One thing we have found in common at all the mercados here in Ecuador is their hard working vendors. Some entire families from Grandma to the infants come to the mercado seven days a week, working long hours just to make a living. Today I went looking for shrimp $3.50 lb, albacora tuna $3.50 lb, frutilla (strawberries $1.50 lb) and lemons 30 for $1 which are really a small green lime like a key lime.
Most of the vendors go out of their way to be so helpful, will try to explain about anything that I am not sure about and will even give me cooking advice when I get that totally lost look on my face. If you want a piece of tuna or marlin you can get as little as a pound, they will clean it by removing the skin or bones and if you are looking for the entire fish they will do the same – filleting it or cutting it into steaks. All you need to do is ask. They do give you all the scraps as folks here use them to make broths and soups. Currently albacora tuna is $3.50 a pound, nice sized shrimp heads-on about 20 to a pound is the same $3.50 a pound. I have purchased pangora (stone crab claws) for $3.50 to $3.75 a pound as well. Because I did not know how to cook stone crab claws the vendor was happy enough to give me basic cooking instructions. Most days you can find Dorado (dolphin or mahi mahi), corvina (sea bass), albacora (tuna), marlin and swordfish, camarones (different sizes of shrimp), almejas (clams), mejillones (mussels), cangrejo (live crabs or cleaned crab meat) calamar (squid), octopus (pulpo) plus an array of small whole fish that I do not know the names for. You can purchase yucca or plantain or sweet potato chips fresh for a $1 a large bag. Vegetables range from long beans, to several different varieties of fresh beans, lettuce, fresh herbs, the standards like tomatoes, green peppers, red onions, scallions and I have even found shallots on occasion. Fruits run from the Mora (blackberry good only for juice or jams can’t just pop them in your mouth), several varieties of apples some Ecuadorian grown most others from Chile. Peaches, plums, melons, pears, bananas just to name a few. Then you have the mandarinas, sour-sop, pineapple, guanabana, tree tomato, avocados. There are stalls with fresh killed pigs, cows, chickens and goats, Joe said he even saw duck at one stall but I guess I missed that. There is an herb man that sells different ground herbs, fresh peanut butter with no additives like sugar or salt, he also sells liquid mixtures of different herb combinations used in specific dishes this is as close to the US’s bottled herb mixes as I have seen here.
It is an adventure just visiting the stalls and seeing what is available, we even found cigars some that look like they are homemade for .15 cents each to those that actually look like a fancy store bought cigar for .25 cents each…Joe like to light one of these up once in a while.
This mercado sells nail polish, soap, pots and pans, live plants, hot dogs, herbal remedies, ball caps and so much more it would take me a week to list everything. Suffice it to say this is one of the better mercados because of its variety of goods.