Eyes wide open. That’s how I have learned to hit the wet markets. We often head out to the grocery or markets with a list of items to purchase. And being creatures of habit, that list can and often is rather predictable. I suspect most folks in the city only eat 6-8 types of fish for say 80+% of their fish consumption, yet there are hundreds of edible species from the deep dark seas. Since I started maintaining this blog, one of the BIGGEST personal benefits has been a change in the way I look at market produce. Now I have a greater appreciation for the variety on offer, and am curious about unusual finds. So while it is inevitable that vendors provide the “common” and what people buy a lot of, it’s still very interesting to see the “uncommon” items that are on offer. So like this incredibly fresh espada curled up on a tile counter, use your eyes to spot your prey, or hunter, whatever the case may be…
These photos were taken at several wet markets in the Tagbilaran City area in Bohol. The freshness of the fish on the counters was stunning. Gosh, I cannot imagine these buyers being at all satisfied with a Manila grocery’s seafood selection when they are used to this quality and variety. Here some talakitoks, maya-maya’s, etc.
The fish literally glisten with a film (laway) of freshness. They are firm to the touch, and press back a little. Their eyes are clear. Their gills dark red. And they have no off smell whatsoever.
Some unusually colored dalagang-bukid or “mountain maidens”…
An octopus that stretched out to maybe 2.5-3.0 feet in length, this one was still alive and the markings on its skin surface kept changing to try and camouflage itself. My photo using a flash must have definitely shocked its eyes/camouflage system.
We came across the first of two unusual varieties of wild caught hito or catfish, these ones with a pink tinge and selling for PHP120 per kilo.
These smaller and slightly different type of hito or catfish at PHP60 per kilo. I had not seen these two varieties of hito before in my market forays.
Here are two fairly large “tiki-tiki” or sunugan or lizard fish. I believe a reader from India or the Middle East had asked me about these a few weeks ago, and here they are! Apparently they make great dried fish. But I personally have not yet tasted this type of fish. They are uncanny marine doubles for land lizards! If these fish had hidden legs, I could see them crawling out of the water and onto shore!
In another market, these three newly delivered tanguigue or spanish mackerel were FANTASTIC. If we had access to a proper kitchen and enough folks to consume the kinilaw that this would have yielded (say good for 15-20 people), I would have purchased it without hesitation. Particularly since I found 5 kilos worth of biasong or dayap or limes in another market earlier and bought all of them to take back to Manila where real limes are rather scarce and expensive when available.
At an open street market in downtown Tagbilaran, I took this photo of seaweed and clams, but what stopped me in my tracks was the small added effort the vendor took to make her wares look more appealing, garnishing the goods with some sliced tomatoes. This little added effort really did make her tiny table stand out from the crowd.
Some garlic, some white wine, chopped italian parsley, these clams and a package of linguine… yum.
The guinamos vendor had pungent pails of fermenting fish in salt. Some 4 weeks, others as much as three months! Honestly, up close and with so much to choose from, I have to say the smell was overpowering and a bit of a turn-off. I love the flavor a bit of guinamos or bagoong brings to food, but seeing it in bulk can be a bit much for the sense… :)
An unusual find (for me) were these rather large fish, also salted and slightly fermented, that are fried or used in other local dishes.
Salted parrotfish slightly decayed in a red pail.
And finally, don’t shoot the photographer, I was really sad to see this cut up ray for sale at a dockside market. I asked the vendor if it was stingray or manta ray and “wasn’t that illegal to sell?” and you can imagine the truest meaning of “dagger looks”. Not such a smart thing to ask when you are in the midst of hundreds of local fishermen, vendors and customers who don’t think there is anything wrong with eating these endangered/protected creatures of the seas…