Need some still-alive crabs? Fresh coconut? Silk worms to sauté later with lime leaf? You can find all that (and a bag of baby shrimp) at Cho Chau Long, a wet market in Hanoi.
The term "wet market" comes from the extensive use of water found at these markets, to wash the floors, to spritz fresh fruits and veggies, and to keep the caught-that-morning fish and shellfish alive in tanks.
Our market guide Tracey Lister, a Melbourne-born chef who teaches cooking classes at the Hanoi Cooking Centre and has lived in the capital city for over 20 years, grabbed everything from jackfruit to blood sausage, letting us sniff and sample as we traipsed through the market. Tracey is an incredible woman who also works with the organization KOTO ("Know One Teach One") that trains disadvantaged youth to cook and work in restaurants, empowering them with culinary and life skills. She also just published a new book, Vietnamese Street Food.
Near the market entrance, be sure to grab one of the deep-fried-right-there Banh Ran, the sweet glutinous rice balls, so crisp and chewy.
Watch out for all the scooters zipping by, honking as they pass pedestrian shoppers and occasionally stopping for fresh seafood, herbs, offal, and other essentials. Speaking of offal, the chicken's feet, pig's ears, and boiled blood discs usually sell out by noon.
More Snapshots from Vietnam!
Author's note: I traveled to Vietnam with Intrepid Travel, a company that organizes trips all over the world. They recently launched special food-themed journeys (both long and shorter day trips) to many destinations, including Vietnam. Check out the itineraries here. I was able to preview the Vietnam trip and was immensely impressed at how much we were able to see, do, and learn; how many real-life experiences we had with locals, and just how non-tour-group it felt. This market tour with Tracey Lister was part of the Intrepid itinerary.