When I travel, I always seek out the local food market. I love seeing the overflowing piles of rice, beans and vegetables, chili and fruit. So when Tui offered to take us to the early morning market, I jumped at the chance.
Usually when I go to an outdoor market in another country, there are a lot of familiar foods and some unrecognizable foods. But in this instance, most of what I saw was unfamiliar and completely foreign to me. In fact, there were so many foods I didn’t recognize out of the hundreds that were there that I made a list of the foods I did recognize: oranges, limes, lettuce, pineapple, bananas, rice, meat on skewers (but what meat? I had no idea), scallions, papaya, mango, edamame, coffee beans, long green beans, rice noodles, tomato, cucumber, eggs, cilantro, broccoli, chicken with the head and feet attached, carrots, garlic, peppers, cauliflower, onions, potatoes, corn, cabbage, grapes, coconut, hot peppers, chestnuts, rice, peanuts, catfish, and mushrooms – and those little paired live birds in a woven basket we’d been introduced to yesterday.
That may seem like a substantial list, but the fact is there were WAY MORE foods that were completely unfamiliar to me. For instance – live fish, frogs, unrecognizable meats and tons of insects, bats, and dozens of other foods, fresh, raw or freshly cooked. Grills were cooking all kinds of things up and down the row. Women with giant cleavers were whacking up huge fish into salable chunks.
Fortunately, I had Tui to help me identify the things I couldn’t identify.
Take a visual tour with me through the morning market via the images below.
Tying up crabs:
Tied crab, ready for sale:
Chopped mushroom and tiny fish:
Tamarind, looking like a cross between sweet potatoes and peanuts:
Knives for sale:
Wood used to make medicinal green tea for a bronchial infection:
Greens (the basil and cilantro in Southeast Asia taste different than ours–the flavors so alive! I loved putting them in my Pho every day!):
Yes, they’re bats. When I checked with Tui, he said they’re made into soup or chopped up with chili, lemongrass and herbs to be steamed or fried:
Making rice packets. First the black rice…
Then the white rice
Business as usual
Here you go. That will be 20,000.
Ready for the soup pot.
Huge fish about to be cleavered:
Catfish, a national favorite in Vietnam and maybe Laos as well:
Top right, dried silkworms; bottom right, crickets; left, buffalo skins:
Top, crickets; middle, worms; bottom, dried frogs
Bean sprouts and rice noodles
Just like home:
Karyn tried these little pancake-popovers first. They were sweet and yummy and hot and tasted like coconut:
This bird went right into a basket.
Bizarrely, in the middle of all this crazy riot of unfamiliar food was this booth:
With this drink menu
And this food with English menus. Very few people at this market spoke English and there weren’t many tourists on the street at this hour: