On Tagines and Pierogi: Al Fresco Dining at the Salcedo Market

Public and community markets are acquiring additional faces here in the Philippines. Although most markets are still comprised of rows of stalls housed in large buildings and divided into ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ sections, other set ups such as night markets and open-air markets have been established in some communities. One example is the Salcedo Market, which is open on Saturday mornings at Jaime Velasquez Park, in Makati City. This weekly market is not only a place to acquire some choice organic produce, meats, fish, and deli items, but it is also a haven for diners seeking comfort food as well as less well-known cuisines in a more relaxed environment than a food park or restaurant.

We decided to have a late breakfast-early brunch here on one lazy weekend. It took us some time to browse through all the stalls offering all kinds of foods from sandwiches to paella. Eventually we decided on some chicken saffron tagine from The Real Moroccan Cuisine and pierogi dumplings from Babci.

The chicken saffron tagine was served on a bed of saffron rice, with an olive garnish. Although the saffron rice was a little lacking in flavor, the chicken had a distinct lemony taste with hints of saffron that played well on the taste buds. The meat itself was falling off the bone; another sign of careful slow cooking. The black olives were firm, soft, and flavorful, complimenting the dish as a whole,but perhaps they should watch a bit more closely to removing the pit in order to prevent accidents. In summary, it was a very filling dish that would do well to keep you from feeling hungry throughout the day.

Pierogi are filled dumplings, originating from Poland. Babci offers a whole range of pierogi fillings ranging from traditional ones such as sauerkraut and potatoes, to more innovative creations including chocolate and fruits. Since we were having brunch, we decided on a trio of savory pierogi: potato with cheese and onion (also known as ruskie, a classic meat mix, and last but not the least, cabbage with mushrooms and a hint of truffle oil.  All of the pierogi came topped with caramelized onions and cream. The ruskie had a rich but not overwhelming flavor, with the perfect balance of both cheese and onion. The meat pierogi was strongly seasoned, but without being overly salty for enjoyment. On the other hand, the truffle oil lent a distinct sharpness to the last pierogi, but that soon gave way to the subtler flavors of mushrooms and cabbage. It was a welcome change from the more richly filled and flavors dimsum houses or other cuisines with a tradition of dumplings. Babci also offers a variety of sausages (served with pita bread or rice) that are made without extenders or excessive amounts of other preservatives.

Hopefully we will have another opportunity soon to sample more culinary treats from the Salcedo Market. It is fortunate to see many small and medium food enterprises emerging to give diners more healthy and diverse options to suit all palates and needs.

The Food Score: 4/5: Although there were some misses when it comes to the flavors of the pierogi and the chicken tagine, the dishes on the whole were affordable, filling, and satisfying to eat.

Ambiance/Service Score: 5/5: One feature of the Salcedo Market is al fresco dining. The ambiance is bustling but relaxed, conducive at least for casual conversation or taking a rest before rushing off to peruse more items in the stalls. The market is clean, organized, and safe on the whole

GERD Score: 4.5/5: The Real Moroccan Cuisine and Babci offers savory food spiced just the way we like them, as such isn’t a problem unless these have your triggers. But I do say that the serving size of the chicken tangine is great for sharing rather than taking it on alone.

Epilepsy Score:  5/5: Food options in The Real Moroccan Cuisine and Babci are free of preservatives and extenders. Non caffeinated teas and other drinks are available in the former establishment and in other stalls. The marketplace is a haven for health buffs after all.
Team Glasses Score: 4.5/5 Although there is still room for improvement with the food and the set-up of the market, this is a promising place for foodies and those interested in healthy eating and organic products.

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