Vietnam: I Love Early Morning Markets

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:

tying-up-crabs

Tied crab, ready for sale:

tied-crab

Chopped mushroom and tiny fish:

chopped-mushroom-tiny-fish

Tamarind, looking like a cross between sweet potatoes and peanuts:

tamarind

Dragonfruit:

dragon-fruit

Knives for sale:

knives

Wood used to make medicinal green tea for a bronchial infection:

wood-green-tea

Giant fungus:

giant-fungus

Starfruit:

starfruit

Ginger:

ginger

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!):

greens

Limes:

limes

Chili:

chilli

Little fish:

litle-fish

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:

bats

Making rice packets. First the black rice…

making-rice-packets

Then the white rice

add-white-rice

All done

rice-packets

Business as usual

business-as-usua;

Here you go. That will be 20,000.

here-you-go

Jackfruit:

jackfruit

Ah, familiar!

ah-familiar

Ready for the soup pot.

ready-for-soup-pot

Huge fish about to be cleavered:

huge-fish

Catfish, a national favorite in Vietnam and maybe Laos as well:

catfish

Top right, dried silkworms; bottom right, crickets; left, buffalo skins:

dreid-silkworms-crickets-buffalo-skins

Top, crickets; middle, worms; bottom, dried frogs

crickets-worms-dried-frogs

Meat orgy:

meat-orgy

What’s cooking?

whats-cooking

Bean sprouts and rice noodles

bean-sprouts-rice-noodles

Yummy skewers:

yummy-skewers

Secret packages:

secret-packages

Bananas:

bananas

Just like home:

just-like-home

Karyn tried these little pancake-popovers first. They were sweet and yummy and hot and tasted like coconut:

pancake-popovers

Yum!

yum

This bird went right into a basket.

bird-into-basket

Bizarrely, in the middle of all this crazy riot of unfamiliar food was this booth:

cafe-and-sandwich-shop

With this drink menu

drinks-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:

breakfast-menu

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