Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mercato Centrale - A Healthy Food Oasis in the Metro

I haven’t been in any weekend market in Makati like the Legaspi or the Salcedo weekend market. So, I was stoked when I was given the chance to view the place. Though, I hunted for juicy burgers as my Hubby requested, I noticed that this market seems to be geared to people who wanted a more healthy lifestyle, an initial impression a few weeks back when I first stepped inside. I saw a proliferation of stalls selling salad dressings, gourmet salads, low-fat, low sugar cakes and pastries, food supplement stands, handmade soaps, and eco-friendly products. No fatty burgers but more nutritious sandwiches. I’m sure there were mouth-watering burgers outside in the open area but in my haste I wasn’t able to explore that part. Hence, I was confined to a hotdog stand beside the tent and ordered some schublig lathered with mustard sauce. And as it was being grilled absentmindedly by a lady in a sunvisor, I wandered around and made some interesting food finds.
Hubby is in love with cream puffs. So I gravitated to the lady selling some of these. No, it’s not the sugar-free ones but the regular, sugar enriched and lustrous cream-filled types. Though, Hubby loved its heft, he doesn’t seem to be enthusiastic about the cream filling. He commented that it reminded him more of his Mom’s bread pudding as it seems to be laced with vanilla. He finished it and said nothing more. But before buying these velvety cream puffs, I first parked myself before a salad stand. Yes, a salad for me, a hardcore meat eater. It was one of those days when I was tired of having heartburns. That day, I intended to eat more veggies, more fiber so I ordered a chicken salad with peanut sauce.
Then fate lent a hand to this healthy eating mindset. With the salad on hand, I chanced upon a lady selling some wheatgrass powder with honey diluted in water. Why I even thought of taking a sample of this concoction is beyond me. She handed me a small cup to taste. I was expecting the taste of fresh Bermuda grass, not that I’ve tasted it but something just as odd. But surprisingly, it didn’t taste that bad. Sure it had the fresh leaves taste to it but it was not assaulting and since it had a touch of honey, it was actually refreshing. And I’m glad that they recommended diluting it only in cold water, imagining drinking a warm glass of powdered grass, ugh! Anyway, I purchased three sachets hoping that the alkaline content would interact with whatever gastric acids triggering my discomfort. And what do you know, it worked. I’m not sure if it was placebo but it did lessen my heartburn.
Going back, the first thing I noticed in my chicken salad is the purple cabbage, one that stands out from the other green-hued salads, a statement perhaps of its uniqueness. Hmm… Maybe so, as its lightly marinated, grilled chicken strips provided a delicious protein base to the crunchy greens. The chicken was tender and had a slight peanut buttery taste to it like it was marinated in peanut sauce drippings. And speaking of peanut sauce, I was surprised that the peanut sauce that accompanied the salad tasted so light and tasty not heavy as I expected to be. It successfully transformed the bland bunch of greens and slivers of purple to something quite gourmet. I wiped out all the veggies, thanks to the sauce. Amazing.
But aside from the fit and fab food selection, there are still scores of food inside the tents even some Turkish bread offered by an assistant with long fingernails, I can’t seem to get over that. And looking around, my eye caught a glimpse of this black-veiled woman sitting beside a table laden with Moroccan dishes. Wow, Morocco. I’ve always wanted to go there. Ever since I saw Harrison Ford in Sabrina sitting in a Moroccan restaurant eating with his hands, I’ve always wondered what the food cooked in a tajin would taste like. Moreover, glimpses of this country, its exotic food and culture in TLC have always intrigued me. So seeing a Moroccan woman there is like… seeing John Mayer in the flesh. Anyway, I ordered the chicken cooked in a tajin (a triangular, dome shaped cooking pot).
As I love chicken curries, I expected it to be similar to these so I held on to be furiously blown away by its flavors. But like someone waiting for rain in the desert, I waited in vain. Maybe I was waiting for an overly dramatic opera singer flamed by a full orchestra not a fresh-faced ingénue playing an acoustic guitar, because unlike the curries that had a rich, luxuriant texture with a sweet, hot flavor that leaves you wanting for more, more rice of course, this has the aftertaste of cool preserved lemons, a fresh flavor that permeates faintly in the chicken pieces. It had a more Mediterranean appeal to it highlighted with the presence of green olives. Overall, I can’t say that I was disappointed but more of surprised. If this really is the authentic thing, I would have to find out if I ever get to Morocco.
So there, my first weekend market in Mercato Centrale. This place certainly piqued my interest in weekend markets as I have started to realize the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Their drive in showcasing green, organic, fat-free, sugar-free food and at the same time be a venue for exotic, interesting dishes is commendable. And with the unrealistic schedules of many people nowadays and the stressful eating habits acquired along the way, this place is a momentary oasis, definitely not only for the food lover but also for the harried and fastfood-weary individual like me.


  1. hi there!! :)

    visit us at Mercato Centrale! we have a stall at the 1st Tent (with all the healthy products) :) we're selling greaseless nuts! :)


  2. I can't wait for our Markets to open up, it has been such a long winter and we are in need of some nice fresh foods.