Sunday, June 20, 2010

Hitting the Food Markets

Wife and I left home before 6:00 am this morning to buy fresh produce at Binan Public Market. We were quite surprised to see that all parking space were full, as some restaurant operators and biyaheros (resellers) are still in the market. 

Hankering for other seafoods aside from usual milkfish and tilapia, I was able to buy talakitok (trevally), dulong (dwarf goby) for fishcake, and dalag (mudfish) which was turned into pesa dish for today's dinner.

Variety and price competitiveness are my main considerations in choosing a public market in our local vicinity. That's why I usually prefer the chaotic Binan's old public market, even though its farther and less hygienic than the smaller and more organized Carmona public market.

I remember going to the public markets as early as age of 9, when my lovely sister Ate Alice would tag me along in the muddy Marikina public market, just across the public pre-college schools I attended. From then on at times after my classes, my mother and older siblings would "coerce" me to buy meats, seafoods, fruits, and vegetables before heading back home in Antipolo. 

Back then, there were times that I feel proud to having bought a small but very sweet watermelon for a very low price. But there are also failures like having bought a milkfish that has "gilik", an algae-muddy smell and taste of freshwater fishes.

Veteran market buyers (housewives, househelps) has no problem in looking for the best product that their weekly budget can buy. But for newbies, they have to learn from their experiences, or from a mentor (usually their Mom or in my case my Ate Alice).

Back at my dayjob, we use 6Rs as a guide in receiving food and other deliveries. Let me share some of those points which you may apply when buying produce at the public market and grocery shops:
  1. Right Place - go to the market where you are familiar, feels secure, and where length of travel time won't compromise the quality of your purchases.
  2. Right Source - buy from reputable vendors who will eventually turn into your "suki" or regular source. They are vendors who use accurate weighing scale, honest on giving your change, won't sell adulterated/tampered/expired products, etc. Avoid fly-by-night vendors who you might not find again in case of product complaints or replacements. Usually these are the sidewalk vendors who are not paying rental and license fees, hence they could sell their products at cheaper price, at the detriment of legitimate vendors.
  3. Right Time - know the market's operating hours and avoid the crowd by arriving about an hour before the peak period to get the first picks of the newly-arrived products. Most local markets show more product choices during mornings and weekends, but there are some markets with peak periods in afternoon or midnight, on certain weekdays.
  4. Right Quantity - buy only the volume you will consume on a certain period without incurring spoilage. Avoid buying bulk items on discounted price, if you will end up throwing leftovers in the garbage.
  5. Right Price - canvass the prices of desired products by making one pass of your market's sections, while taking mental note of the differences in size and quality. Then proceed to the chosen vendor(s) to haggle for lowest price, especially if you're buying in bulk.
  6. Right Quality - aside from having firm texture, fresh look and smell, below are the usual guides in buying food products:
  • Meat's flesh must "bounce" back when pressed, color is neither gray nor brown
  • Whole fish must have clear (not opaque) eyes, red gills, even scales, non-sticky surface
  • Fruits and veggies must have strong fruity or vegetable smell, no bruises, not wilted
  • Grocery products should not be bloated, no dent or holes, sealed, with adequate shelf life
How about you? Can you share your trade secrets of your "palengke" days?

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