I was in Legazpi and suburbs for two days last week. Of course, I couldn’t miss a visit to the central market and despite the stormy weather, I discovered the market well stocked with fish and produce and I really had a wonderful time wandering through the three floors. There will be several posts in the days ahead of this visit to Legazpi. One of the things that struck me about the vegetable section is that there were several vendors who were prepping the most commonly used vegetables so that they were essentially ready to cook. This isn’t such a unique situation, it’s true in many wet markets, but here the produce was of superb quality and they “chopped to order” and with incredible precision… In the first photo above, a young man was slicing the primest quality ubod with the sharpest of knives… the rapid fire chopping or slicing yielded thin slices of ubod quicker and thinner than my expensive mandoline back home. I purchased half a kilo of the stuff just so that I could get this photograph of him in action. If you blow up this photo, you will several several “shards” of ubod jumping off the knife, it is fascinating. I didn’t have a kitchen so I handed the 1/2 kilo of ubod I bought for just PHP15 to a guide who took it home to make into a salad… bummer, I didn’t get to taste it.
Another vendor was making quick work of slicing up an unripe jackfruit (langka). This can be a bit of pain in the neck to peel and prepare but this was done in seconds and for some reason wasn’t browning and it didn’t seem like they were using acidulated water (water with say kalamansi or lemon) to prevent the langka from turning brown. He was even cutting it without looking at his hands!
Next up, a bilao of thinly sliced banana hearts. I thought it looked so enticing but I wasn’t sure how to use it, assuming I had access to a kitchen. Then I remembered a reader who mentioned a chicken in gata dish with banana heart slices. And another recipe might be banana hearts in gata with tinapa.
Another lady had a stall filled with the most incredible looking squash or kalabasa, the deep orange flesh on display to encourage you to buy, buy, buy. In addition, the lady was prepping a bilao of cleaned and sliced ampalaya which you could buy by the 100 grams or so…
And finally, an older gentleman sitting near a pile of tanglad (gotta love the shirt), patiently stripping malunggay (horseradish tree) leaves from their stems so that buyers could just rinse and cook the leaves! I normally buy all of my produce and prep it myself at home… but seeing all this great stuff already prepped, I could easily cook up a storm without any of the prep work! Why vegetables don’t feature much more prominently in our restaurant menus is totally beyond me! :(