Cole, Navarro’s Regular, and Lorins: 3 Budget-Friendly Taba ng TalangkaDecember 17, 2018
You can thank the Filipino sense of resourcefulness for numerous things; one of its tastiest outcomes is the appreciation of aligue, a.k.a. taba ng talangka. Though literally translated as “crab fat”, some believe it to be made not of fat per se in the sense that lard is, but with the crab tomalley and/or roe, sauteed in garlic and seasoned with vinegar or calamansi for preservation and extra flavor. This delicacy is thought to be high in cholesterol but loved by locals nonetheless, often used as a ready-to-eat sauce or condiment of sorts with pasta or rice, or as an ingredient for other dishes. And though often pricey (or available only in the provinces), you’ll find more budget-friendly options in the supermarket that may not consist as purely of crab, but aim to provide a similar taste and feel nonetheless. How do they compare?
The lowest-priced option of Cole’s range of aligue goes by a fiercely reddish-orange hue. Oddly goopy in consistency, it has small curds of some unidentified substance which logic tells us should be crab, but instead reminds us of instant oatmeal. The overall mix is barely salty, in that it feels like it’s been extended with some sort of starch, but delivers on a decent amount of sourness—enough that it breathes life into anything you serve it with. Toward the end, though, what emerges is an aftertaste we can best describe as tasting weirdly milky with a hint of fake banana flavoring.
Saltiness: 1/5 | Sourness: 3.5/5 | Thickness: 1.5/5
Lorin’s version takes on a darker, more saturated red tone, taking on a mostly liquid-y consistency sporadically decked with curds of crab roe (and the occasional bits of what seems to be soft crab or shrimp shells). Wateriness aside, it’s the tangiest of the lower-end versions, with hints of sautéed garlic, onion, and a sweet sinigang na hipon-esque, seafood-y note in the backdrop—before ending with a mildly sweet finish. Though the texture makes it an odd choice for eating straight up, it works its magic better when used to flavor fried rice or other dishes that can benefit from starting out with more liquid.
Saltiness: 2.5/5 | Sourness: 4/5 | Thickness: 1/5
On the cheapest (“regular”) variant of Navarro’s range of taba ng talangka you get a paste with an admittedly less visually-pleasing (but somewhat more natural-looking?) grayish-orange color. It’s much denser than the other two, loosely comparable to a thick porridge (the ingredient list reveals it was thickened with breadcrumbs)—which makes it harder to mix into sauces, but easier to spread on crostini. Aside from containing a higher amount of discernible crab roe versus the previous two, it’s the saltiest of the cheaper options, with a deep, garlicky pungency akin to fermented shrimp paste. The crab flavor nonetheless comes through, brightened somewhat with just a mid-level tartness.
Saltiness: 4/5 | Sourness: 3.5/5 | Thickness: 3/5
The Verdict: Navarro
Porridge-y texture aside, Navarro gives you a decent amount of crab meat (at least compared to the other two). Though the saltiness can take over, you can at least use a small amount and have it go a long way.