With the launch of the first-ever World Street Food Congress at Bonifacio Global City last April, international street food has become the latest talk of the town and laksa and sate are suddenly selling like pancakes, how cliché that may sound. Restaurateur PJ Lanot of Pino Resto Bar and Chef Niño Laus of Ninyo Fusion Cuisine, both co-owners of Merkanto International Street Food Fair, claim, however, that they already have the concept of bringing together street food from all over the globe into one hotspot for foodies way before that.
Merkanto is the newest food park serving international street fare near the popular food hub in the city up north. It is the brainchild of longtime friends who have always wanted to collaborate as they are, after all, in the same industry. After a lot of setbacks while looking for properties all over Metro Manila, a friend mentioned in passing that a spot behind the carwash he owns was finally vacated. An idea was born! They were hesitant at first because who would think that it's a good idea to open a food park behind a row of cars being soaped up? To add to that, the location, Mayaman Street, is not exactly as well known as Maginhawa or Malingap.
PJ and Niño's team were definitely up for the challenge. Finally, in April, Merkanto International Street Food Fair went on a test-run and opened in what used to be a repairshop for European cars, right within the walls of 38 Autocare Carwash at the corner of Mayaman and Mahinhin Streets in UP Village. The rather eccentric location could very well be a blessing in disguise because it matches the commitment of the team to not open a restaurant without sufficient parking space, a growing problem in Maginhawa right now. It also introduces a whole different level to going for a carwash errand as car owners can now eat while having their cars or bikes spruced up.
Merkanto offers street food from Morocco, Indonesia, India, Brazil, and Vietnam in a food court-like area which can seat up to 70 people. The food park wants to introduce rare cuisines to the Philippine tongue, avoiding Japanese and Thai food and hoping to open stalls for Spanish, Singaporean, and American street food in the next few months. It is kanto food all the way and stays true to the culture of each represented cuisine. They even have a kitchen that's exclusive for our Muslim brothers and sisters should the need arise.
Partner Paolo Sayo of Manila Increation Studio designed the roofed open space as well as the food carts in the perimeter that complement the street food idea of Merkanto. PJ narrated that the one or two carts can actually be taken out into the streets on random days or even for street food fairs—what can be more kalye than that?
Here are some of the affordable dishes you should try at Merkanto:
1) Grilled Pita Taco
Kofta is a family of meatball or meatloaf dishes found in South Asian, Middle Eastern, Balkan, and centrail Asian cuisine. Morocco sometimes serves its beef kefta on a grilled pita bread and Merkanto sells the said dish for PhP 130.
2) Nasi Goreng
Nasi goreng is Indonesia's version of fried rice. Like our sinangag, it was originally a way to avoid throwing away rice through stir frying. Merkanto's Nasi Goreng (fried rice with chicken, shrimp, egg, and peanuts) costs only PhP 140.
3) Churrasco Skewers
Churrasco is a Spanish and Portuguese term referring to beef or grilled meat. Merkanto sells Churrasco Skewers for PhP 50 through its Brazil stall.
4) Roti Paratha
India's version of a pancake is fried cooked over a flat grill. Merkanto's Roti Paratha is served with three types of curry sauce. A whole plate is only at PhP 60.
5) Goi Cuon
The G?i cu?n or Vietnamese spring roll is wrapped in bánh tráng (commonly known as rice paper. Merkanto's Vietnam stall is courtesty of a third-party partner and family-owned business from Tarlac. A plate of six rolls is being sold at PhP 100.
What's next for Merkanto? The team already has plans underway even if they just opened. They're looking into buying a big part of the street corner and turn it into one lifestyle hub similar to Cubao Expo. It'll house retail stalls, thrift shops, and maybe even bike rentals, who knows? As for now, Merkanto International Street Food Fair is a treat for foodies looking for a new gustatory adventure.
Merkanto International Street Food Fair is located at 38 Mayaman St., U.P. Village, Diliman, Quezon City. It is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 5 pm to 12 am. In case you're interested, the car wash is open until 7 pm.
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