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Sidcor: Culture in Food

The vendors make this farmer’s market unique with their products. They showcase their passion in signature food that mix tradition, innovation, and local color. The following journal entries present those food artisans who populate Sidcor.

January 23, 2015. Fowl and the Flips.
My first encounter with this type of the street food was at the busy terminal of Kanto Katipunan on a warm evening in 1975. I just got off the bus from the city center and walked past rows of street carts with white hot coal hissing within. The area had a plume of animal fat laden smoke that obscured their hanging kerosene powered Coleman lanterns. On this typical street corner, the ‘maralita’ or the urban poor get off the jeepney, buy their take-out chicken dinner and travel further for home down the valley.

Do you remember the recently old terms -Walkman, IUD, Betamax, and Adidas. They are street names for chicken parts that were cheap and the hoi polloi consumed it with gusto. Barbecuing on open caritons were chicken parts which have to be explained to the upper class and foreigners. There were heads neatly facing one direction or ‘Walkman’, intestines threaded on sticks resembling a contraceptive device that is inserted in the uteri or ‘IUD’, curdled blood squares in color similar to magnetic audio-visual tape or ‘Betamax’ and pre boiled claws or ‘Adidas’. They were all on the thinnest bamboo skewers. On the side are jars of seasoned vinegar with or without hot peppers. For those who want to splurge- hearts, liver, gizzard and fried chicken are also available. Only the fowl’s feathers go to waste.

The pic shows grade A versions of the Walkman and Adidas available in the tiangge. The gourmet buyer high pressure cooks these. I have tried chicken feet in tausi or black bean sauce, which is a street food in China. I passed on the head for it is a little more intimidating to consume.

January 24, 2015. Ice Cream and Sherbet
It is called ‘dirty ice cream’ probably because the ambulant vendors who roamed the neighborhood streets with their carts did not practice food safe protocol. My childhood eyes can still see the street hawker holding your cone with his bare hands while he scoops frozen cream deep inside the cart. I further suspect that big business competitors encouraged the derogatory name of the icy delights made by the smaller craft makers. Sidcor has given a venue for the homemade ice creamers to step up with their flavors.

Feature pic shows the ice cream and sherbet booth. I had the mango and ube or purple yam flavors opened for the shot. One sherbet flavor, the coconut with lychee is outstanding when they use opaque white coconut flesh that are “mala-uhog” or a young variety with the consistency of phlegm. Note the double walled stainless-steel container with crushed ice and sea salt. One traditional creamer from Marikina uses antique wooden barrels that carry two-gallon steel containers. Cool!

 

Jan 25, 2015. Legs for Sale?
Title is a quote from our fifth-grade math teacher, the late Mr. Selorio. He was a disciplinarian. If you slouched on your seat and stretched out your legs outside the neat column of seats, he would look at you and announce with dry sarcasm to the class the title in a question.

Pic shows skinned rice field frogs available at the tiangge, ready for the wok.

Throwback from our summers in the cool mountain city of Baguio in the early 70’s- an experience from a dear friend. Heidi’s mom once packed her on the plane alone from the Loakan airport to Manila but heavy clouds forced the plane to divert to La Union, where the airline bused all passengers for the rest of the trip. She sat next to a woman with a huge basket of frogs. She was skinning and skewering them with only a few deft flicks of her gnarled hands. Later on, she learned to appreciate only the legs ‘adobo’ style.

January 22, 2015. Taro.
The mystery superfood locally known as Gabi is a health food when cooked, but is equally toxic when eaten raw. Taro leaves and root are mixed with spices, boiled in coconut milk, and sold by an advocate of this dish in Sidcor.

Pic shows from left, Inukulan- gabi leaves stuffed with crab and shredded coconut meats, middle and partly shown on right, two Laing versions- pork and fish stuffed ‘pinangat’ respectively. The latter two contain minced taro root. All dishes are similarly boiled in the milky second squeeze of shredded coconut. I love the rural straps of coconut leaves to keep the wrap together. Reheat in a microwave and enjoy.

January 17, 2015. Sinampalukang Kambing.
Immediately upon arrival at the Sunday market, my brother-in-law led the way to the goat booth.
“Magluluto ako ng sinampalukang kambing.” (I will cook a goat soup dish in Tamarind.) He then tells the vendor. “Dalawag ulo at sampung paa nga. Biyakin Mo ang ulo at dapat buo yung utak ha.” (Two heads and 10 legs please. And crack the skulls open and the brains should be whole. Ok.) He then faces me. “Hahaluin ko yung utak sa sabaw.” (I will mix the brains to the soup.)

The other notable ingredients were purchased, namely, Kafir or lime leaves, Tanglad or lemongrass, and a secret vinegar. That slow cooked dish was exotique and unique.

The pic shows the goat heads and hooves. After slaughter the carcass is hung by one of its legs and blow torched. In my youth, I’ve seen marginal butchers use rolled up newspaper and matches. The process burns off all the hair off and sears the skin in a cleansing by fire done the rural way. Etched in my mind is the haunting after-life smile on the goat heads. It makes you think twice about eating meat.
I would like to thank the reader for getting this far in the series. Next is a collection of stories on endangering the species.

About the author. Based in Vancouver BC, Tom Firme emigrated together with his family from the Philippines to Canada in the summer of 1993. He has an undergraduate degree in Architecture and a graduate degree in Urban and Regional Planning, both from the University of the Philippines. He is married to the former Ingrid Roxas and they have four adult children living in New York, Manila, and the twins in Vancouver.

Mr. Firme was gainfully employed until the pandemic changed everything. This article is a sharing of his personal life stories. Every chance he is in the Philippines, a visit to Sidcor is a must but this year the early morning breakfast on March 15 at the capital city’s longest running tiangge was not an option. The novel corona virus of 2019 was spreading fast. He has more articles to share on the pre-pandemic, one-stop market where you will find clothes, toys, food, plants, pets and community. Who knows if his visit last March 8, 2020 would be the final Sunday of that normal?

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