If you are in Manila and you love seafood, this is the place for you to go. The seaside market dampa is along Macapagal boulevard in Pasay city and is a short drive from Mall of Asia. It is literally a row of wet market selling fresh and live seafood next to a row of restaurants who are ready to cook the seafood for you. Dampa means hut in tagalog but here it means a row of restaurants who will cook live seafood for you at your request.
The market is typical of a traditional wet seafood market where the floor is wet and slippery and the air is full of raw seafood smell. For those who feel nauseous at wet markets, I recommend that you wait directly at the restaurants while your companions buy the ingredients.
There are many stalls selling fresh and live seafood and each stall will be busy hawking their goods to every passer-by who walks past their store. You can find all kinds of seafood here and live ones in rows and rows of water tanks. You can pick any of the store but the tip is to go for the one with more crowd since the items will be more fresh. The sellers usually can speak basic English but it helps if you have a local with you to help bargain on the price. The price of the seafood is already cheap compared to Singapore but it is still possible to haggle down the price to at least 30-50% from the initial price they quote you. Once you have selected the seafood and agreed on the price, they will pack them in transparent plastic bags and you can bring them with you to your selected restaurant.
There are many restaurants to choose from and the one we went to is Royal Kitchen which is more of a Chinese style restaurant located right at the end of the whole stretch of restaurants and live seafood stalls. Once you enter the restaurant, you have to get a table number from the counter lady. After which you will pass your seafood ingredients to the service staff seated at the counter. The staff can speak basic english and mandarin. They will weigh your seafood and ask for your preferred cooking method. A cooking service fee is charged to the seafood you bring in by weight. You can also add-on other vegetable or meat dishes once you are shown to your table as they have a full menu to offer. In fact, if you dislike the wet market experience, you can order seafood from them and they will buy from the nearest market stall.
We had our crabs cooked in salted eggs and the sauce was wonderful. The crab was coated nicely with a light crust which absorbed all the salted egg flavours. My only complain was the crabs were too small.
The prawns were so cheap we bought a lot and had them cooked in 2 styles. Steamed with garlic and fried with cereal below. I don’t even have to describe the prawns as they are huge, fresh and so meaty. Any cooking method would suit the prawns.
The cereal prawns were well fried with the shells crispy enough to be eaten but I found the cereal to be very little.
We bought a gigantic squid and wanted it grilled as I still missed the one I tasted in Croatia. Unfortunately, this was not done properly and over grilled so the squid became quite rubbery. When we gave feedback to the staff, they said that such huge squid should be steamed or fried only. In my opinion, they do not know how to manage the huge squid.
We had one small fish to be steamed Hong Kong style but this was a disappointment as the fish was not as fresh but still edible. We were later advised that if we wanted to have steamed fish, we need to buy the live fishes from the tanks instead of the dead one. Again, in my opinion I have cooked dead fish steamed in Hong Kong style before and the meat was still springy. The crux of the problem is how long has the fish been dead and if it was frozen and thawed.
So my advice about going to the seaside market dampa:
- Go if you really love seafood
- Go with a local who can help to bargain the prices
- Go with someone who knows their seafood and how to select fresh ones
- Go with cash only as all the seafood store only accept cash
- Go if you are alright with the wet market smell
Even if you don’t meet all the criteria above, just go for the experience at least once in your visit in Manila.
Address: Diosdado Macapagal Blvd, Pasay, Metro Manila, Philippines
Operating hours: 10.00 am to 10.30 pm