Tasty Tuesday – Not Your Average Grocery Store
For this week’s Tasty Tuesday segment, I’d like to introduce you to one of two open-air fresh markets here in the city of Lopburi. This is the larger of the two, and it is located in the ancient sector of the city. This is the Thessabaan Market.
Some of you may have been to seasonal fairs or Farmer’s Markets back in the States, so you are already familiar then with the concept of local vendors coming to hawk their fruits, vegetables, baked goods, and spice blends in custom quantities for a price differing from that of your average grocery store chain. Good. We have a reference point from which we can begin.
Our local Thessabaan market sells fresh fruits – dragon fruit, longan, 3 different types of oranges, 3 different kinds of apples, sometimes grapes, fresh pineapple and watermelons in varieties you’ve probably never even heard of in the States, 2 types of papaya, 3 kinds of mangoes, 6 different species of bananas, fresh young coconut, persimmons, both red and yellow pomegranates… you name it, and it’s tropical, surely somebody is going to sell it.
Another thing you will see is an incredible variety of vegetables and spices. At any given time, you can always find red onions, white onions, yellow onions, shallots, fresh garlic (both in bulb and clove form, bunches or cloves by weight), green onions, fresh herbs – coriander (cilantro), parsley, Thai hot basil, and a bunch of others I have no clue yet of what they are! There are various tomatoes, cucumbers in differing in size and color, purple eggplant, small globe eggplants, green, black, pink, and white peppercorns (both fresh and dried), cabbage, bok choy… and at certain times you can also find broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, and even potatoes. There is a vast supply of dried spices, Thai spice mixes, and even large bowls mounded 2 feet high with Thai chili pastes and wet seasoning blends. Can you imagine the waves of smells that come over you when you walk past any of these market stalls? It’s quite the experience!
And then there’s the meat market. My favorite part (I’m lying). You have not truly experienced a market until you’ve both seen and smelled “fresh” pork, poultry, seafood, and beef all sitting out on trays in the heat… in a space where despite being outdoors, feels very closed in by all of the stalls and umbrellas surrounding you. This is the area where I like to challenge myself to hold my breath for as long as humanly possible. Here in the meat market, you can get everything from a side of pork to a whole or pieced out chicken/ duck, multiple kinds of fresh or dried fish, eels, shrimp, and other sea creatures to eat, as well as animal heads. Yes, I said animal heads. I will not include a picture of what is, to me, the most horrifying sight ever (a hog’s head split down the back and flattened to the point where it almost looks like a rubber mask), but you can see a regular one at the bottom of this photo. Most meats (I only say most), disappear by 10:00 am, as that’s when the heat generally begins to pick up – if you want meat that is actually fresh, you go to market about 5 or 6:00 in the morning. However, there are those vendors who do remain all day long, and you can imagine the lovely aromas which come from their stalls…
Now, just when you thought you’d had enough sensory stimulation, here comes all the vendors of everyday items such as shoes, sandals, sunglasses, lottery tickets, draperies, cloth, children’s toys, new and used books, batteries, new and used car parts, containers in any shape, size, and material… all laid out meticulously in straight, even lines, hung and advertised neatly. And just think about this – every single stall, whether it be food items or other things, is set-up and taken down every single day. Can you imagine the time that must go into just that part of daily business?
And you thought Super WalMart was the only one-stop shop in town!
To see more photos of the Thessabaan Market in Old Town Lopburi, Thailand, please click here.