Gourami]

Buro is freshwater fish fermented in salt and ba-aw (ba-ao, bahaw, steamed rice). It is the foulest smelling edible thing in all the whole wide world, but ironically, it is eaten as an appetizer.

Buro is actually a means of preserving seasonal freshwater fish from the times when electricity has not been invented. The prized fish dalag (mudfish), which comes out of hibernation during the rainy season, is salted and fermented with salted cooked rice to preserve the surplus. So are the native tilapia - small, thin and black - and the rare gourami, which burrow in mud during the dry spell.

These are still the preferred fish to be fermented in a buro today, still as a means of preserving, but more as a way of keeping on with tradition. Nowadays it has actually attained the status of a native delicacy. The buro'n tilapia and gourami are the more common, with the buro'n dalag - since the fish is more rare, the flesh more tasty - commanding about Php250/kg.

I know buro is eaten in other places in the country, like burong talangka (salted fermented mud crabs) in Bulacan, burong hipon (small shrimps fermented in rice) in Pampanga, burong mustasa (salted mustard leaves in water) in Cavite, plus we also have burong mangga (salted unripe mangoes in water) in Pangasinan.

In Pangasinan, though, when you speak of buro - without any qualifier - you refer to the fish fermented with rice. The tang and fermented taste of buro is much, much more pronounced than any other buro outside the province. It is as sour as any spoiled food if you have ventured to eat some (I haven't, but I eat buro).

It is actually indescribable, and those who did not grow up with buro being served on the table will be really turned off by the smell alone. When I was a kid I could not tolerate it on the table if it were placed in front of me. But you get used to it, and once your tastebuds have desensitized a little, you will find that because you're eating it, it will propel you to eat a lot more than what you usually do.

I find this to be the greatest irony of all.

The process of fermentation is pretty straight forward - de-scale, de-gut and clean the fish, rub with sea salt, then mix with cooled steamed rice also mixed with salt. Store, preferably in a covered banga (clay pot) although nowadays it is kept in a plastic container. In three days the buro has fermented well enough to be eaten.

When in season, unripe, julienned labong is topped on the buro before it is fermented.

To tame the taste a little, fresh buro is sauteed with lots of peeled, thinly sliced ginger root and tomatoes. This somewhat defeats the idea of buro, because the tomatoes will shorten the buro's shelf life. But the sauteeing adds to the appeal of buro, enriching the flavors.

Buro is not eaten as an appetizer per se, but small amounts - pea-sized - is eaten along with every spoonful of the meal. It pairs excellently with any native viand and vegetable dish - usually fried or grilled fish, pakbet and dishes cooked in bagoong.

They say that not everybody can make buro - and I agree. Despite the small number of ingredients and the simplicity of the process, not all buro made come out the same.

I have smelled, and not eaten, the buro made by a grand-aunt, who had been the subject of so many grand green jokes and snickers from many of her housemates because of the smell of her buro. It had been called not just ma-anglit, but also ma-ampap. I am not going to translate what these two words mean for purposes of, uhm, sensitivity? delicacy? (let's just say I don't want to offend anybody's sensibilities). But if you're not from the province go ask your Pangasinense friends. You will get my drift.

Lasang Pinoy 22 for December, with the theme Rice to the Challenge is hosted by JMom over at Cooked from the Heart.

Rice to the Challenge is a Lasang Pinoy event celebrating rice as used in Philippine cuisine.

Other delicacies featured in this blog that use rice:
Langka Suman and Intemtem
Inlubi with Toge
Halaan Arroz Caldo
Pinoy Paella
Arroz Tres Leches
Baked Buchi
Calasiao Puto


Anonymous said...

Hi Kai,

Cute may kargaan mo na buro :)
The only buro I tried is burong talangka. I don't like the smell but as I see the faces of my relatives na sarap na sarap, I dared try but failed miserably. Ma-ampap ya talaga. I-try ko lamet one of these days...


Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh! I remember my Papang eating buro. I can only say that it is definitely an aquired taste and smell. I was never brave enough to try some. I think it was also sauteed in oil sometimes with maybe onions or garlic. The smell is definitely burned in my memory. But this is a food flash back which I do not crave for. I am planning to go home (Calasiao and Dagupan) for a visit soon. Can anybody recommend foodie places for me. Thanks!

Kai said...

Jane, just try it in very small amounts and bury it in rice, hehe.

Marilou, definitely you should try Matutina's along Bonuan Beach. Of course the pigar pigar at Burgos in the evenings, karaoke at Star Plaza - good Chinese food. For other dishes try KiCaco on the way to Lucao, and Plato Wraps along the new De Venecia Road - the shortcut from Lucao to Calasiao. Good bread, ensaymada and cheap tsokolate in their bakery.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Kai! I am really looking forward to going home. I haven't been back in almost 10 years so I'm a little nervous too. I know it will be very different now since both my grandparents have since passed away. So, I'm on my own as far as looking for my favorite foods. Thanks again.

UT-Man said...

Never have had the chance to taste buro but will definitely give it a try.

Kai said...

Marilou, care for pancit? It's the ultimate homecoming snack for me. De Luxe still makes em like the good ole days - my favorite is the pancit con sabaw and miki-bihon guisado, and they have a new spanking building near the new CSI mall in Lucao.
The puto kiosks in Calasiao have multiplied, but they sell the same great foodstuff - the puto, of course, sweet suman, Siapno's pastillas, cheese bibingka, kulambo...ahh I want to go on an ansak-ket eating binge!
By the way, Dagupena's relocated to Calasiao, by the highway going to Sta. Barbara.

Anonymous said...

haha! yep, I get the drift. :)

This is certainly a very informative post. Perfect for LP!
I love bagoong, but this one is beyond the adventureness of my palate. I remember my lolo having buro like this. My dad has his version of buro, but it is more like bagoong.

Kai said...

Thanks for hosting, Jeanette!

Kai said...

Oh, Jane, I must have overlooked your first sentence. That container is actually a wooden mortar with a lid, which I picked up from Banga-an, Banawe in the Ifugao province.

Jerry said...


Mas maong tay maampap ta no angapoy angob to, angapoy taway to.
Singa amay palalapuan to may ampap.

Kai said...

Hehehe, sirin no mas maampap mas masamit!

Jerry said...


Ibabagam, tano maminsan no maampap urasan mo labat and it's good to go.

Anonymous said...

Hello Kai!
panon to so panaggawa ya binuburan? Do you have an idea? It's my mom's favorite!!!

Kai said...

Oops, sorry for the very late reply - the comments tracking is not working. But the good news is, my in-laws make binuburan, and my husband likes it. I'll try to learn making it and feature it in a post soon.

Anonymous said...

Oh my god!!! I've been looking for Pangasinan Food blog site and finally found yours. Looooooove Buro although I agree it's an acquired taste. I'm from Calasiao originally but based here in Los Angeles. We still get pasalubong from back home and we actually always look forward to it (even if we can actually buy it here in LA). One thing I truly miss is Arurusip, the edible grape seaweed. I remember eating that back home with sliced tomatoes and with Inihaw na Bangus. YUM!! Please keep posting our local food. Thanks!

Dr. Ruben Z. Martinez said...

This is so kanyaman (masarap), he he he

Dan Nino said...

Anonymous said:
panon to so panaggawa ya binuburan?

A salik su man gaway binuburan aminsan, pero memorized ko labat ed utak ko su recipe.

Angaliw ak na Libadura diman ed Dagupan antes ak pimaiwil ed USA.

I post ko next su Recipe tan Procedure naani nu labi.

Kai said...

Oh, Julius, can you please share? I can't access your profile, and I'm trying to make some, too.

flipster said...

I grew up in Dagupan and I learned to eat buro from my late beloved grandmother. She sautes garlic , onions, tomatoes and ginger and adds meaty fried pork belly and ground black pepper before mixing the beloved buro. It is a meal(viand)by itself.

Does anybody know the recipe of Menudencia?

Again my grandma's favorite every Easter Sunday which is made boiled with beef tripe and other innards (offal)and kamias as a souring agent and served piping hot or the cholesterol will clog you esophagus, right in the middle of summer.
Appreciate any inputs, Thanks.

Kai said...

Hi Flipster, first time I've heard of the term menudencia, but with your description I've eaten it before. Tripe, beef liver, and lungs I think, chopped into small pieces, boiled with chopped onions and ginger, the boiling water discarded, then boiled again, repeating the process until the maangu smell disappears, maybe two to three boiling is enough.

Then put in a pan of fresh water with sliced onions, julienned ginger and halved kamias and let boil until tender. Season with salt and pepper. I hope this goes right. For my family we add squeezed kalamansi juice for a more pronounced sourness. Hmm, I think I'm off to the market to scour for some beef offals.

mayumi said...

Pangasinan Buro is like diamond.
Everytime we go to the US, buro tops the list of pasalubongs distantly followed by tupig, boy bawang, sugo mani....

Dya ed malasiqui so pansasaliwan mi na buro.....

Amusing words.

Actually these are gender specific...Maampap (Maampep)for females and Maantol for males....

Kai said...

Hahaha, yep! maantol and maampap! but definitely maampap!

Lou in SanFran 1111001atgmail said...

YEY,BURO! Brings back good memories of Bai from 35 years ago, olfactory and all. If I might add an observation, the humor and gentleness of the people show through somehow in the language of this blog. Thank you.

Derick said...

Opo masarap po ang buro and the town of Bayambang here in Pangasinan is renowned of this. They make great buro distintive from any other buros from around the country and that is why it is one of the highilghts of their annual town fiesta aside from its Malangsi Fish-tival (Fresh water fishes festival). In case you wonder first week of april is their town fiesta, an ocassion worth trying and visiting, try it!