24 Sep2006


Fifty pesos or roughly one U.S. dollar doesn’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 don’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 what’s in season, you will generally do well and spend less. Here’s a run down of what I was able to purchase for PHP50 on each item… it’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 spoil… I have only really had patola in soup with ground meat and misua… now I’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) green3and at the Batangas market their prices had plunged to very reasonable levels. I understand now why kalamansi is the ancient antidote to colds and flu…it was actually not only high in vitamin C, it was abundant during the rainy and flu season… I love a freshly squeezed kalamansi juice with just enough sugar to cut the truly sharp edges of the fruit…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, green5I got this bowl with 2 kilos of dalandan and that should make at least 12-15+ large glasses of juice… 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 weren’t quite the usual siling mahaba or siling pangsigang but either green2a mutated cousin that looked “younger,” fresher and a bit like they had been “working out” 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 green4were 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. Let’s see…

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. green6There seems to be a yellow variety and a red variety of rambutan though I’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 dessert… 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 USD5…pretty good haul for five bucks, don’t you think? In the Philippines, PHP245 would get you barely two Mcdonalds Big Mac meals with sized up Diet Cokes…



  1. Chris says:

    Those ampalayas look good! Are they young or midget ampalayas? It would be great if they’re not as bitter as the regular ones. I really like the notion of eating amplaya as I know it’s very healthful and it’s good for me. My mom used to impose ampayaya on me and my siblings, or should I use the word inflict, which seems more apt? Hehehe. Now as an adult, I’d voluntarily eat amplaya in front of my mom, but just to please her! haha. I still can’t get over the bitterness when it’s not cooked right.

    Sep 24, 2006 | 4:35 pm


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  3. Jean says:

    Those are great looking ampalayas MM, perfect for pinakbet, my favorite. Am an Ilokana!

    Sep 24, 2006 | 4:55 pm

  4. Apicio says:

    Patola can be included in most any dish where you would use zucchini such as in chop-suey type vegetable mélanges. I have even tasted it as tempura but that would not advance you closer to your target weight. As with the ampalayang ligaw in the next picture though, you want to test for bitterness first before going ahead with the rest of the cooking.

    They say that fewer and larger welts indicate less bitter ampalaya. The ones on your mini-ampalayas are very fine indeed so they may be suitable only as purgative. Let us know.

    Sep 24, 2006 | 5:37 pm

  5. anthony says:

    Hi Marketman!
    Just recently discovered your blog.I’m a big fan already.Yes! Good old ampalaya.You can cook it with beef and black beans or just saute it with garlic onions and tomatoes add a bit of mince pork and abit of egg then season to taste. Great for lowering your blood sugar aswell.Keep up the good work marketman!Im learning alot from you.

    Sep 24, 2006 | 8:00 pm

  6. millet says:

    yes, this is the ampalaya that ilocanos use for pinakbet. i think the secret to removing some of the bitterness is to slice the ampalaya, sprinkle them with salt and let them sit for about 20 minutes. after that, squeeze, rinse well, and squeeze again. as for the patola, one of my family’s favorite patola dishes is tortang patola- done almost exactly like your ground beef torta, except that you add patola slices to the beef guisado. turn off the fire and cover the pan tightly right after adding the patola. wait about 2 minutes,thenx put everything in a colander to drain the excess liquid and cool a bit.(patola has plenty of water) mix into beaten eggs and fry into patties or tortas.

    Sep 24, 2006 | 9:17 pm

  7. elephas says:

    Wow, rambutan are so expensive in the states. $8 a pound (less than half a kilo)!

    Sep 24, 2006 | 10:10 pm

  8. bugsybee says:

    P50 is a good price for those rambutan. Just 2 days ago, I got one kilo for P65 but I didn’t mind because they were very, very sweet.

    I’ve never seen ampalaya like the ones in your picture. I am an ampalaya fan so I’ll wait for your next post about what you did with them.

    Sep 24, 2006 | 10:33 pm

  9. victoria dazon says:

    Ampalaya – My Mom used to cook that variety of ampalaya boiled with tomatoes – bulanglang style and bagoong balayan as sawsawan. I thought that variety of ampalaya only grew in that area of Batangas (as we are from Lian) but I have seen them at Indian groceries here in the States.

    Sep 24, 2006 | 10:38 pm

  10. juls says:

    you really have an eye for good angles MM. hanga talaga ko.

    how about carne and isda? what can P50 buy?

    Sep 24, 2006 | 10:41 pm

  11. mita says:

    Oh oh oh…that’s the ampalaya we steam like young okra! It’s eaten with a mix of fish bagoong and vinegar or calamansi. If you can find some fresh oyster muchrooms in markets there, that would go great with the patola…sauteed with chicken and young gabi roots.

    One whole dollar bought me one piece of very dry daing na bisugo here in Colorado…

    Sep 24, 2006 | 10:51 pm

  12. honey says:

    my mom says that the seeds of the rambutan can be dried and toasted. taste like almonds daw. i’ve never tried that size of ampalaya before but i think they would be lovely as ensalada

    Sep 24, 2006 | 11:09 pm

  13. honey says:

    as for fish, there is a kind of fish that sells in our market for around 20-40 a kilo. we here in bicol call “lawlaw”. it’s a type of sardine that tastes heavenly when grilled. only problem is, you would have to take a shower after eating it cause it smells

    Sep 24, 2006 | 11:15 pm

  14. Danney League says:

    In my town Sta. Rosa, Laguna, I can spare that 50 pesos to buy bagoong, okra, talong and calamansi. Ay! ulam na iyan. Last week I was not in the mood eating because of the american food we always have here in Los Angeles. Biglang nagluto ang kaibigan ko ng talong cut into small size lengthwise cooked in toyo and onions. Ay surprisingly bigla akong ginanahang kumain. Its my comfort food!!!!

    Sep 24, 2006 | 11:45 pm

  15. oggi says:

    I think those tiny ampalayas are not as bitter as the big ones. My Nanay used to add those in guisadong munggo and pinakbet. Here in the US and elsewhere dried patolas are sold as loofah for scrubbing off dry skin in the bath/shower. I prefer it fresh, of course, in misua soup.
    I am amazed at what a dollar can buy in the Philippine markets, the rambutans are a real bargain!

    Sep 25, 2006 | 12:40 am

  16. Naz says:

    I agree with the Ilocandians that those ampalaya are for pinakbet. It’s the only ampalaya my mom use on her pinakbet but if not done right, they are too bitter.
    You can also add the patola in bulanglang. A Filipino resto in San Diego uses them in their dish and made the bulalang taste even better.

    All of those fresh produce for less than $5, now that’s a real bargain and if you could only find the same bargain for fresh seafood, then I would really consider retiring in our country for good, with or without the bitter-half (lol).

    Sep 25, 2006 | 12:44 am

  17. noemi says:

    patola is good to add in a dinengeng dish.

    Sep 25, 2006 | 1:23 am

  18. fried-neurons says:

    OMG, I love that patola-and-misua soup!

    Sep 25, 2006 | 1:51 am

  19. kaye says:

    ayayay! i felt hungry upon reading about your bicol express..sarap! i love this site.. makes me wanna rush to the market and cook whatever i read so i can taste it first hand.. yummy!!

    Sep 25, 2006 | 2:29 am

  20. connie says:

    MM, those mini ampalayas are good for pinakbet indeed. It is bitter than the bigger kind, but not too too bad. I just prepare them like I would normally do with the regular ampalaya. Some people wash or mash their ampalaya with salt, but I like mine just washed, cleaned and cut and nothing else done to it other than added to the pinakbet.
    I’ve tasted bitter melon curry once too using this variety of ampalaya, it was good.
    Oggi, funny you mentioned loofah because when I told my husband how our neighbor back in the Philippines makes loofah out of patola, he can’t believe that he was eating loofah! LOL. He was amazed how that ridged vegetable can be used for exfoliating. Of course I was quick to point out that it’s the smooth bigger variety that they use for loofah but nonetheless a patola. *giggles*

    Sep 25, 2006 | 2:32 am

  21. alb says:

    That “patola” is a gourd called Luffa or in Chinese see-kwa/zee-gwa or more commonly in English ridged gourd or silk gourd. My favorite term I’ve heard abroad is silk cucumber. Great in mi-sua, as mentioned, and also in curry, but the Chinese also sautee it with black mushrooms in a delicately tasty dish. Still, my favorite is the bola-bola, especially piping hot over rice. Great comfort food around this time of the year.

    Sep 25, 2006 | 3:41 am

  22. Mila says:

    Since you made that wickedly spicy laing, you could cook the patola in a broth, and some ginger and garlic to offset the heat. Patola is paired up with spicy foods in sichuan restaurants as it kills off the burning tongue sensation. As good as drinking a cold glass of milk.

    Sep 25, 2006 | 9:33 am

  23. ihid says:

    Rambutan here in southern phils goes for 20 a kilo! The spherical ampalaya and ridged patola looks alien to us here. Do they taste like the regular ones?

    Sep 25, 2006 | 10:49 am

  24. rva says:

    wow, that’s my favorite ampalaya, the wild amplaya growing, well, wild (not really cultivated, it just grows in the environs). i love to “pakbet” them solo as in solo ampalaya pinakbet. the bitter the ampalaya, the more ilokanos love it. any ampalaya lover won’t ever do any thing to remove or neutralize its bitterness. and this wild ampalaya is excellently and deliciously bitter than the larger ones. and yes, it’s superior in pinakbets.

    Sep 27, 2006 | 8:57 am

  25. ems says:

    MM, have you ever tried using black beans with ampalaya? my mom usually cooks it with beef cut in strips (stir-fry cut, as the English call it). tastes really nice

    i’m still trying to find where i could buy some bitter melon here, though. not so much luck as with the patola and okra. those i can find at any indian stores.

    Sep 28, 2006 | 4:03 pm

  26. Marketman says:

    ems, yes, salty black beans go well with beef and ampalaya…hmmm, lots of interest in these wickedly bitter “wild” ampalaya…I have to put a post on the dish I cooked them into soon…

    Sep 29, 2006 | 8:25 pm

  27. stef says:

    well, true, you can’t buy these kinds of vegetables for $5, but why opt for the mcd’s meal? yes, exotics are more expensive so if you insisted on getting these specific items it will cost you about $15. BUT, with $5 i can get a good sized newly-harvested squash, some garlic, some onion, some late-season beans, a nice baby eggplant or two. If I wanted to I could add an ampalaya from the Indian market and some bagoong and I’ve got me some Americanized pinakbet. Or a ratatouille. Or a respectable vegetarian stew. produce is still the least expensive foodstuff there is, even here in the US, especially if you buy in season and concentrate on locally grown items. just like anywhere, we all need to do our part to support the local farmers. the benefits go both ways. and the dollars go down even more when you choose to grow your own. and the satisfaction in doing so (not to mention the nutritional value), of course, is priceless.

    Sep 30, 2006 | 1:08 am

  28. Marketman says:

    stef, I agree, we need to buy local… or grow it if you can (everything I try to grow seems to wither…)!

    Sep 30, 2006 | 8:45 pm

  29. Marinel says:

    Thank you for posting this, Marketman. We’re going back in January and I’ve been really curious as to what we can buy for 50 pesos/$1. I’m constantly checking Rustan’s and SM’s website for their produce prices. I read that a bundle of kangkong at Rustan’s is 9 pesos. I thought that was a great deal. But after reading this post, I am really excited to see what other bargains we can find in local markets. Thanks again.

    Oct 1, 2006 | 6:41 am

  30. Marketman says:

    Marinel, hit the wet markets when you get back. January is great for produce. Prices in the Philippines for food items are rather high in general, except for produce grown close to the towns you live in… However, I find with some sense a consumer can eat very well for reasonable amounts of money…

    Oct 1, 2006 | 9:16 am

  31. GORDON LIGHT says:


    May 23, 2009 | 8:12 am


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