Yesterday I found myself in quite the umami conundrum. I’d set out to make homemade caesar dressing, and had all the ingredients—lemon juice, parmesan, egg yolk, garlic—but found that my pantry lacked canned anchovy fillets, the briny backbone of the dish.
In a moment of inspiration, I reached for my jar of shrimp paste—specifically bagoong, a version of Filipino shrimp paste that has been sautéed and keeps basically forever in the fridge.
My recipe called for three chopped anchovy filets. I substituted about a teaspoon of this very potent stuff; since it is so funky and fragrant, I went for a bit less by volume than I would have gotten from the anchovies. And indeed, the paste provided all the necessary umami, brininess and fishiness I was looking for, plus a good (great) amount of edgy funk. It paired perfectly with the acidity of the lemon juice and richness of the egg yolk in the dressing.
In fact, I would suggest trying to funk-ify any dish that calls for anchovy by adding shrimp paste instead. You can add it to marinades for meat and fish, stir it into tomato sauce or even make a compound butter.
Of course, I still love anchovies and hope to get a can to keep in my pantry the next time I go to the grocery store. But for anyone who loves that fishy flavor, keeping a big jar of shrimp paste in your fridge means you will always have access to extra funky umami whenever you need it.