#EATinerary: Sugbo Mercado’s world in one hour!

ALEXIS YAP and the immensely popular Unicorn Freakshake from Crazy Curly that is made from, among other things — strawberry ice cream, spun sugar candy, fairy frosting, one whole siakoy or Bisaya doughnut, marhsmallows, gummy bears, sour gum strip — and the kitchen sink!

When faced with the prospect of discovering his future, man is sure to jump at every opportunity to do so.

Even if it is in the middle of dinner’s rush at a packed Sugbo Mercado, even if the future is held in the patterns of coffee grounds. Even if one is left to himself with a booklet of imagery and interpretations.

Yes, even a DIY fortunetelling session holds an appeal.

Several weekends ago, Michael Karlo Lim introduced me to Turkish coffee (at the onset, let me tell you that I liked its sikwate-like consistency and a
lingering sweetness that is not for most diehard coffee fans).

The server sends ours to the table with a flourish, in elaborate silver-girded cezves and similarly decorated espresso-sized cups.

Because it is unfiltered, it leaves the coffee grounds in the cup, which form patterns. After turning overt the cup on its saucer, and back upright, one peers into the cup to divine the future in a method known as tasseomancy.

“Gossip was punishable by death in the time of the Ottoman Caliphate,” we were told surreptitiously by the lady from Khava Turka, “So the wives in the harem devised tasseography to discuss rumors amongst themselves.”

And here we were, stuffed as a Caliph’s wife, making sense of rumors in our heads, after we were fed the world.

The evening, after all, began with a Nikumaki Bento — meat-wrapped rice balls in a trio of flavors (plain, cheesy curry and special Japanese sauce, served with a tamagoyaki (an omelette) and Japanese mashed potato).

A SUGBO MERCADO mainstay, check out the choices of nikumaki (and them some) from, well, Nikumaki.

“Just a snack as we wait for the others,” says Karlo, quite appropriately because the nikumaki was invented in the 1990s as a hot snack item after all. Next, a popular Guangdong street food item…

Chinese Cuisine’s jian bing guo zi, prepared like a pancake and eaten like a burrito, rolled and held in your hand, perfect for ambulatory dining.

We then tried a taste of Vietnam in Saigon Oi’s pho, the hot new trendy noodle of choice if the recent pho restaurant openings around the city is to be any indication.

This one tasted homegrown, and not only because a Vietnamese man prepares it as you order.

Hog&Bull’s smoked beef brisket was a Western shot that worked, served with the usual suspects of coleslaw and friend mac n’ cheese.

(How much more American can you get?) I downed that with John Lemon’s Orange Lemonade, and a personal favorite … Thai Milk Tea from Thai Street.

Ironically, the strangest item on the table, one that my palate had never encountered … was a homegrown one. Tiyula Itom (literally, black soup) is a Tausug specialty from Mindanao that is often served in weddings.

Traditionally made from goat’s meat, this version was beef, served piping hot and black as my heart.

The darkness is from an unexpected source: burnt coconut meat, which fools the tongue expecting the sea salt savory of squid ink, but is then met with a sweetness and spice that bites into the tongue, lingering.

PHOntastic pho from Saigon Oi!

What was that? We ask around the table, accosted with new flavors, eager for answers.

Appropriately, the stall is called Tausug Spices, and the chef just may spill his secrets if you tell him he made an excellent choice in quitting medical school to pursue his culinary dreams.

So now I squint my eyes, looking into my future. Is that a dagger? I quickly look it up on the booklet we were provided. Nothing as macabre was listed.

What is it then? Someone suggests: “It must be pepper … di ba murag sili espada?”

There it was, the 9th entry filed neatly under P after Pigeon (next days will be filled with good news) and above Pyramid (your dreams will come true).

Pepper: You will be very angry at a certain person or yourself. Not that I needed this sorcery to tell me what seems to be my default setting. Oh well.

(Sugbo Mercado is at the Garden Bloc, IT Park across Avida Towers and is open 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. from Thursday to Sunday. Follow @sugbomercado on
Instagram for more information. Also, their stalls may vary from week to week from the selection above without prior notice.)

TAGS: Hour, in, Mercado, ONE, Sugbo, tour, world
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