14 Feb2005

Salazar Street in Chinatown, Manila had a superb selection of fruit just before the Chinese New Year. asal1Although much of the bounty was due to the coming holiday, I find that the fruit on Salazar is generally better than at other more well known fruit markets. Located perpendicular to Ongpin Street, almost directly across from the President restaurant (worthy of its own future post under the rave section), it is a short span of say 150 meters or so and the fruit vendors are all on one side of the street under eaves of buildings or portable umbrellas.

The selection of citrus including ponkan (tiny to elephantiastic), navel juice oranges, grapefruit and pomelos (local, Thai and Chinese) was as wide and deep as I have seen. asal2Some vendors were asking P150 a kilo for the “Nenita” pomelo, which is highway robbery, but I was later told that it’s good luck to eat pomelo around the holidays…I’ll wait till that temporary price spike is over, thanks. Other prices were a tad high but it was days before the Lunar New Year and the breadth of offering made up for the minor price gouging. All in all, I think prices averaged 10-15% more than in Divisoria, a kilometer or two away. The selection here, however, was better than in the heart of Divisoria.

Also on offer were more western favorites such as several kinds of pears, asal3 plums, nectarines, apples (green, red, gala, buttery yellow Japanese apples, etc.), grapes, etc. They had a lot of the juicy, thin skinned Japanese pears that I love. These were P140 a kilo while the more common and less succulent Chinese pears were P90-100 a kilo. Pears are a terrific snack or dessert fruit and go well in some salads that need a sweet counterpoint to the greens and acidity of the vinaigrette.

Local fruits were also well represented: sweet and juicy watermelons from Iloilo, early cantaloupes (didn’t look too hot), asal4mangoes of all sorts and varying stages of ripeness, mangosteens, chicos, papayas and pineapples. The selection was great. Turnover was quick so most of the fruit was straight out of the box. Some people fret that they seem to get fleeced on this street. I would certainly agree that vendors are trying to figure out if you know what you’re buying and the going rates. I look at it as a game and I’m just happy to have all that choice in one place. Make sure you bargain and inspect fruit closely. Taste if possible and finally, know what the approximate prices of the fruit are in other parts of the city. If I plan to stock up on pomelo, I have vendors open one up and if it is really good, I buy 3 or 4 more. Otherwise, only buy volume from a trusted “suki.”

I rarely make a trip downtown just to buy fruit. More often than not, I have a weekend lunch or dinner at President or nearby restaurant then after the meal I stroll with family and friends around Salazar to buy fruit and pop into a nearby Chinese grocery for dried plums and other Chinese ingredients.


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