There's no need to break the bank just to enjoy great foreign street food. In Teacher's Village, Diliman, Quezon City sits a quaint little compound alive with flavors of the east soon to be joined by a couple of dynamic western flavors, too. Open since last April 2016, #38 Mayaman Street, Merkanto International Street Food Fair hosts a number of varied foreign food stands that are yummy yet affordable. The location itself, I am happy to report, also provides respite for the mall weary among you. Keds Paulate, one of Merkanto's thirteen partners recalls how it started.
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KP: "Most of the partners have been friends since our grade school days in Claret (Batch '99). Yung iba since prep the rest naging close during highschool and during college na. We are 13 partners in Merkanto. 13 guys who wanted a hangout place ala palibhasa lalake sari-sari store hangout. Chef Nino Laus, Chef Isaac Bravo, Pj Lanot, Brian Mendoza, Bj Ching, Paolo Sayo were the ones responsible for putting up Merkanto to be honest, sila ung tutok ever since. Six years ago plano na namin siya because we wanted a place where we can unwind, hangout and be with friends."
Currently, Merkanto hosts six types of foreign cuisine, four of which (Brazil, Morocco, Indonesia, and India) are handled by the founding chefs and two (Vietnam and Korea) by outsourced suppliers. Pricing is reasonable given that you're also paying for the ambience of a good, clean environment and a sink is available in the center of the dining area.
KP: "Chefs Nino Laus and Isaac Bravo are the ones responsible for the menu of Merkanto. Sa kanila galing yung concept ng mga pagkain from Morocco, Indonesia, Brazil, and India. Sila yung nakatutok sa pagkain na ilalabas namin. Even with our existing (Vietnam/Korea) and upcoming concessionaires (Jamaican/British,etc.) their menu is studied by our chefs and approved before presented to customers. The Chefs try the food and consult the owners if they need to change or improve their menu."
I got to taste several of the dishes of their current food kiosks just a couple of days shy of the soft start of their two newest cuisines, British and Jamaican. My particular favorites from this selection were the fried Briouat, the Pho Bo Koh, the Nasi Goreng, and the Roti.
ROTI (India) - P70: It is well-made and authentic in comparison to other roti bread I've tried, lightly sweet and not too greasy.
3 VEGGIE SAMOSAS (India) - P100 Filled with spiced potatoes and peas marinated in curry, cumin, ginger, chili powder, cinnamon, black pepper, green cardamom, and coriander seeds. These samosas will ignite your tastebuds. My uncle who joined us for dinner particularly liked the even texture between veggies inside.
I wasn't able to shoot a photo of the Moroccan stand, but the dishes I tried from that particular one were quite delicious.
BRIOUAT 5 pcs. (Morocco) P80 The Briouat I tried is particularly scrumptious and yummy and comes with a special eggplant baba ganoush dip that complements it perfectly. Briouat is filled with ground beef and seasoned inside with cumin, cinnamon, paprika, onions, parsley, and mint.
KEFTA TACO (Morocco) P130 Their open faced beef taco dressed in special sauce with cumin, tomatoes, and slaw will quickly fill you up.
SATAY CHICKEN (Indonesia) P50 Tasty grilled chicken drizzled with a special peanut sauce.
NASI GORENG (Indonesia) P140 Special spicy Indonesian fried rice with chilli, shrimp paste, spices, and topped with scrambled egg. My brother cleaned this box out in less than 10 minutes after I shot the photo.
TTEOKPOKKI (Korea) P130 - Korean Rice Cake stew with a sweet and spicy broth.
PHO BO KHO (Vietnam) P160.00 - Braised Beef Pho w/ bean sprouts. This was very good, the broth wasn't too salty and the beef was super soft.
MI XIAO TOI THIT KO BO P165 - Beef with garlic egg noodles. This tastes like a Vietnamese version of yakisoba, slightly sweet and spicy, quite satisfying.
COXINHA 3pcs. P120 - These are a well-loved street food snack from Brazil. A sort of shredded fish or chicken filling with sauce is wrapped with dough and batter then fried. These were also delicious and drizzled with a tangy sauce similar to pesto. The fish inside was moist not dry.
TAPIOCA CREPE ALA MODE P110 - This chocolate drizzled delight of a dessert was polished off at the end by my brother and my younger cousin... it disappeared in about two minutes. The proof is in the pudding, so they say.
Keds Paulate's personal favorites on the menu are: Korea: Galbijjim, Vietnam: Khum Bo Kho, Morocco: Maakouda, Indonesia: Nasi Goreng, Brazil: Beef Churrasco, India: Roti
On the two new food cuisines, British and Jamaican, Keds shares that their carts will be up and running hopefully by November. The jamaican kiosk will serve "jerked meats" a popular Jamaican way of roasting chicken, pork, or beef. For British cuisine they will be serving Fish and Chips and a few other dishes.
Merkanto also hosts special nights with some live entertainment. Keds shares further that before this can become an expected feature of dining at Merkanto they are still testing feasibility of live performances within a residential neighborhood. Here's a post with the upcoming events at Merkanto.
KP: "Last September we hosted our first free gig/event. Spongecola and Midnight Meetings were our guest bands. Last Oct. 19 we had Johnoy Danao, Ben&Ben, and Coeli for Johnoy's Salubungan Album Tour. Actually malakas ang foot traffic namin kapag may gig or event kami. Next wednesday (tonight) we might have Ramiru for our entertainment, then on October 27th Thursday we will have Oh Flamingo and Ang Bandang Shirley. We are planning something big for December in line with the Maginhawa Food Fest."
Merkanto's peak hours are from 6:00PM-9:00PM. They are open Tuesdays-Sundays (5:00PM-12:00AM) and closed on Mondays.
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