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Published: July 17th 2013
This market is one of the best we have ever been to anywhere, but we usually say that every time we find a market we like. Tired of paying the high price of food, especially for local veggies and meats, in the Ecuadoran National chain...Super Maxi, we decided to head for the old and venerable Mercado Central. Open for a very long time...some say 100 years and almost every day of the year, this market proved to be wonderful.
It is an indoor market, owned by the city. It is located near the old town square in an area of warehouses and commercial buildings. Vendors rent stalls to sell fresh flowers, fruits, veggies, healing herbs, spices, meat, fish and, most important to our stomachs, small stall sized restaurants serving traditional foods at unbelievably low prices.
As you walk up the steps from the street, the first thing you notice is how clean everything is. In a town noted for it's gusty dust filled winds and pollution from diesel spewing buses and cars, this place is a welcome respite. Consisting of 3 floors, the first one is where all the action is. We arrived just about the time that folks
start showing up for lunch. The place was raucous and lots of fun with folks yelling orders and sprinitng to buy what they needed during the lunch hour.
Around the corner and we find rows of meat stalls. Generally speaking, the stalls are divided by what is being sold. For instance, all the pork is in one area, beef in another, flowers another. This is true in the old town as well where shoe repairers are on one street, hardware the next. We think it comes from a period in history where the guilds would all be located in similar fashion. It is also modern in the location of fast food places like Burger King and Mc D.
The first set of Stalls are flowers of every variety. The climate here is such that flower growing is year round except for roses. They are grown in huge greenhouses everywhere and most are shipped to the USA and your friendly neighborhood florist. Roses here... $1 a dozen, at home... $2-3 a rose.
Next stop was the sausages. The variety here was amazing and they even had imported stuff from Spain and Italy. The lady in the sausage stall
was very friendly and asked Mike to taste some. Kate was nervous but...what the hell. They were excellent and we bought a very nice chorizo to go with eggs.
And just around the corner comes cerdo...pork in all it's various forms. You could buy huge chops or steaks, roasts, stomachs, ribs and of course...pigs feet (including the leg with hooves). Not sure exactly what you would do with the foot but...
Next...fresh huevos(eggs), stacks of them.You can buy a flat of 36, 10 flats (restaurants do this) or just a couple. The interesting part is that they are no refrigerated and the super maxi doesn't fridge them either. This was true when we lived in Scotland in the early 70's so it wasn't a shock.
Next comes the veggies and Katy decided to buy some blue (here called negro or black) potatoes. In some of our readings Mike discovered that these are likely the original potatoes from Pe
Down the next walkway and we find what we called frightened chickens...all the feet are pointing at us and almost look like they are saying "No, No..go away". These birds do not have the orange color that many
have in Mexico so the primary feed must not be Marigolds. If you order chicken soup here, you get the feet with the soup to show you it is freshly made. You don't have to eat the feet.
On Down the stairs we found lots of fresh fish. Sushi grade tuna is $3 a pound while swordfish is only $2. Photos of this area were hard to get as it is not well lighted. We will try to get some next time. we did have a long discussion about where the fish comes from and when it arrived. It mostly comes from the coast near Manta and is delivered every other day by the fellow who is selling it.
Back up another set of stairs and we were overwhelmed by the fruit.We have been trying lots of different kinds as we move around the town but ll of them and more are here. Melons are to die for, grapes large and sweet, apples from Chili, oranges from Columbia and the rest are local. Mike counted 20 different fruits including local bosque pears.We certainly tasted what we could and bought a few.
Around the next corner is the
place our stomachs were looking for, restaurant stalls. All of them had at least one cook, a server or two and a hawker/money taker. Soups, full course meals including meat, veggies and potatoes and rice for $5. Fresh fruit juices, ice cream and cake/coffee cafes. Seating is in a large public area shared by all the stands. We settled on Corvino(sea bass) y papas y ceveche for $4:50 each and mora(blackberry) juice sin azucar(no sugar). We grabbed a table when it came free and lunch was delivered with a flourish. It included local hot sauce. Now you all know how much we like it hot. Well we ended up stepping back a bit....at least a 7 pepper sauce. There was so much fish and potatoes that we could not finish the food. Simply could not!
After taking a photo of the cook we kinda ambled out, only to find that we had a very long up hill walk to old town. Enough of a walk to stop us at least 5 times in the next hour covering about 3 kilometers. We definitely walked off out lunch. Took a taxi home. Enough exercise already!!!
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