A Sunday Market is the last place I'd pop into when on holiday, but a friend has a permanent stall there, and schedule issues meant that was the only guaranteed time I can see him.
Legazpi Sunday Market is in the heart of Makati, which is the central business district of Metro Manila and financial centre of the Philippines --at least the last time I lived in the country. I heard Bonifacio Global City (BGC) is overtaking it.
But I digress. As usual.
What's most unusual about Sunday Markets in the Philippines, compared to other markets I've been to in other countries, is there's a Sunday Mass. The country is so Roman Catholic that way that before everyone partakes in gastronomical hedonism, one must first line their digestive tract and soul with the body and blood of Christ.
I decided not to have breakfast as I was sure that markets such as this one would be overflowing with food vendors selling all the food and delicacies I only get to try when I'm in town (which is very rare nowadays) or that even if I manage to access in Europe, the taste, consistency, and quality are not the same.
I don't recommend Takoyaki Balls (above photo) for brunch, but let me tell you: it's better than leftover cold pizza when there's not even milk for tea. For the uninitiated, Wikipedia describes Takoyaki as: "a ball-shaped Japanese snack made of a wheat flour-based batter and cooked in a special takoyaki pan. It is typically filled with minced or diced octopus (tako), tempura scraps (tenkasu), pickled ginger, and green onion. Takoyaki are brushed with takoyaki sauce, similar to Worcestershire sauce and mayonnaise. The takoyaki is then sprinkled with green laver (aonori) and shavings of dried bonito (katsuobushi)."
I sometimes buy the frozen version from Japan Centre in Piccadilly Circus, but nothing beats freshly made ones.
Next stop was a stall of deep-fried varieties of street food. My friend was craving for some, but I opted to try another viand. All of these are in perfect combination with ice-cold Diet Coke or beer. But I did say it was brunch, so I didn't want to be judged. But then again, I was served beer for breakfast at The Reichstag.
See my friends next to the paper cups? They're called 'Chicharong Bulaklak' or deep fried pork mesentery. Now, I'm not going all scientific nor anatomical about mesentery, but just to correct everyone's impression, these are not pork intestines. They belong to the family of cracklings or scratchings, but in the Philippines, we go further beneath the skin, closer to the lining of the abdomen to be exact.
It's best paired with a dipping sauce of vinegar and some chili, washed down with alcoholic drinks, preferably beer.
'Chicharong Bulaklak' (bulaklak is literally translated as 'flower') is a very popular delicacy in the Philippines, lots of unaccustomed visitors may balk at the sight of it, or even the idea of trying it. One thing's for sure though, you've not truly been to Asia if your fare is limited to hotel or posh restaurant food.
Let's go and check out the familiar route: slabs of roast beef, and desserts by a British-born vendor whom I saw again in another fair in Old Manila on the evening of the same day.
|The reason I didn't try this, despite the heat and humidity melting me into a puddle, was because I saw the word 'British'. I thought I'd get it here anyway. What was I thinking?|
By this time, I've had my fill of most dishes I've been feeling deprived of in the last three years. There was so much to choose from though in the market, it was difficult to pick. This is why I stay away from buffets as much as possible.
I settled for the above 'Bagoong Rice', consisting of rice, red onions, very thinly sliced green mangoes, chili, scrambled egg, and pork lardon cooked in bagoong, a local condiment made from a mix of fermented fish (such as anchovies or krill) and salt.
I tried to take as much photos as possible, but the heat was unbearably stifling all I wanted to do was sit down and people-watch while sampling the various types of cold drinks from the stall next to my friend's.
And my friend himself. We met in London back in 2011, and since returning to the Philippines, he co-started 'The Dairy Farm' business. They make butter, cheese, and kefir milk using fresh products from Bukidnon, the food basket of one of the three major islands of the Philippines.
You'll find him at his stall every Sunday, from 7:30 am till 2pm.
If you find yourself in Makati or Manila, I highly recommend a side trip to Legazpi Sunday Market or any similar market. Aside from the chance to sample various cuisines and pick up souvenirs and one-off decorative pieces, it's an opportunity to get a little bit more acquainted with Philippine culture outside the standard tour itinerary.