How Fresh Are Those Shrimps?

Friday, 24th of September, is Eid’l Adha (Feast of Sacrifice) in the Muslim calendar. It’s a regular holiday, so it was a no-work-day for me. After running an errand in  Quezon City, I decided to drop by at Farmers Market in Araneta Cubao on my way home. Whenever I get the chance to, I’d always visit Farmers Market to buy some fruits, veggies, crabs, or shellfish.

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Last Friday was quite different. When I arrived at the seafood section, there were cameras and lights set-up and the teleprompter showed the word Rated K. Obviously, Ms. Korina Sanchez was there somewhere. I did what I needed to do. I bought a medium-sized crab, a kilo of Longkong lanzones, and some veggies for my laswa.

Laswa is a simple, healthy Ilonggo soup dish, made up of a mixture of lowland vegetables. Anything goes inside the pot, whatever veggie is available. Usually, either shrimps or fried/dried fish are/is boiled together with the veggies for umami taste. Laswa is bulanglang in Tagalog and dinengdeng in Ilocano.

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After buying the veggies, I thought of going back to the seafood section to buy some shrimps. I bought the pansahog kind which I thought was cheap at PHP 50 for 1/4 kilo.

I was told by the shop attendant that Korina would come to shoot some scenes anytime soon and I could stay and wait if I wanted to. So I said to myself,

Ti, sige eh, maningad ta eh!

Translation:  Alright, I’ll stay and observe (with curiosity) what’s going to happen.

While standing and waiting, I chatted with the shop attendant. I asked her the prices of prawns, lobsters, crabs, and scallops and where they were sourced. I also asked her if how much of the display was sold daily. She actively answered my questions and to my surprise provided me some hush-hush information on the trade that no customer should know. I cringed at some disturbing revelations.

Useful Tips:

  • If you shop for shrimps or prawns at Farmers Market, get the ones displayed higher.
  • The freshest shrimps/prawns are usually light gray in color.
  • Do not buy shelled shrimps, those are more that 2 weeks on display and are usually coated with food color to make them look fresh.
  • Shrimps with shells labeled as pansahog and sold at a lower price are older than one week.
  • Shrimps displayed in huge batya (plastic tubs) are not sold in one day and would stay for as long as 2 weeks. Just imagine those shrimps exposed to the elements all day long and not properly chilled or frozen to preserve their freshness.
  • The shrimp transformation was explained to me in a funny tone:

Ma’am, it starts looking dapper like this until it turns dark like this. When the head falls off, it will go to this tub. It means that the shell will be removed, then it will be colored with food color. So if I were you, I would go for this (pointing a fresher-looking tub of shrimps), not the pansahog  that you bought earlier.

Moral of the story, it pays to do small talk with the person that sells your food. You will learn a lot. I did. And the shop attendant  was so right, the shrimps I bought tasted bland. Perhaps because of the many days it was soaked in water.

My short shopping trip at Farmers Market ended up with me watching Korina from the sidelines doing her closing spiel for her TV program, Rated K.

laswaLaswa. Not as fresh and namit (tasty) as it should be.

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