What’s not to love about foodie markets? Markets that transport you to a special place.
Melbourne, Australia. One of the best places you can experience markets that bring you the world. Markets that actually make you feel like you are in Vietnam, Hong Kong, France, Italy or maybe even India. Housed in traditional market style warehouses, buildings and outdoor spaces, they manage to create scenes and characters a serious market deserves. It’s not simply just about pleasing the eyes, it’s about satisfying all our other senses. Imagine walking into a market and the first thing you want to do is breathe in deeply and sniff the air. If you close your eyes, you can start fantasising you are actually in Vietnam or France or India. Breathe in the spices, browse the myriad of cheeses and salamis in the delis, surround yourself with loud Vietnamese chatter or dare to touch a slimy swimming fish.
Then, there’s our own farmers markets. Every weekend, there are guaranteed to be a few around. Nothing like a pear shaped beetroot or a banana shaped cucumber. They may not look perfect (according to the shop standards) but you know they are when you bite into one. A year ago, I would want my veggies to have that perfect “supermarket” shape. Now that I grow my own, I know that it doesn’t matter because like humans, they come in all shapes and sizes.
Take Little Saigon Market in Footscray, Melbourne. Hardly a word of English can be heard. A place where I feel like the foreigner! Not only can’t I comprehend what they are saying, I can’t read anything either. All the food labels and signage are in Vietnamese! So here I am in Australia, asking one of the Vietnamese ladies, which one is the papaya! “Dat wun” she smiles, “Bery niice.” “How about banana flowers?” I add. “Ober dare,” she says pointing to the pile of crimson cone shaped items . The banana flower salad we had in Vietnam blew me away but at A$10 a kilo here, the smallest one would have probably cost $15. I wasn’t prepared to take the risk yet. But, at least, I now know where I can get one.
Then there is Preston Markets, where the Middle East meets Asia meets Europe meets Africa. And it’s okay to have pho here for breakfast. Or pizza or cake!
Take a look at this website for Melbourne’s and surrounds world of markets.
Hygiene reasons are why we will never be able to experience the real Asian wet markets in Australia. A shame but saying that, I would not buy meat that has been butchered then hangs in the air surrounded by flies, dust and heat. I made the mistake of wearing thongs/flip flops to one of these places. Treading ever so tenderly, I spent a lot of my time trying not to slip by stretching my legs over all the puddles of water. The stench of raw seafood, meat and live animals can be overwhelming at first. But get over that and a wonderful experience awaits you.
While living in Hong Kong, I distinctly remember my aunt bringing home live chickens from the market. To kill it, I think she dunked it in boiling hot water. She may have broken its neck first but I honestly cannot remember. The hot water also helped soften the feathers so she could pluck them by hand. Occasionally, she would miss a small feather. A cooked piece of chicken with a bit of feather stuck to it still makes me grimace. Chinese will often eat chicken that is not cooked through to the bone – the meat and bone can still be slightly bloody. I don’t care how tender or fresh they insist it is, I cannot bring myself to eat it.
I don’t know why but I always remember this silly rhyme that one of my friends used to, annoyingly, recite all the time. I believe it is actually a song and obviously had some impact on me because it was a very long time ago!
To market, to market with my brother Jim
Somebody threw a tomato at him
Tomatoes are soft & they don’t bruise the skin
But this one killed Jim; it was wrapped in a tin!