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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Ducking out to the shops

Ah, I remember the good old days.  "Honey I'm just popping out to the shops to pick up some bread and milk".  An easy task.  Here, however, is quite a different story.  Not necessarily bad, just different.  The first big difference is that there is no one stop shop.  Each week I visit a minimum of 4 places to buy all the food for the week ahead.  Even then, I quite often find myself short of some vital ingredient that was there last week and now nowhere to be found in the whole city.  Usually it is best to go out without a recipe in mind and just see what is available and work from there.  The next big difference is that it is usually an adventure.  Here is an example of me ducking out to get a few things yesterday afternoon.
My first stop is usually this little local market off Ham Nhi.  This is a great place to get fresh fruit and vegetables at ridiculously cheap prices.  They are always fresh and appealing to the eye.  The staples are usually always there, apples, oranges, watermelon etc but quite often you can come across beautiful seasonal produce.  Yesterday the place was full of gorgeous pumpkin flowers.  I was not sure how to cook them so did not buy any.  Funny thing was we went out last night and they were on the menu.  They were fantastic (garlic and oil!)
This is my banana lady.  Truth be known I have 2 banana ladies, one here and one at Ben Thanh Market.  Shhhh, I don't want to make one feel jealous.  She thought it was hysterical when I took her photo yesterday.  She was giggling like a school girl when I showed her the picture, bringing all of her friends over for a look.  It is interesting to note that when they pose for a photo, quite often there are no smiles, it's serious business being immortalised!

You can always be guaranteed to find things like watermelon, lychees and the stunningly beautiful dragon fruit.

I don't actually buy my red meat here.  There is a butcher who imports Aussie beef and lamb so I use them.  I find the local meat just too tough.  It is always interesting to wander past though and see what innards are on display today.

Amazing fresh shucked peas.  Yum!  The vegetable at the bottom that looks a little like broccoli is Thien Ly (excuse my spelling, I have no idea how it is spelt).  I LOVE this stuff.  Stir fry it up with some garlic and oil.  Delish!

Not quite Woolworths.

This is the tofu lady.  She has a ridiculous assortment of tofu for sale.  None of the vendors in this market speak English so I am not really sure what the different varieties are.  Tofu is pretty big here and although I am usually not a fan, I have had some really tasty dishes.

When I get a bit peckish shopping I go and see this lady.  I have no idea what it is called (if anyone knows let me know!).  From the taste of it, it is tapioca with chunks of banana it it.

She scoops it up and puts it in the bag then sprinkles some crushed nuts on top (you can see them rear left).  The yellow mush is corn.  The Vietnamese have a bit of a love affair with corn and you can even buy corn ice cream.  I do hold off putting with my tapioca though.
All served with a big smile and a bit of banter in my terrible Vietnamese.  6,000 Dong a bag which is about 30 cents Australian.  This lady has the most disastrous teeth but would never show them in a photo!

This lady sells all of the basics.!!!!

Now THIS lady has a great set of choppers!  Of course, again, you wont get them immortalised on film.  She is my watermelon go to lady!
Ok, so, I leave the market and head around the corner where there are 2 import shops.  These 2 places apparently have been here since the war, importing all of those amazing things that expats crave that you cannot find anywhere else.  If you are after Cadburys, Keens mustard, Kraft salad dressing and REALLY cheap Vodka, Thai Hoa is you place.  Here I got some tinned tomatoes, Vodka (go figure) and some New Zealand butter

Right.  I found some lovely looking cauliflower at the market and wanted to make some soup.  Do you think I could find a leek at the local place.  Nary a leek to be found so I had to go to Ben Thanh. 5,000VND for a leek, check.
This lady is one of my favourites that I visit each time I go to Ben Thanh.  She sell the freshest and tastiest nuts!  They pull up a little stool for me and I sit down for a good 10 minutes tasting all sorts of stuff that they shove at me.  They speak no English but we have a rip roaring time talking about our kids and how our husbands drive us nuts! (pun intended, luv ya babe!)

So yesterday I bought some almonds, some spicy cashews and some dried mango which Scarlett loves.  So that was it for the day.  Luckily I did not have to go to Kim Hai, the butcher as I already had some in the fridge.  That is usually the next stop though.  There is another place called Vedgys that is an import shop but they have a big walk in fridge where you can quite often get things like sour cream and a huge selection of herbs.  They are massively overpriced but sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and go for it.

So it is not quite Coles online but you know what, I love it.  Yes it can be tiresome but I know one day I will look back on it fondly and remember the smiles and the relationships I have made while doing it.  I love the fact that as I was wandering around Ben Thanh yesterday amongst the throngs of tourists I get a smack on the ass.  I turn around and it is my 80 year old banana lady running away giggling.  Maybe she had heard I was cheating on her!!!!

1 comment:

  1. Oh this is bringing back some MAJOR China memories, Dan! Love it. And gorgeous photos. xxx


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