Fifty pesos or roughly one U.S. dollar doesnâ€™t generally buy very much these days, or does it? I was at the Nasugbu market over the weekend and for some reason it seemed to be bursting with all kinds of things that caught my fancy. I always find markets visually appetizing, with the freshness, shapes, patterns and colors of produce always getting my creative juices flowing. While I donâ€™t normally go to the market with a budget or lists, I just buy what seems to be best that day, oftentimes with disastrous results like having too many chilies and not enough eggplants. But if you go with your gut feel and buy whatâ€™s in season, you will generally do well and spend less. Hereâ€™s a run down of what I was able to purchase for PHP50 on each itemâ€¦ itâ€™s an interesting result, to say the least.
Just outside the fish section, I ran into a lady bringing her vegetables from her own backyard garden to the market. She had yet to take the produce inside and I spied some spectacular looking large patola of the ridged variety. At PHP5 each, they sounded cheap to me, so I bought all 10 pieces that she had harvested within the past 2 hours! So this humongous platter of patola you see here was just PHP50 and I now have to give away much of it or it will spoilâ€¦ I have only really had patola in soup with ground meat and misuaâ€¦ now Iâ€™m wondering what else I can do with it.
Also for PHP50 were 2 kilos of locally grown kalamansi. Here I was a few days ago, thrilled to have 12 pieces in our own yard (market value about 2 pesos) and at the Batangas market their prices had plunged to very reasonable levels. I understand now why kalamansi is the ancient antidote to colds and fluâ€¦it was actually not only high in vitamin C, it was abundant during the rainy and flu seasonâ€¦ I love a freshly squeezed kalamansi juice with just enough sugar to cut the truly sharp edges of the fruitâ€¦it is refreshing and totally thirst quenching. If you have too many, squeeze them and freeze the juice for use at a later date.
Perhaps liked in our house as much, if not more, than kalamansi juice, is freshly squeezed dalandan juice. At PHP25 a kilo as well, I got this bowl with 2 kilos of dalandan and that should make at least 12-15+ large glasses of juiceâ€¦ or if you stick the juice in a blender with ice, a dalandan shake. I wonder if I can thinly slice some dalandan on a mandoline and slowly dry it out in the oven to use as a garnish on cheesecake or other creamy mousse or dessert. Dalandan has that citrus freshness but yet a nice touch of sweetness and the warmer orange yellow color when compared to the more acidic green of the kalamansi.
Another find for PHP50 was this bounty of green peppers which werenâ€™t quite the usual siling mahaba or siling pangsigang but either a mutated cousin that looked â€œyounger,â€ fresher and a bit like they had been â€œworking outâ€ instead of just blowing in the breeze. Their skins were smoother and more makinis than the sometimes wrinkles and irregular skins of most siling mahaba. We also made this into Bicol Express and it was wicked spicy. Frankly, it was way too spicy and almost painful. Remember that when you see these in the markets, they are hotter than the wrinkled up siling mahaba! The tindera at the market sold these to me for PHP60 a kilo so I took just under a kilo for PHP50.
Another unusual (for me) find were these teeny weeny ampalayas that were just PHP10 a little plastic pack. This photo includes 2 plastic packs so if you wanted to really spend the PHP50 self-imposed limit, you could get 2.5x the volume you see here. I am told this is good in pinakbet but I have never personally cooked it. I suspect these would be good with some ground meat and oyster sauce as well. We need to experiment, will post it if it turns out well. Letâ€™s seeâ€¦
Finally, there was rambutan in droves all over the market. For PHP50 you could get two kilos or thrice the volume you see photographed here. There seems to be a yellow variety and a red variety of rambutan though Iâ€™m not really sure if there is any difference in the taste. These ones were okay, not superb, but for PHP25 a kilo, a bargain. I have only ever eaten rambutans fresh and have no idea if they can be cooked or baked into a dessertâ€¦ All of the above, 10 patolas, 2 kilos of kalamansi, 2 kilos of dalandan, under a kilo of green chilies, 2 packs of ampalaya and 1 kilo of yellow rambutan cost a total of PHP245 or just under USD5â€¦pretty good haul for five bucks, donâ€™t you think? In the Philippines, PHP245 would get you barely two Mcdonalds Big Mac meals with sized up Diet Cokes…