Regional or provincial trade fairs are almost always worth a visit, if only for the food or other native delicacies. I missed this yearâ€™s Negros Fair (a rare disappointment, I am told due to the limited vendors participating) and I am not sure if I have missed the Bicol Fair as well, but I did make it to the Likha ng Central Luzon Fair at Megamall yesterday for just 20 minutes. I was rushing to another engagement but was determined to do a speed round through at least 40 vendors of native delicacies. The fair is on until Sunday, October 9, 2005 and it is worth a visit if you are in the area. First stop was the booth of fellow blogger Karen at Pilgrims Pots and Pans. Karen was testing the market with two offerings based on long-held family recipes for burong hipon (fermented shrimp and rice) and acharra na kangkong (pickled water spinach) and other vegetables. I tasted both and immediately bought two bottles of acharra. The burong hipon must be an acquired taste. Talk about intense! Apparently live shrimp are placed with rice and this ferments for several days until cooked up and bottled. It is not meant to be eaten alone as I did, but mixed with other food like fried fish, rice, etc.
Karen was kind enough to point me the direction of other booths with stuff worth tasting. I had about 15 minutes to do the rest of the fair so I have to be honest and say this is a very cursory post. First up was some organically grown brown rice. I have visions of re-starting some sort of diet so I bought 3 kilos of the stuffâ€¦ PHP105. Next booth diet thoughts were set aside as I tasted some superb banana chipsâ€¦very thin slices fried up with a coating of sugar. Great snack foodâ€¦ I think they were PHP70 per plastic container. There were also greaseless peanuts at PHP80 or so a containerâ€¦ a brief attempt to figure out how they cooked them did not lead to a comprehensive answerâ€¦ I presume they are roasted in a pan or oven without the addition of fatâ€¦ but they werenâ€™t terribly convincingâ€¦
I also met with the proprietor of Navarroâ€™s talangka and ended up buying a small bottle of talangka (crab fat paste) and some ginisang bagoong (fried shrimp paste). Gosh, who mentioned a diet? Around the bend I tasted interesting drinkable yoghurt made by the Sta. Maria Dairy Farmers Cooperative. They had several flavors including strawberry, blueberry, mango, etc. I tasted a couple of them and liked them, though perhaps a bit too sweet for my tastebuds. But I am certain many would drink this down by the liter. Another favorite stall was a puto and cuchinta (rice cake) vendor from whom I bought 6 paper bags of the stuff at PHP20 a bag. Yum. She had white and red puto and cuchinta. Apparently the red puto is just the white version with the addition of brown sugar and slight variations to the cooking process. These were definitely puto from the province â€“ they had flavor, density and heft. Delicious with the grated coconut provided.
Rushing out the door, I also got several tinapa (smoked fish) from Bataan, where I am told they are the best as that is the actual source of the fishâ€¦ I got baby banak tinapa and adolescent sized banak tinapa. There was also a sausage vendor selling longanissa, hamon recado and hamonado, etc. There hasnâ€™t been time to taste test all of this but they all looked terrific. Damage to the wallet for 20 minutes of speed shopping, just over PHP1,000 but well worth it!