August 5, 2005 
(STAR) IN MY BASKET By Lydia D. Castillo - Perhaps the district of Sta. Cruz has been unintentionally forgotten, with regard to giving homemakers the convenience of shopping in a one-stop establishment. Not anymore; the SM chain recently opened SM San Lazaro on Felix Huertas, in the heart of the much-populated area. It occupies the land where the former Sta. Ana race track was, which means it is huge. With all the facilities offered it is the newest playground of the residents in the area.

We entered through the second level and immediately went into shopping mode. Multi-colored balloons were still flying, giving a festive atmosphere. The staff were gracious, each carrying a basket ready to be given to a shopper. "Good mornings" were spontaneously said, with a ready smile. Families were coming in droves and by late morning the place was packed with people marveling at the bargains on offer. Children were pointing at toys, parents were canvassing prices of school supplies, and going around trying to spot what they could buy.

By the entrance to the second level, there is a stand-up display which can satisfy any party-giver or those who thrive on chichiria, packed in 3s and sold at P100 per. Our special choices include Miki’s Trio of seasoned ready-to-munch herring, anchovies and slip-mouth, which until that day we didn’t know was sapsap; Pepperoo’s candy popcorn in creamy butter; three packs from Hong Kong consisting of Danish puffs and French biscuits; and EBS Eggcracklets. For P20 there is puto seco, and a pair of Bread at Work Choco Chip Cookies for P75.

After giving the rest of a department store a run-through (that was all the time we could spare), we went to the lower level where the supermarket is located. There’s a counter for bottled fresh juices on ice at P37 per. Without any label to identify the fruits, we surmised, by their color, that they were made from carrots, orange or lemon and apple. In a stall made of bamboo fresh buco is offered plus lanzones (P85 a kilo) and santol (P14 for half a kilo).

Moving toward the wall, you find the Herbs and Spices store which sells a collection of dehydrated vegetables. They include celery at P57.50 a kilo, broccoli for P83.30, white radish at P32 and bamboo shoots at P92.50. Perhaps it is better to get the dehydrated bamboo shoots to avoid that particular smell of the fresh ones, but we need to try this before actually endorsing it. They also have cinnamon bark at P19 and dried mushrooms; powdered spices are a plenty. A few feet away is the rice section, the samples contained in pinewood boxes. Sinandomeng is tagged at P29 a kilo while long grain is P29 and P30. White organic goes for P35 a kilo. We met three ladies manning the ready-to-cook vegetable display. They are making life easier for the cook in the family by cutting the different vegetables needed for a variety of dishes, from sinigang to laing with peeled garlic (Taiwan) at P83 a kilo, and onions (red). They have short stemmed toge and a vari-hued selection of gelatin (either in small balls at P15 for about 250 gms, or cup-shaped at P5 each).

There’s something that looks like a giant swordfish in the fresh catch section, where lumut (cuttlefish) sells for P80 (half kilo) and cod fish for P67 (half a kilo). Pampano is at P250, biya is at P176, bambangon is at P130. At the processed meat counter, we got CDO’s beef tapa, which is a family favorite. SM house brand Bonus now has processed meat products: Hawaiian roast at P162 a kilo, pork teriyaki at P168 and country-style barbecue for P175. A discovery is the lamb barbecue of Monterey at P337 a kilo. We served this for dinner immediately, and the brood gave it a 9 out of 10 in flavor and tenderness. Nothing to add, simply heat a little oil and pan fry the meat. Pour the oil where it was cooked and you have a delightful dish.

Here’s a quick, easy and tasty recipe for fish fillet, preferably tanguingue or blue marlin. Drizzle the fish with the juice of an orange, then marinate in Worcestershire sauce and ground pepper. Saute garlic in olive oil, fry fish, put in platter. Add a few strings of saffron and capers to the oil. Let boil and pour over fish.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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