MANILA, February 24, 2006 (STAR) IN MY BASKET By Lydia D. Castillo - A basket of balut from Pateros is part of our childhood memories. Today we still hear calls of "balut, penoy" from itinerant vendors or see them on street corners waiting for their sukis to come by. Foreigners are usually dared to try balut, with the flavorful broth and tasty meat, taken with a pinch of salt. Well, balut has recently gone gourmet through the initiative of a man called Andoy of Concio’s Food Corporation. He decided to do something more to this unique Philippine delicacy, coming up with Andoy’s Best Bottled Balut in three variants: in brine, caldereta and afritada. The process was done in partnership with the Department of Science and Techonolgy.

More surprising was when the man behind the counter told us they count among their regulars some foreign buyers. Actually, our friend Glenda is a pioneer in concocting balut specialties. Now that it’s bottled, balut can be available at any time. Balut in Brine has the usual fresh and flavorful taste and sells for P60, while Afritada with a tomato-based sauce and Caldereta in spicy brown sauce are both tagged at P75. Each bottle weighs 240 grams. They are vacuum-sealed, without any preservatives and have a shelf life of two years.

For those interested, Andoy’s Best Gourmet Balut is at Tiendesitas along C-5 and Ortigas. We were actually killing time when we decided to drop by and we were glad we did, as other than balut, we found some good buys. On that early afternoon, there were not many shoppers, which makes us wonder if they’re recouping their investments.

Anyway, Uncle George of Gourmet (everybody has been using that word for just any food) Bread did not have everything printed in their flyer, such as Hershey’s Monkey Bread which we thought we would try. That would have cost us P120 for the small one and P160 for the big loaf. Kapeng Bigas (rice coffee) again got us on a nostalgic trip, recalling when our help would make it from roasted grains. Masigla Products sell the instant brew in small tea bags at P80 for 12, and in bottles at P60 each.

Based in Roxas City, Capiz is JC King Enterprises, with a selection of seafood specialties. The province is a major producer of milkfish and has ventured into processing, assisted by the technical expertise and technological breakthroughs from fishery-based institutions. JC King started de-boning the fish in 1997 (our suki Vilma does this very well) and is now supplying even international markets. In their collection are brined whole milkfish, crab relleno, bangus lumpia, bottled tuyo and bangus. Call Carla or Aimee, 439-4898. Chef’s Pride has the usual seasoned stuff which are supposed to have ‘zero chemical content’; guess we’ll just have to take their word for it. They’ve got bacon, hotdogs, and cuapao bread (packed in 10s). Call 635-4751.

Lola Ps, an old favorite, sells their good-sized and delicious cheese-y ensaymadas for P25 each. Get their halayang ube (P150–it’s good) and embutido at P160 per. For a while we were wondering where Farm-a-Deli went. It used to be in BF Parañaque. We found them again at Tiendesitas, where one of their items is calamansi juice for P95 a bottle.

Fruits also abound in the complex. We found caimitos at P80 a kilo. But on a trip to Tanauan, Batangas, a few days later, caimitos were selling at only P40 a kilo. Good bargain, indeed. Actually, markets out of the big city normally give us some savings as prices are still much lower than they are in the metropolis. Motoring would be a breeze, not much traffic on weekdays, but the ever increasing cost of petrol will kill us, erasing whatever savings we get.

The Tanauan public market is not what one might call ideal, not even passable really, but our constant search for tawilis still makes us go there. This time we got baby carpas (still jumping) at P50 a kilo, really inexpensive! We fried them crisp and had a good dinner, when we also cooked an imitation of Via Mare’s gising-gising (Glenda, hope you don’t mind). We got freshly-caught small (sardine-size) bangus at P65 a kilo. Actually, one does not need to go through the muddy lanes of the market, since vendors who are literally squatting at the entrance have enough merchandize to satisfy one’s requirements. This is also one place where one can get a few pieces of finger chilis as tawad. A joy indeed.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved