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Buro: The Philippines’s Own Version of Kimchi

No matter where and how you use buro, it's high time that we take pride in our own fermented dishes!

Because of the popularity of Kdrama and Kpop, Korean food has taken the spotlight in many different countries, including the Philippines. Samgyupsal places have popped up like mushrooms in and around Metro Manila, Korean groceries and supermarkets are found even in the provinces, and video tutorials of how to make Korean dishes are all over the internet.

But if there’s one Korean food that’s even more popular than these snacks and drinks, it would be kimchi— which is probably next on the list after samgyupsal. Kimchi, a fermented vegetable side dish, is usually paired with noodles, soup, and meat as a flavor enhancer, as it is usually quite spicy. Some people also use it to make kimchi fried rice, a leveled up version of sinangag. (Read: 4 Types of Kimchi You Probably Didn’t Know About)

But did you know that Filipinos have a local version of kimchi? It isn’t necessarily spiced, fermented cabbage, but it is fermented fruit or vegetable!

Filipino Version of Kimchi

(Left) Burong Mangga (Pickled Mango); (right) Burong Mustasa (Pickled Mustard Leaves) (Photos from Kawaling Pinoy and Foxy Folksy)

Buro, which means ‘to pickle’, is a white or pinkish paste served on the side in many restaurants in Pampanga and Rizal. It is a Filipino delicacy that can also be sold on the streets and is similar to kimchi in that it enhances the flavors of already delicious dishes. (Read: 4 Food Trends to Expect This Year, According to Experts)

There are three kinds of buro in the Philippines: burong mangga (pickled mango), burong mustasa (pickled mustard leaves), or the term can also refer to a fermented rice paste. It is usually made of rice porridge and seafood— can be shrimp, bangus, dalag, or hito, in most cases— and is fermented for a period of time.

Fermented Side Dish

Burong Salmon Adlai by Chef Victor Barangan (Photo from Out of Town Blog)

The fermentation helps improve the flavor of the ingredients in buro and makes it a great side dish to different dishes. But despite its delicious taste, the scent might not be as pleasing for most.

Buro has a strong smell given that it was fermented, much like blue cheese which is cheese with molds— but if you get past that, it will definitely be a delight for your tastebuds! (Read: The Filipino Comfort Food: Sisig, Its History, And Its Variants)

Buro can be eaten as a side or straight from the jar. You can use it to add flavor to your fried rice, or as a sauce for your steamed vegetables and fried food. Some are also adventurous that they even put buro on puto or steamed rice cakes.

No matter where and how you use buro, it’s high time that we take pride in our own fermented dishes!

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