Sunday, November 11, 2007

Revisiting the Lung Center Sunday Market

Just for a change of scenery, family agreed to once again revisit and do our “Sunday shopping” at the Sunday Market on the grounds of the Lung Center and I was happily surprised it seems to have grown with a lot more stalls. Some years back we would frequent this place for our “master of the kitchen” to buy her desired eats that were hard to find fresh in groceries and supermarkets. And oh boy, we were happy to realize those can still be had from there!

Actually, I triggered the family to this idea of once again checking out the Lung Center bazaar since some Sundays ago, a friend called to ecstatically tell me that she was at that same Sunday market and was overwhelmed at the variety and prices of the produce being sold – in the middle of the city amidst parks, the city hall and hospitals!

For those who have not been there yet, here we go…

The bazaar is on the very grounds of the hospital immediately to the
right of the parking area along Quezon Avenue. Approaching the Quezon Memorial Circle from EDSA, just look to your right and it should be easy to find. Your clue will be a lot of vehicles parked by the side of the road and taxicabs waiting for passengers. That is the main gate of the Lung Center (which is not easy to see due to the number of vehicles and people) and you enter there. If you reached the “emergency entrance” you are already past the bazaar and must make a u-turn to come back. Oh yes, perchance you have forgotten, the Lung Center Of The Philippines is still a hospital so there is the customary “emergency entrance” just almost across the main gate of Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife. Again, if you reached this area, you are already past the “market”!

What is there to find?
Well, just about everything, from everything to everything!

If you enter from near the building, that should be the main corner and main entrance to the bazaar area. This market is shaped like a diamond with hundreds of stalls lined in an orderly manner. It is good to start here.

Heading to the right from this main entrance would be the generally dry goods. I say generally dry goods since they are sporadically interspersed with stalls that sell snacks, drinks and native food stuff. Tools for the car down to your garden can be had here including knives, flashlights, batteries, screw drivers to even samurais! Of course the girly things won’t disappear from any bazaar so there are a lot of stalls that sell trinkets, shirts, skirts, undergarments, make-up, bath things and everything kikay – including hello kitty pillows! There are also garments and cool stuff for the dudes – from bags to socks to assorted cellular phone cases and of course the fake sunglasses! There is even a stall that sells the wireless landline - gosh! This dry goods area is about four parallel rows of stalls.

Heading left from that main corner or entrance, you would encounter what I’d like to call the greens and blooms area. This is where the colorful rows of flowering and fruit-bearing plants/trees/vines are sold. During this visit, many people got attracted to the stalls selling poinsettias and birds-of-paradise. Oh, this is the first time I saw different colors of sunflower
plants (or at least their likenesses) being sold in one stall. There is a purple, an orange and white sunflower! Yep really! Too bad I didn’t get a picture of that stall! Actually I know their not "sunflowers" in the technical sense of the word - but they look like sunflowers to me, so sunflowers they are! Funny that along this area was a demo unit of a big industrial fan that sprays mist with the air it blew. The woman selling this thing says this is good for outdoor activities or open spaces that might be too warm. And people – especially children and teeners would go position themselves in front of the fan and relish the cool air that blew on them. I thought one girl’s hair got wet since she stayed there too near and longer than necessary!

It’s nice to know that the stalls are now grouped and arranged according to type/kind of wares or produce they sell. So the meats are together, the sea produce are in one area and so on.

The excitement pulsates as you go around! There are stalls that sell fresh and live tilapia and they have grills where you can have your chosen live tilapia “killed” and cooked right before your very eyes! The hito (catfish) on a stick was selling really hot and fast! Nearby were the delectable dried squid grilled hot before being served to you! Dried corn-on-the-cob is aplenty a
nd grilled too! I saw that some people smothered their grilled corn with butter while others refused.

Let’s see what else caught my interest… hmm, a lot of them actually! Herbs were surprisingly well stocked in many stalls. Many of them I only hear on TV or read on cooking-related websites like cilantro and anise! In the arena of things that make your stew, sinigang or tinola emerge with its unique sourness, I saw the kamias (a.k.a. Iba), the tanglad and the true sampaloc! Whew! Have you actually seen pandan leaves? You find it there too! Then there were this interesting bunch of tree leaves called libas! I didn’t know there are a lot of different kinds of pepper (yes the chili or sili) in this country. Some are big to the size of an avocado, some are small, some are tiny, some are elongated, some are round – and they all come in different colors including purple! As in yes violet like an eggplant!

Then there were the vegetables like asparagus, different kinds of cabbage, pechay and their
cousins, kangkong, camote leaves green or purple, cauliflowers, onion leeks from tiny to BIG, lettuce and what have you. The family had fun examining poking tinkering those gabi leaves that came in bundles either fresh or dried. The vendor told us the dagta would make your skin itch so some of us even tried it and indeed it’s such an irritant – and we all love laing!

Fruits were readily represented in many stalls. We had fun looking – even tasting the uncommon and those not easily found. We each tried lifting a langka (jackfruit) about the size of my pillow and about as heavy as half of me! There was mangosteen, avocado, lychees, different kinds of banana, guayabano, balimbing, papayas of different shapes and colors, pomelo and even durian! For whatever reason, there was even a stall with an electric grater for us to fix our coconuts ready for making gata (coconut milk) – I love this machine and yes, I tried grating half a coconut with a mixture of fright, apprehension and gusto hehehe! One false move and you could go grating your very own flesh! Argh!

Now there was something called “granada” – a shiny round dark-green fruit smaller than a fist looking almost like the unripe caimito but we did not dare taste it (yet). Surprisingly, one stall even had fresh kiwi on sale! But the nicest that surprised me was a thing called “cherry tomatoes”! They are tomatoes yes, but just the size of cherries and the vendor even asked people to go pick one of the tiny fruits and eat them! Cherry tomatoes! They’re really cute looking. Then I daydreamed thinking something like: so, on the opposite, will there be “pumpkin tomatoes” in the future? Hehehe, how I wish!

All kinds of native kakanin, snacks and many things else are there to be found. Polvoron? Lots of ‘em. Pastillas, pinasugbo, otap, etc etc etc are all there. But I loved watching the puto and the bibingka cooked live! Broas, barquillos, binagol – I saw them all. But alas, no inipit nor napoleones which I hoped to stumble upon. But brownies, cookies and other semi-cake eatables are aplenty! To die for (I had two) were the Vigan Empanadas. Plus the giant hamburger bigger than the diameter of your head! Whoa! This burger is a crowd drawer and at P280, I think it’s better than having pizza! The preparation and the size of the bun is a spectacle all by itself! Sapinsapin, biko, leche flan, ube halaya, suman of every type, oraro, kutsinta even tupig can be found – but alas, I did not see my inipit and napoleones! Oh okay, there are a lot of kinds of chicharon from everywhere!

And the nuts of many kinds were also on sale. Peanuts big or small, hubad or not, fried or cooked or roasted can be bought by the kilo. A number of stalls also had casuy, adobo or not! There was a stall manned by a fine lady that sold the foreign nuts that we seldom see in the market such as pistachio, macadamia even walnut! But yes, expensive hehe!

Hotdogs frozen or grilled-on-a-stick are aplenty. But so are the different lengths and sizes of sauges from bratwursts to Hungarians and schubligs together with salamis, salamettis, pepperonis and all other “cold cuts”! And of course the siomai, siopao, cuapao and every kind and color of Chinese, Japanese noodles are also present alongside every kind of pasta, green or white! Not to be left out of course are the makis and sushis down to your ready-to-heat or ready-to-eat bento boxes! But then again, in my mind, those were all left to second choice with the sight of all the kinds of longganisa from Laoag, Vigan, Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan, Lucban and even Cebu! Haaah, couldn’t control myself I had to ask the fish-griller to also grill for me a combination of those longganisas that I asked him to put on a stick! Then the whole family followed suit! In no time others were also doing the same that I thought next Sunday there will probably be an enterprising soul who would formally offer grilled longanisa ready for everyone’s taking!

Hey, if you thought this was just purely a palengke, don’t dwell on it! There are tables and chairs on one central area that seem to have been earmarked as an eating area. And you can see a conglomeration of young and old folks who have even made this place their Sunday tambayan! They’re just there eating, drinking fruit shakes, having animated chats, reading the Sunday paper while drinking coffee.

Coffee you said? Ah, this place also has stalls selling coffee in its various forms! Beans in the bag or by the kilo are available. Hmm the aroma! Some sell ground coffee and others make coffee for you to drink – from the barako to whatever! There are coffees from the Cordilleras, from Cavite, from Batangas, from Bukidnon and from just about everywhere including Argentina! Wow! Then again, the tableya and all its cousins of cacao-based products are not to be left out. Hot chocolate can even be had from one of those coffee-selling stands! My brod’s hot-choc was so thick he had to buy bottled water to dilute it! And it still tasted good. He said he felt like a bit drowsy after that hearty treat hehe!

Oh hey! At 10AM the meats from beef to pork to chicken were already almost wiped out! We did catch at least two whole dressed chickens while other late-comers were asking if there was more. And the “butcher” said “wala na po, alas-otso pa lang ubos na”! But there were “carabeef” (carabao meat) on sale along with horse meat, tapang baboy ramo, tapang kabayo, lambchops and what have you! The killer of them all were the frogs - live! Yep, you heard that correctly! Frogs as in of the kokak/ribbit kind. I was told they’re supposed to be a delicacy better than chicken and that the manong who sells them live frogs has a lot of stories about frogs and about eating frogs! He says these are palakang bukid and of course edible with high protein content etc etc. I still say… Ayaw!

The sea produce (or more specifically the water-borne produce) are never to be left out. Yes, this is Quezon City and yes, the Lung Center of the Philippines is no palengke, and this place is faaaar from the shores, but just the same the marine products are plenty! We already mentioned tilapia and of course you’ll see them silvery glimmering bangus (milkfish) in all sizes! But there are a lot more from talakitok to blue marlin to lapu-apu to tuna belly, tuna panga, etc etc! For latecomers who arrive midmorning, almost every fish will be gone by then, so come early esp if you want to see squid that weigh more than a kilo apiece or octopus that change colors and keep crawling off their appointed positions on the table! Not only the little tykes but even I had fun watching them!

Shellfishes and crabs of different kinds are also represented well! My goodness, I’ve been just about everywhere in this country but the variety of shellfishes sold here just struck me. First time I saw what they call bamboo mussels! Yep, the shells have that yellowish-brownish color of bamboo trunks! There are kuhol and its other shelled crawling crawling coursins of various kinds. Some of these have pointed shells, others round and in various sizes. Do you know what “ganga” is?! Well, now I know! Do you know what “tuway” is? The biggest I saw was bigger than my fist! The good thing in this market is that it is not so bustling where the vendors don’t anymore have time to chat with buyers. I liked them teaching us how this or that is cooked and how this or that is eaten. If you bought one type of those shell things, they told us you’ll need to have a pin ready – yes, the “aspili” to pull the meat from inside the shell so you can eat it! How tedious!

The alimango was very much in demand – at least by 10AM there were still a few – and you could hear everyone always looking for the “bakla” kind! But the alimasag were history when we came! We were told those were the first to be wiped out. And as if to hurt us more, one lady was telling us we should have arrived early as they had a lot of large blue crabs where the legs were about as thick as her thumb huhuhu!

To the delight of many (and there was a little commotion) was that the supply of prawns and shrimps were probably more than enough since there were still a lot. But they were selling brisk. Shrimps of different colors and sizes were on sale. Some were still alive, many already dead. The tiger prawns we saw were really big that some pieces were enormously longer than the whole palm of the vendor! And of course we didn’t go home without getting some – for a sumptuous Sunday lunch!

Now now… am planning to once again hop into that place early some other Sunday soon only to shoot better and more pictures of what is there to see or buy!

Oh well..!


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