When I first arrived in the Philippines, I was having huge cravings for fresh seafood. I went with a group one night to a wet market near Manila Bay. They told me that it was locally famous for specializing in cooked-as-you-like fresh seafood. My memories of that experience are quite funny because I was still very unaccustomed to the culture here in the Philippines at that time. I recall being a bit taken aback by the sights, sounds, and smells of the market.
Seaside Dampa is a huge area with privately owned booths lining lane after lane with each booth offering a selection of seafood. It is a very competitive business for the neighboring vendors, who basically turn into hawkers upon spying a new customer. One booth may sell fish, while another will only be selling a specific type of crab. Even though it gets loud and energetic, everyone is always very friendly. They usually ask me where I am from, or call me Superman (I’ve gotten Spiderman too, don’t ask). It is quite an experience.
What really makes “Dampa” different from other seafood markets? Not only can you buy a great selection of fresh seafood, but there are multitudes of restaurants that specialize in preparing the things you just purchased. Some operate on a theme or cuisine, such as Chinese-style, Singaporean, Japanese and of course, traditional Filipino. You literally pick a restaurant, hand them the bag of your raw food, and tell them how you want it cooked. It is fantastic. I remember the first time I ate there. I was really, really full. I had feasted on salmon sashimi, sinigang (a sour, Tamarind-based traditional Filipino stew), giant mud crab claws, and enormous tempura fried prawns. Everyone had finished eating, but I decided to try a bite of one of the blue crabs cooked in sweet chili sauce. To this day, I have never tasted better crab. I finished the whole thing on an already-full belly (no regrets).
That was my first experience with Seaside Dampa. I look forward to many more meals there. The translation of Dampa is “shack”, and it is certainly off the beaten tourist path here in Manila, and it may be somewhat scary for newcomers because it is a little on the ‘raw’ side of things. I highly recommend it. It is a cool experience and the epitome of street food. It is, hands down, the best place to get the freshest seafood prepared on the spot. Where else can you shop for your food before a restaurant cooks it? They take the term “freshness guaranteed” literally.
Always smiling faces and happy tummies. Give Dampa a try I gaurantee you won’t forget it!
Seaside Dampa Macapagal Boulevard
Macapagal Boulevard, Pasay City 1309