22 Jun2006


What to see, what to see in so short a time… Soon after arriving at the hotel, and while waiting for 3 other colleagues to arrive, I decided to head out to the “Satellite Market” that is supposed to be handicraft central. Our vehicle for the stay hadn’t arrived yet so I hailed a tricycle and gamely headed to the market, a ten minute ride away. I’m not sure if tricycles have gotten smaller or my rear end wider, but I could barely fit in the passenger cabin with one other passenger…and frankly, it was a bumpier and more exhaust-filled ride than I had bargained for. At the satellite market, I perused the aisles quickly and took in the thousands of similar looking abaca bags and slippers and pili nuts and was a bit disappointed by the selection and quality of goods on offer. Prices were outrageously low when compared with Manila but I didn’t buy anything on the first pass. I even got the “our bags are only overruns and this is the bag that JLo used in the movie Maid in Manhattan spiel.” I watched Maid in Manhattan (twice!) and I know which bag they are referring to BUT IT WASN’T the bag they were hawking at me, so there! And yet, I do know that that bag did come from the Philippines and was probably made in Bicol…

After about 12 minutes at this handicraft market, I jumped cent2into another tricycle and asked him to take me to the newer Central Market which is more downtown. Now we were in business. The second floor of this big, clean, airy market had a terrific selection of seafood, meat, vegetables, fruit and dried fish. Not to mention a spectacular view of Mt. Mayon. We started off in the fish section that had some of the freshest looking seafood I have ever seen in a provincial market. Many of the fishes still had gills flapping and the selection of larger fish such as malasugi (swordfish), talakitok (huge jacks) and maya-maya (red snappers) was impressive. Prices were roughly 30% below Manila markets and that’s already with their adjustments upwards when they heard me asking in my unique and yet baluktot taga-cebu-lano speak (unintended mixture of tagalong/cebuano/bicolano). There was a lot of volume on the counters and a lot of buyers as well, despite it being mid-morning by the time I got there.

All the photos in this post are from the Central Market, starting with the talakitok or malasugi eyeball up top. Not sure what they do with the eyeball but I do recall my dad eating cent3fish eyeballs fairly often in soup (his Dad was from Bicol). From the very nice fish section I moved to the meat selection that likewise had both a nice selection of meats and cuts and a lot of customers. Heads of pigs, whole legs of cows and everything in between were being chopped up, hung on hooks or lying in wait for hungry shoppers. With a market like this, I had to conclude that Legaspi was relatively prosperous as the market was definitely well-stocked and abuzz with activity.

Vegetables were also abundant and obviously extremely fresh. cent4The shine on the skins of ampalaya, melons, tomatoes, etc. suggested they were picked just hours before. All of the leaves were still hydrated and bright green. The gabi (taro) leaves used in laing, pinangat, etc. were available from totally fresh to slightly dried and ready to cook versions. There were chillies up the wazoo (though they seemed to be more skin than pulp on the siling mahaba variety. There were also lots of root crops such as gabi, kamote, etc. And fruits such as bananas, papayas, pineapples, avocados, etc.

Finally, the market had a terrific section of dried, smoked and fermented fish. cent5If I weren’t worried about the bottles breaking in-flight I would have brought home some guinamos or other preserved shrimp concoctions such as balao, that uncolored preserved shrimp that is like a dried bagoong of sorts and is so critical in Bicolano cooking along with coconut milk. Overall, this was a very nice market and a pleasant surprise after the less interesting satellite market.



  1. honey says:

    welcome to bicol! the fishhead you saw is usually used in making kusido. it’s like sinigang but with usually one kind of vegetable ( kamote tops are the best) and use kalamansi juice as souring agent (around 10-15 pieces should do the trick). i can see from your photo of the dried fish that the Central market is selling new look. that’s the fish that has a darker color that the rest in the photo (1st bilao, 3rd row). this is a great dried fish as the flesh is soft and malaman. the bones are soft too. dried fish from bicol are usually to salty so if you happen to buy some, you may have to wash them before cooking

    Jun 22, 2006 | 11:07 pm


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  3. perkycinderella says:

    You are awesome Marketman! Descriptive and the pictures were always stunning! I miss Pinas, waaahhhh!!!!! keep it up!

    Jun 22, 2006 | 11:21 pm

  4. mgr says:

    Love the pics and I envy your trip. Wish we always have enough time to go and explore more of the Philippines the way you do. Such a beautiful country with a lousy government (but that’s another spin on it).

    Jun 23, 2006 | 12:50 am

  5. Kate says:

    Ah, the land of my ancestors! Good to know that Legazpi’s central market hasn’t lost its touch. So, your grandfather was Bicolano pala, MM. In case you don’t have a copy yet, Honesto C. General’s cookbook, The Coconut Cookery of Bicol, would make a wonderful addition to your library. I resonated with so much of it because my father and his brothers and sisters all knew how to cook, and cook well. I agree with Honey. Bicol Cocido is different from the Spanish and Tagalog kinds, being more akin to sinigang. And yes, my father delighted in eating the fish eyeballs in cocido, too (slurp). Homesick!

    Jun 23, 2006 | 1:03 am

  6. Marketman says:

    honey, I should have cut a deal with you to give me a tour around the market and explain some of the fish and produce! Aha, I knew the fish head had a reason for being. I actually ordered a version of cocido which came with coconut, fish, a sour broth that I was trying to figure out if made from kalamansi or tamarind, and kamote tops I think…it was good. perkycinderella, it’s time to plan a visit home… mgr, it IS a beautiful country with incredibly poor infrastructure…decent hotel…no bloody hot water! Kate, yes, my lolo was fiercely Bicolano who transplanted himself to Cebu to marry a fiercely Opon (Mactan) resident who claimed she was a direct descendant of Lapu-lapu…heehee, I wonder if any DNA from the Magellan slayer still exists to prove that claim! Yes, I do have General’s cookbook in my library, it’s rather good.

    Jun 23, 2006 | 6:42 am

  7. Apicio says:

    Aside from kinilaw, what treatment do you give to kingfish (malasugi)? They are available here and mostly picked up by Jamaicans since it is the best fish they consider for their escaviche. Not like Mexican ceviche but closer to our escabetche all three having common ancestry that goes back to Spain. The fried kingfish steaks are marinated in vinegar, lots of fried rings of sweet onions, perfumed with allspice leaves or berries and spiked with the fiery heat and unique aroma of their scotch bonnet, their local strain of habanero peppers (remember your burning post?). A signature dish of one of the undiscovered great cuisines that include ours.

    And speaking of capsicine heat, I learned from an interview with Harold Mcgee that although the taste receptors on our tongue are the ones that recognize the salty, bitter, sweet, sour and umami taste of food, it is exclusively the pain receptors that recognize the heat of hot peppers. What I found really interesting though is apparently, once these pain receptors are stimulated by heat, they then ratchet up in turn the sensitivity of the taste receptors. That’s probably what accounts for people’s belief that spicy food stimulates the appetite. All the other nuances of flavour and food aroma are of course processed by the smell receptors in the nasal cavity to which the mouth serves as an efficient concentrating conduit.

    Jun 23, 2006 | 7:31 am

  8. fely barcelon says:

    good morning….what a great morning to start my office work with your updates in everyhting….which makes me always look forward to a long weekend and/or holidays. Wish you the best of health so that you will always be there as part of my morning routine.

    cheers….happy weekend.

    Jun 23, 2006 | 7:36 am

  9. gonzo says:

    charming fish head pic, MM. was not expecting it first thing in the morning! I love fish head (sinigang or curried), but that’s one gnarly photo.

    interesting bit on capsaicin, apicio. i love chilli heat as well. nothing’s too hot for me… pain receptors…does that make me and about one billion indians culinary masochists then? :-)

    Jun 23, 2006 | 8:35 am

  10. Marketman says:

    Apicio, I always thought malasugi was swordfish…is that the same as kingfish? Though they are all part of the billfishes and tuna families. At any rate, I have a recipe for malasugi with butter lemon juice and capers that tasted pretty good… check here… http://www.marketmanila.com/archives/swordfish-malasugi-a-la-marketman Fried swordfish is also a nice solid basic fish and I can see how its treatment escabeche style would be nice. It would be an upscale fried tanguigue escabeche style…Now that you mention it, I think it might also be nice bistek style with lots of onions, kalamansi and soy sauce…

    Did you actually interview Harold McGee or saw an interview with him? Gosh, what I would give to host a dinner with Harold Mcgee, Alan Davidson, Doreen Fernandez (the last two would have to be reincarnated to make it) and other food writers or chefs…

    As for heat receptors, I completely agree with McGee that pain is an issue. I used to have a Korean roommate in college and he wasn’t satisfied until he broke out in a serious sweat and his mouth was tingling from the chilli heat. I then moved from that set-up to Indonesia where chopped green sili labuyos are like our sweet pickles…yikes.

    fely, thanks for coming to visit so regularly…if I could just speak into a camera and snap a wand at my digital camera so that each post took only 10 minutes instead of 2 hours then I could put more…

    Gonzo, I like hot too, though not super duper hot. Stay tuned for a post on Bicol Express or Gulay na Lada up in the next few days…

    Jun 23, 2006 | 8:41 am

  11. linda says:

    Hi MM! Don’t worry, I think the tricycles got smaller and yr behind is just perfect!

    Guess what! The Australian soccer team made it through and will be playing against Italy next Tuesday.Hooray!!!

    Go the Socceroos!!!

    MM,love ya and love your blog!

    Jun 23, 2006 | 8:49 am

  12. Apicio says:

    Sorry for not being clear enough. I listened to him being interviewed by Terry Gross on the Public Radio (for the second part keep pressing next show until you get to it):


    And to Linda, I promised my posse a churrasco and callos dinner when our team keeps the Copa Mundial. Here’s our slogan for Australia: “Pode ser coala ou canguru / Se é da Austrália veio aqui para dar o c…”

    Jun 23, 2006 | 9:20 am

  13. Jean says:

    Apicio, any place I could purchase a good churrasco knife on the net? Got a good recipe for Jojeeh Kabob but not equipt for it.

    Jun 23, 2006 | 10:37 am

  14. Lou says:

    Hey MM, I can’t help but noticed that the fresh Bicol fish were all smiling!!! Could it be that they were thrilled to be photgraphed by you? Great post! Gives me the craving to check Bicol next visit to the Phils…

    Jun 23, 2006 | 3:59 pm

  15. Apicio says:

    I confused Swordfish with Kingfish. Kingfish is actually a mackerel but all these years I always associated it with swordfish since it is closer to tuna belly in texture and does not have the strong oily flavour of ordinary mackerel. I’m going to try your recipe though with lemon butter and capers for Canada Day.

    And Jane, any old steak knife lifted from an expensive steakhouse to avenge for and punish insufficient fawning and inattentive service should do alright although the logoed ones from Michael Jordan’s in the Grand Central mezzanine are quite smart and impressive. But speaking seriously, I just use the carving knives from the Cutco catalog, sharp but secure to handle even after three caipirinhas. Or if you mean the flat spits, any Middle Eastern store or site should have them and check the Chef’s Catalog too.

    Jun 23, 2006 | 7:17 pm

  16. honey says:

    correct me if i’m wrong. in general’s book, he advises pour the coconut cream first then the coconut milk? that’s not how we do it in our house. we put the coco milk first, put it to boil, adding the ingredients then when almost dry, add the cream. makes for a more creamy dish

    Jun 23, 2006 | 11:29 pm

  17. Marketman says:

    honey, the recipes or portions of the General book I have read describe the extraction of cream and milk (first and second pressing) and for vegetable dishes, cooking these at the same time rather than one first over the other… I agree that sometimes bicolano dishes or dishes with Gata sometimes get really OILY with curdled “cream” and that appears to be less appealing than a CREAMY looking dish…

    Jun 24, 2006 | 10:01 am

  18. Dodi says:

    My girlfriend (a lurker in your post) was muttering how sexy, sexy pala sya! And I thought she was referring to Mt. Mayon, yun pala she was referring to you backside. Anyway, terrific posts MM, especially the European trip. We plan to whoop it up in Tuscany while I can still lift luggage. Not so much as fan of hot food but being an MD, its just fascinating how capsaicin from sili can relieve pain.

    Jun 26, 2006 | 1:36 pm

  19. Dodi says:

    oops, my previous post should have been ib majestic mt. mayon for correct reference!

    Jun 26, 2006 | 1:39 pm

  20. Marketman says:

    Dodi, heehee, I’ll take any flattery whatsoever at my age…

    Jun 26, 2006 | 1:43 pm

  21. Jay says:

    Hi MM, my first time in your website, i almost used up my whole afternoon browsing your posts. Very informative and entertaining….

    i had a connection on this bicol post as i came from that part of the phils…. i just felt so homesick now… i’ll be there for a visit this holiday season..

    keep on blogin… cheers!!

    Jul 25, 2006 | 5:04 am

  22. teth says:

    this is my first time to browse your site. I am a true-blooded bicolana, married a true-blooded bicolano, but due to work we’re here in Manila. It’s almost 3 years that I have not been to Bicol, my beloved Albay! I’m surprised that there is a Central Market at Legazpi now. I think it was the old wet market during my college days in BU (almost eleven years ago! I’m happy that it looks good now. Looking forward to visiting it maybe this Dec, hopefully. Thanks for the info. Dai ko aram iyon ah. (Bikol)

    Aug 31, 2006 | 11:45 am

  23. angela says:

    Malasugi is Blue Marlin. Cut into steaks, fry medium-well in olive oil. Top with sauteed onions marinated in soy sauce and calamansi juice. Yummm…The best fish ever, very tasty.

    Sep 2, 2006 | 2:44 pm

  24. Marketman says:

    Angela, thanks for the link, it is very informative. Actually, I have always referred to Malasugi as swordfish or Xiphia gladius as seen in this link from the same site as you have quoted, in addition to other sources … http://filaman.ifm-geomar.de/country/CountrySpeciesSummary.cfm?id=226&c_code=608 and as you can see the fish are very similar. Both fish are referred to as malasugi in certain parts of the Philippines. However, to be totally accurate, one needs to see the whole fish and whether one has bars on the side of the body (indo-pacific blue marlin) versus not having bars (swordfish)… At any rate, it is a terrific tasting fish, whichever cousin one is consuming! Again, many thanks for the info and if you are curious, I do have a recipe for malasugi elsewhere on the site… http://www.marketmanila.com/archives/swordfish-malasugi-a-la-marketman Thanks!

    Sep 2, 2006 | 4:25 pm

  25. ida elopre says:

    yes, you are extremely right– bicol is the land of must-taste culinary delights. By the way the key to not having the coco cream curdling is that it should be stirred continuosly in low, low heat to get that creamy look. just to let you know your recipes occupy a file folder in my kitchen. keep up the wacky, innovative concept! Mabuhay ang pinoy!

    Sep 5, 2006 | 8:25 pm


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