MANILA, APRIL 29, 2010 (STARweek) IN MY BASKET By Lydia D. Castillo - That’s what fruit vendors normally shout out the moment a buyer comes close to their store. “Bangkok po iyan,” they’d say of mangoes, mangosteen and other fresh fruits. It’s like saying imported produce is better than local produce. It is sad to note that colonial mentality has been so ingrained in the Filipino psyche that to sell anything would entail the label “imported.”

Our mangoes have been hailed as one of the best, if not the best, in the world, so why do vendors need to do this? On the other hand, because we are not privy to the volume of harvest in the country, we can only presume that maybe local supply is not enough or we are exporting so much, we deprive our own local consumers. Then, there is the basic need to protect and help the farmers with a progressive way to make yields increase, to meet both demands. And most suspicious of all – do those which are being passed as Bangkok, really come from Thailand? Or are the tinderas and tinderos passing off local harvest as foreign to make bigger sale?

We were at Rockwell a few days ago. Along the middle aisle of the lower level is a row of fruit vendors. Looking for camote (sweet potatoes), a seller told us it was P115 a kilo and mangosteen at P200. We went to Rustan’s a few steps away and got native sweet potatoes at P52 a kilo, while mangosteen sold at P120. How about that?

At Rustan’s we noted some stuff that might interest the discriminating foodie. Big, red strawberries under the Driscoll label sells between P400 and P600 a pack. French beans, something not usually found here, are available. Cold Storage has squid rings at P140 a kilo and sole fillet for P300. The fresh section carries black lapu-lapu at P354 and talakitok at P249 a kilo. Their ground sirloin is tagged at P279 while salpicao beef is at P354. Australian striploin goes for P525. Half a kilo of this will suffice for a small family. Note – do not marinate steak over night. This must be done shortly before cooking and serving. Better still, a good piece of meat can be grilled on stove top without salt or soy sauce. Slightly brush the griller with butter or margarine. Pork kasim goes for P169 and pork chops at P209. Actually, some of their prices are lower than in other supermarkets.

It is apparent that Rustan’s believes in protecting the environment and they are doing their bit by offering their “green line.” To start with, their selection of salad greens is extensive. They’ve also got lovely red, green and yellow capsicums. They make very good salads, colorful as well. Most of the green food items are organic and imported. Maybe local manufacturers might want to look at the possibility of producing counterpart items?

There’s a variety of teas, but what caught our attention is the rice milk under the label Full Circle, from a company in Skokie, Illinois. This is lactose-free. On the same rack are soy milk and choco milk. There is a choice of fruit jams. Olive oil from home-grown trees goes for P509; there is pasta sauce in bottles of 737 gms; yellow mustard, 258 gms at P136; even hoisin sauce. Bottles of apple juice, 1.87 liters, are available at P222 per.

Across Rustan’s is a Japanese store, Zaifu, with limited supply and a young lady who could hardly tell us the English equivalent of the labels on some unfamiliar items. One bottle we recognized was Yamase soy at P184.

We passed through Milky Way and took note of their take-home line of cooked/ready-to-eat food like beef tapa, molo soup and embutido. There is burong mangga (fermented mangoes) as well.

The Seaside paluto chain has gone to Alabang. New market-cum-restaurants are emerging on Daang Hari, off Ayala Alabang. While construction is still going on, some stores have started serving consumers. There’s a fruit stall called Kambal while the popular Aling Tonya’s has been attracting their sukis who would otherwise have to motor to Macapagal Avenue when craving for Filipino food.

Have a good shopping and eating day – both in moderation.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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