The Vigan Market


An early morning tricycle ride landed us at the steps of The Vigan Public Market at about 6:30a.m. Believe it or not, we were a BIT early, though the second floor where the produce and seafood were was slowly waking up… after another 30 minutes, more and more vendors were open, and the selection was simply wonderful and incredibly FRESH. As with all provincial markets, what you see is what you generally eat in the restaurants or homes of the region… the linkage is a very real one and so I enjoy hitting the markets in almost all of the towns and cities that I visit in an effort to understand the raw materials are the key starting point for any fantastic dish…


Tendrils such as these ampalaya ones are essential to Ilocano cooking, and they were abundant in the markets, picked just minutes or hours before.


Bunches of saluyot (hemp? leaves) that feature in several signature dishes in the region.


Banana buds/blossoms and Malunggay pods


Beautiful ripe red tomatoes, which grow abundantly in the region…


A selection of other vegetables, from the round upo, sitaw, to small ampalaya, etc.


Lots of achuete (annatto seed), a key coloring ingredients for soups, stews, etc.


Incredibly fresh squash flowers in full bloom!


Live shrimp that were translucent and frisky…


And last, but not least, my three clay palayoks and the cooking unit…which have gone unused in Manila thus far as I can’t find a supply of wood during the rainy season!


17 Responses

  1. Lee, you crack me up! LOLOLOLOL!

    I see the small ampalaya’s in our wet market here but never had the courage to try them as someone told me they were more bitter than the regular ampalaya. I was willing to try but I would have to buy 1 kg! Yikes!

    So, my question is… how are the small ampalaya different from the regular ampalaya?

  2. I love those malunggay pods and small amplaya in pinakbet. I don’t think the small ampalayas are more bitter, its just the same with the regular one. and those ampalaya tendrils are perfect for ginisang munggo.

  3. you have to peel the woody exterior like peeling a patola but not all the way because you will lose the heavenly white thing inside.

  4. Myra, yes, as alilay say, you need to carefully remove the outer fibrous layer, then slice and cook with pinakbet. To eat, I am told one must split the pod then skim the pulp inside with one’s teeth and discard the pod if tough, or eat it if tender. I am also told that peeling the pod is not necessary if you have young fresh pods… They are good. Bluegirl, I think psychologically, the smaller tighter ampalayas seem more bitter, but in reality I am not sure if that is true…they are BITTER though… lee, was that song sung by a Vegan in Vigan?

  5. has anyone tried using dahon ng sayote in place of dahon ng sili or dahon ng ampalaya. Quite good actually…

  6. Another site has a recipe for dahon ng sayote which I liked to try. I recently asked a Pinoy restaurant cook here if she knows about the Sayote tops and she said she did not know they are even edible.

  7. There are four veggies in your Vigan Market trip that I would like to have just right now. The ampalaya tendrils, the malunggay pods, the saluyot leaves and the squash flowers! I’ll probably make a ampalaya leaves salad from that bunch you have on the picture, not for everyboy since the leaves are afterall bitter, but I like it simply blanch mixed with kamatis and bagoong, or with some juice from bagoong isda.

    About the palayoks, IMHO the best tasting paksiw and pangat is cooked in a palayok. My personal theory on this is that the shape of the palayok traps the flavor in, since when the liquid boils instead of evaporating out it gets trap at the sides and then condenses and goes right back into the food. Of course I might be talking total nonsense. *laughs*

  8. I miss the “palayok” back home, as a child i had a few collections of palayok for my bahay-bahayan, oh what a sweet thing! And yeah, we used if for birthday parties as well – hataw palayok! :)

  9. Here is a palayok priming technique from Nany Reyes Lumen

    “And here’s something I learned from a Vigan elder:
    when you buy a new cooking papalyok before using it here’s how:
    Fill palayok with water halfway. Swish the water inside WITHOUT USING YOUR HANDS TO RUB INSIDE THE BELLY OF THE PALAYOK…NO HANDS! (Otherwise, he said, if you use your hands to rub the palayok and swish the water with your hands, the palayok will forever taste like clay. So, the correct way is to just let the water swish around like you’re rinsing it. Then throw out the water and you’re ready to use it…clayless promises nonetheless”

  10. Very nice, thanks for having this.
    We miss every single thing you have in this article as they’re
    unfortunately unavailable in this cold country – New Zealand.
    We will definitely rush to have some of them in our first meals when we have the chance to have a holiday back there in the Phils.

  11. yup……….
    those vegies look really good.
    good thing i have them also around my yard.
    only thing i still do not grow is achuete and bilimbi(camias).
    i tried propagating bilimbi from seeds but can not seem to get them to germinate. any ideas or suggestions MM?
    one nursery in florida have available bilimbi plants but said shipping is at the costumers risk as the bilimbi plants are very delicate to ship.
    am from south texas right smack to the mexican border where it is tropical like home.
    this year we’ve seen more rain than normal and the saluyot plants are taller than my 4 yr old guava tree.



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