For long-time friends, it has always been a dream to create something together, and now that has come true. Led by Chefs Niño Laus and Isaac Bravo of Ninyo Fusion Cuisine, Merkanto Street International Street Food highlights four initial food concepts with flavors from Morocco, Indonesia, India, and Brazil. The Vietnam booth, which is a third party concessionaire, was already on its soft opening when we visited. We are told that a couple more other booths with food from different countries will soon serve authentic street food dishes as well.
Upon entering the food park, we spotted unfamiliar faces, but definitely friendly ones at that. We were greeted by a few of the owners who told us it took them more than two months of research and development for Merkanto, since they wanted to be keen on the details -- from the process of how to cook the dishes authentically to the design of the restopark (restaurant + food park).
So why street food? They've noticed that the first thing people usually look forward to when traveling is food (well, 100% true). And what better way to experience it than immersing yourself through street food that's cheap and authentic? That's why they saw great potential in it. They also wanted to come up with a different take on it, that's why they are only serving unique fare that they're sure Merkanto's customers will find exciting.
To dine here, one must first place an order from the cart, and they'll hand you an order slip which you need to give to the cashier. They then will give you another paper which you'll give to the carts to confirm your payment, and you're done. Each booth has a certain greeting for customers for when you go near them. Here's their current selection of mouthwatering chows and their prices to prep yourself before heading to Merkanto -- the newest food park serving international street fare within the famed Maginhawa area.
By far one of our favorite booths, they served us the Goi Cuon (P100/6pcs) a.k.a. fresh spring rolls, a refreshing change from the usual fried variety. It is served with peanut sauce. They also have a number of noodle dishes: Pho Bo Kho (P160) is a braised beef noodle soup, Bun Bo Kho (P160) which has the same ingredients of the former but without the soup so you just toss the ingredients together, and the Mi Xiao Mem (P145), Vietnamese Stir Fried Noodles quite similar to Pad Thai.
What's a meal without dessert? The Che Bau Ma (P85) is similar to the famous Filipino dessert, Halo-halo. Coconut milk is used instead of cow's milk to add richness to this cold dessert that's perfect for the summer heat.
The India booth has snacks like Paratha (P80) which is a flatbread with fillings of your choice: cheese and mushroom or spicy chicken. The Roti Paratha (P60) on the other hand is a plain flaky pancake that's soft, sweet, and almost glutinous -- it is one of the best-sellers in the booth. Squeeze some of their homemade sauces -- yoghurt, tamarind and curry -- depending on your preference, for added punch.
Also, a street food in India is the Tikka Rollup (P100) which contains chicken that's been marinated in yoghurt and spices, then wrapped in pita -- definitely a complete meal if you would pass up on rice. If you're a curry fan, you can't miss out on their Samosa (P100/3pcs) which are fried triangles of potato and peas with curry flavor wrapped in dough that's hand-rolled in front of you.
The booth is definitely noticeable because of the artworks all over, and the food stands out even more. We had the Acaraje (P50), fried bean croquettes with sautéed shrimp and shrimp paste topped with chimichurri and cheese sauce. Smothered with more of their chimichurri sauce, the USDA Beef Rib Finger (P100/skewer; P180/rice box) Churrasco is tender and was served just right before we were finished our feast.
We were told that they try to have a halal way of cooking as much as possible, that is why this certain booth has its own utensils so it won't be mixed with other booths serving pork dishes. Buy a stick or two of their tender Satay (P50/stick of chicken or fish; P100/stick of USDA beef rib finger) to pair with the classic Nasi Goreng (P140), fried rice with shredded chicken, pieces of shrimp, slices of egg topped with peanuts for an added crunch.
Nibble on some small pockets of Beef Kefta Briouat (P80), well-seasoned ground beef wrapped in filo pastry and served with Baba Ghanoush eggplant dip on the side. The only main course in the booth is the Chicken Tagine (P180) which is a counterpart of adobo in Morocco. In case you didn't know, tagine is actually an earthenware pot where the food is cooked. There are different kinds of tagines and you can actually see people eat this dish in the streets of Morocco. At Merkanto, they serve it with couscous but in its home country, they eat it sometimes with bread.
Merkanto International Street Food Fair is located inside 38 Autocare carwash in the corner of Mayaman and Mahinhin streets of UP Village, Quezon City. They're open from Tuesday to Sunday, 5pm to 12mn. Like them on Facebook and follow them on Instagram for more updates.