We went to two markets this day. The first was not so much a “market” as an alley. It was narrow, but scooters and motorcycles still zoomed past. At the entrance were clothing and kitchen utensils, but most of the rest was food.
Last week I was able to take a tour with Sang, a
local hostel owner and tour guide here in Bien Hoa. This is not a touristy area, so Sang is probably one of the few professional guides here. I’m posting the photos in groups, because we did so much that day–too much to put in one post.
Sang, his sister and I walked to this market from the hostel, Lu Khach Quan. I hope to also come back and see the overnight wholesale market in the area.
Sang’s sister bought food for our lunch later in the day. Tasty! I really must learn to cook from her!
People just put their wares on the ground. I was introduced to some root vegetables I’ve never seen before including a purple sweet potato that was very attractive.
To the left is Jackfruit, which contains nodules of sweet flesh inside. The peel and starchy connective tissue is on the ground to the left. Jackfruit are huge–weighing several pounds. If one falls on you from high atop the tree it grows on, you could be seriously hurt. To the extreme right is a local melon. It’s not very sweet, but somehow satisfying. The Vietnamese often serve it with sugar.
They love flowers and plants in Viet Nam. This woman is also selling sweet “soups” called che. Notice the traditional hat, which older women and the poor wear. It’s actually quite comfortable–keeping you shaded with good airflow. They are sometimes tied on with a colorful scarf.
This woman is shooing away the flies. There are surprisingly few flies here–even with all the food about. To the right are deep fried balls that contained a sweet green bean paste that was quite tasty.
They are selling sweet soup, served chilled.
Much of the alleyway was covered by tarps to keep off the sun. There was everything you might want to buy. If only the clothing here would fit me. I swear the shirts are all size small and the bras are 32 to 34 B. What’s a 38C to do?
To the far left are cubes of cooked, congealed blood, used in soup. It tastes better than you’d imagine. I don’t mind it flavoring the soup broth, but I don’t usually eat it. In the bags at the bottom left corner is fresh blood. The center is intestine, stomach, kidneys and other innards. The woman at the chopping block to the right is cutting pork belly. Nothing is smoked here, so I can’t find bacon, except in large, expensive groceries that cater to foreigners. I miss bacon.
This woman is selling dried seafood of all kinds and eggs. To the left is mostly different sizes of dried shrimp. Eggs are rarely refrigerated here, even in grocery stores. But they have that deep yellow yolk I remember from being raised on the farm with free range chickens. There’s also usually a dot of blood on the yolk, showing that they are fertilized–something else you don’t see in store bought eggs.
At first glance, I just thought this was pork…..
….But the woman turned the heads over to show me it was dog meat, the first I’ve seen for sale. Often the head and feet of an animal are displayed to show what meat is for sale. I remember when I first got here, Thom told me not to be afraid of the dogs that ran loose. If a dog was mean, they ate him. At the time I thought it funny. Now? Maybe it was true.
In the center is insect larval. It looks just like the bee moth bait my grandfather used to fish with. At the top left are frogs. They are alive, but tied together at the waist to keep them from getting away.
This is a special item, which I expect to see more of around Tet (Lunar New Year). A bundle of rice with meat, vegetables and/or an egg is inside these banana leaf wrappers. They are cooked by steaming. To serve, it is unwrapped and pieces are cut from it like a cake. Delicious! Banana leaves make wonderful plates–strong, biodegradable and easily renewable.
To the left is tofu and soy milk. In the center and right is pork skin. The shredded pile in front may be cooked, but the one behind is not. The small sacks the woman has in front of her are a type of flour with spices that you mix with the pork skin and eat, no cooking. The high fat content and chewy texture of skin is prized.
These are salads. Some are fermented and some have a vinegar base. Almost every meal is served with fresh vegetables–especially cucumber, carrots and garlic. Even spring rolls are first wrapped in lettuce, other leaves and herbs before dipping in a sauce and eaten.
We left the alley to walk to another enclosed market. On the street, we pasted religious shops selling life sized Virgin Marys. This is a mostly Catholic area–almost all the teachers at my school are Catholic and a little shocked that I don’t go to church on Sunday. How can I? I work Sunday morning. A couple of woman who seemed quite interested in Bob (my roommate) as a potential date, got rather cool when they found he was not religious at all.
Can you spot the jackfruit, papaya and dragon fruit in this (poor) photo? The round, green fruits on the bottom right are oranges, which are rarely orange here, but that’s a sure sign they are locally grown. This is a tightly packed market with narrow isles. Still, a few scooters drove right inside. Vietnamese have no trouble reaching their daily requirement of fruits and vegetables. In a class of 11 and 12 years old, I recently asked kids their favorite foods. They mentioned a dozen fresh fruits and vegetables (carrots and bananas were the first two items) before anyone said a type of meat (chicken) or pizza. I finally had to put in a good word for chocolate, myself!
This is an old market and it is in serious need of repair, though reasonably clean. The government would like to shut it down, but the local vendors and area residents depend on it. This woman’s fish was fresh–mostly still swimming!
This woman eats her soup which waiting to chop meat for customers. The Vietnamese are very flexible. They are able to squat comfortably for a long time or get up and down from the floor like a child, even when they are quite old. At the left of the photo is papaya. The bottom right is logan fruit–which is sweet and tasty, but has a large seed in the middle and must be peeled.
We passed a store that sold things just for weddings and I wish my photo had some out. There are traditional gifts the potential groom needs to bring to the bride’s parents when he asked to marry her–tea, wine, flowers and fruits. Sang showed me a red concoction here. He told me that women during the Viet Nam War (called the American War, here) would chew this to make their mouths red, even spitting the juice at men who wanted to rape them. It looked so much like blood that the men would usually leave the woman alone, thinking she was sick. Ingenious!
This shop sells items for funerals including candles, incense and things to throw into the fire for the dearly departed. Buddhist tradition is that if you burn paper money (not real money), paper clothes, paper cars…..the dead can use them.