I was at Mercato Centrale at the Fort this morning at 7:15am or so. I figured if the market opened at 6am, all vendors would be set up and selling their goods by this time, Filipino time taken into account. As an early riser, and pathological-must-get-to-the-market-first kind of shopper, waiting till 7:00am to get going was unusual for me. To my surprise, half of the tables were empty or barely even setting up. Frankly, that was a turn-off. If you publicize a market as opening from 6am-2pm, shouldn’t the vendors be there on time? I was chatting with a couple of the vendors and they said their hours changed to 7am-2pm, but I’m not sure how the customers would know that, particularly since Mercato’s own website here still shows 6am-2pm on their main page (upper right hand), but in each recent post, they do confusingly mention 7am-2pm hours. This just seems to bolster my view that this is really more of food bazaar, and the selling and buying emphasis is really more on prepared foods or baked goods, rather than produce and other raw ingredients. If you can’t buy fresh fish or meat and have a limited selection of vegetables, but have dozens of prepared food vendors, it’s probably best described as a food bazaar… Nothing wrong with that, it’s just a different market for a different target market.
I have been to Mercato several times in the past few weeks for the primary reason that an Aunt has repeatedly requested that I cook this chicken liver recipe again… Unfortunately, on the first visit the vendor had no livers in stock, and said to come back the following weekend. The next week, still no livers, but they said they were arriving on Monday, so they should have them in stock today. So I go back and still no livers. Bummer. I took their number this time and will call before I go back, no use wasting gas and effort. Already there, I decided to pick up some nice bangus tinapa that I had tried a few weeks ago, but the table was empty, not sure if they only sell on Sundays, or if they were more than 45 minutes late. I realize the market is young and trying to find its stride, but reliability and abundant supplies do count for long term success. Many vendors inside the tents are testing their wares and sometimes appear to book tables sporadically, or at least it seems that way to me. And some vendors move around from table to table, without a fixed location. This makes for a rather confusing set-up that is less conducive to return visits. I did manage to purchase a few other interesting items from the vendors that did open on time and I will be featuring these items in the next few posts…
Up top I found some Sinaing na Tawilis at the Farm n Deli table. I have never cooked fish sinaing style (simmered for a long time with lots of dried and or fresh kamias or iba and salt) so I was curious to taste them. I like sour things and this reminds me a bit of inun-unan or paksiw na isda, so I purchased one order — four wrapped portions of four tawilis each, sixteen small fish in total.
When I got home we microwaved the fish to heat them up, at the suggestion of the saleslady, and tasted them for breakfast with rice. I just tasted the fish, which I found surprisingly bland and not particularly memorable. But maybe I am missing the point, maybe it’s supposed to be subtly sour and salty. But I wasn’t the only one who thought these were less appealing than the other fish we purchased. Maybe they would have been better deep-fried. That’s what we did with the Sinaing na Tulingan purchased at the same stall and that tasted very nice after frying them, redolent with that oily rich dark meat of tulingan, infused with lots of kamias or iba flavor. Now that I’ve tasted both of these, I wonder if I can figure out a decent recipe to cook them at home myself. If you can’t be bothered to do that, however, you can get them at Farm n’ Deli.
In photo above, from left to right: Tinapang Tonsoy PHP130, Sinaing na Tulingan PHP150 and Sinaing na Tawilis PHP150. Available at the Mercato Centrale weekend market, or call numbers below:
Farm n’ Deli