Claude 9, Cole Special, and Navarro Premium: Three Brands of Premium Aligue to Splurge onDecember 24, 2018
We’ve previously gone through three brands of aligue (a.k.a. taba ng talangka, crab fat, or crab roe) that don’t break the bank, thanks to the use of fillers and/or additives that allow for keeping their prices low. But perhaps you’d rather go for the real thing? Here are three more bottles of crab fat—this time, of the premium sort—that we’ve spotted on the supermarket shelves. At PHP 250 and above for these players, which brand is worth the splurge?
This jar hails from Pampango restaurant Bale Dutung’s in-house food line. Buried under a good amount of orange-tinted oil is a liquidy mix with small curds of crab fat; it mostly feels creamy, seemingly comprised of more tomalley than roe—though you still do get some pops of roe, along with bits of minced garlic. Flavor-wise it’s not very salty but scores high on piquancy, flaunting a very vivid, vinegar-y tang that can tend to overpower, but makes for a supreme sauce with pasta. The umami depth of crab and garlic nonetheless cradles it underneath, before ending with a mild, seafood-y sweetness.
Saltiness: 2/5 | Sourness: 5/5 | Thickness: 2/5
For their higher-end taba ng talangka, Cole goes for a mix that’s distinctly dryer in consistency, similar to Italian bottarga. Bearing a brownish orange hue, you get more solid granules of crab meat and fat, and just enough oil to keep it moist; you can easily scoop up a mound with a spoon (or heck, even a fork). Though the said oil can be overly salty and tangy, it’s easy enough to separate from the crab, allowing you to better isolate and taste the crab flavor. Though the mix feels a tad lean (with what seems to be more pure roe than creamy tomalley), the relative neutrality makes it a versatile player for cooking with. (Truthfully though, we’d be totally content eating this straight from the jar as ulam with rice.)
Saltiness: 3/5 | Sourness: 3/5 | Thickness: 5/5
Navarro’s premium player is the darkest-colored talangka of the lot, with a consistency right smack dab Claude 9’s and Cole’s: firmer and with more solids than the former, but creamier and with more oil than the latter. It’s the boldest-tasting aligue of the bunch, scoring high on saltiness and carrying a forceful pungency which—as with its “regular” variant—strikes us as tasting like bagoong but with a clear sourness toward the end. Thankfully you get a whisper of sweetness toward the end, lent richness with the egg yolk-esque flavor of the crab roe.
Saltiness: 4.5/5 | Sourness: 4/5 | Thickness: 3.5/5
The Verdict: Claude 9
Choosing a winner among the higher-priced versions was tough as no one brand struck us as being perfect, and the differences between them were immense. On one hand, we applaud the umami goodness of Navarro; on the other hand, Cole’s roe-heavy take, though leaner than we’d like on our aligue, struck us as insanely addictive (albeit in the sense of being like bottarga or cooked mentaiko) nonetheless. We were close to awarding the latter, but ultimately decided that—at least with regard to offering the rich, deadly goodness expected of taba ng talangka—Claude 9’s sour but incomparably creamy version takes home the crown.