Sunday, June 29, 2008

Ingredient Differences

I believe I may have left the wrong impression about ingredients here ... that the differences are all bad. They're not. Not by a long shot.

Sure, the availability of many things is low to non-existent. Want liquid smoke? Unless you know Manila very, very well, it's easier and cheaper to just have it shipped from the States.

That said, many of the local ingredients are of much higher quality and far, far fresher than their American brethren.

Take the tomato. In the stores in the States, tomatoes are gorgeous. Perfect round, large, red orbs. Their Philippine counterparts are like small, green Romas ... just not the most appetizing by looks alone.

Don't judge a tomato by its color!

Now, before I say anything here, let me just make it clear that there are exceptions to what I'm about to write. BC Hothouse makes exceptional tomatoes of high quality and taste. And, they're not involved in the current salmonella problem. I'm sure there are many other examples of fine, quality ingredients available.

The average American tomato in our megamarts are designed to be trucked hundreds or thousands of miles to market. It's been bred to take that treatment and still arrive looking good for the consumer. Industrial quality! Industrial taste. If you like industrial cardboard.

The average Philippine tomato, once you let it sit and ripen, tastes great. It's not some special strain.

The meats here, fresh. I go to a local butcher. The owner seems to be fanatical about cleanliness and sanitation. I cannot express how much I appreciate that. Not to mention the meat is very fresh. Very fresh. I've heard rumors that in some cases the time from slaughter to the butcher's display case is under 24 hours ... well under.

Fish? Nearly still flopping if you hit the mercado (market) when the fishermen come in at the end of the day. Incredible quality.

Fruits, vegetables, garlic, ginger ... all trucked in nearly daily to the mercado. Very fresh and not some industrial crop strain that's taken all the flavor out of the food.

Mangos ... here's a nice example. Before I moved to the Philippines, I hated mangos. The ones we could get in the Seattle area were garbage. Sure, sometimes you got lucky and bought a halfway adequate mango. Usually, they were a bit fibrous and not all that sweet.

Here? Good Googly Moogly! They're like candy! Sweet, golden, juicy. Simply amazing.

So, ingredients here are different. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, sometimes, just not available at all. I guess that's all part of the fun.

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