I turned the corner and there it was: the morning market. Goods from the hills, fields and Mekong popped onto the street, a surprising abundance.

August 11th, 2007, 9am

The rows of tropical fruit were six-deep. Some fruit were so familiar I knew them primarily by their Tagalog names, which is how I learned them in school.

Here were atis, earthy green, evenly lumped, looking like underdeveloped artichokes. Split the fruit open to see black seeds nestled amid white flesh, increasing the level of eating difficulty. Growing up, I would watch an uncle expertly spit each seed out in rapid-fire fashion as he worked through the fruit.

There were rambutan too, the red, spiky ones. They weren’t really spikes, and in fact, not sharp at all. The fruit stall also had dalanghita (imagine a giant lime that tastes halfway between a lemon and an orange), saba (a type of banana used in savoury dishes and soups), and mangosteen with little green petals outside the shell.

My favorite fruit of the lot is the lanzones. Perfectly spherical, an even light brown shade, slightly freckled, grown in bunches, and highly seasonal. They are fun to open: simply squeeze near the top and skin splits into two perfect halves. The translucent flesh comes away without resistance. As children, my sister and I delighted in this part of the process as much as in the eating.

Then if the fruit was sour, our faces would pucker up as the offender fell from our hands, unwanted. But if it had been picked at just the right time (usually before the bats got to them), the sweetness was so difficult to place on the spectrum. Not as sweet as Western berries, less cloying than a lychee. None of the tartness of a grape, but similar in texture. It’s like the first time one tastes unrefined brown sugar after years of the processed stuff. Young girls, usually difficult to feed, plow through the bowl, systematically making a pile of the discarded skin and contemplating whether there is space in their small yard to plant the seeds.

More from the market:

From the earth

From the river

From someone’s honeycomb

There was a queue at this spot, for what? Fresh buffalo blood, maybe. Good for stews.

David Wade, Kristen and Kelly said thanks.

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Timi Siytangco

A hedonist geek requiring regular feeding

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