Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Chợ Bến Thành – Part II

I’ve resigned myself to have to re-write this post because I will not have access to my laptop for a while yet (it’s raining again anyway so what else am I going to do?). This is at the risk of not including the witty and thought provoking comments I initially came up with…!

For the second part of Chợ Bến Thành, I wanted to cover the interior of the market. There is a variety of wares from clothes to trinkets targeted at tourists and more food! The market is somewhat divided based on what vendors are selling (clothes, food, fabric, etc.) but you can always find something that does not quite fit. I really enjoy taking pictures here of rows or bins of one element; however, some vendors get testy and insist on no pictures.

I have already sufficiently covered the eating and drinking quarter. I should probably get back to the Chợ Bến Thành Challenge...!

Hmmm! I'm planning to bring home Vietnamese peppercorn.

This is pretty much the "Snack Shack": candies, cashews, candied fruit, beef jerky,...

I find these bags of rice and beans beautiful! They would make lovely pictures in a kitchen!

There is still fresh food to be found inside the market.

This lady sells sliced corn to make chè bắp (corn based Vietnamese dessert) or corn spring rolls!

You can also stop over for a manicure in the market!

This picture is not exciting nor appetizing. However, I like being able to buy fresh bun (rice vermicelli). The same vendor also sells different rice papers.

This vendor specializes in fresh bamboo and pickled greens.

Lots of dried shrimp and fish. I'm not sure if the lights are for seeing purposes or to keep the shrimp dry?

Mắm (fremented fish and shrimp) galore! If only this was a smell-o-blog!

Jars of coffee and tea.

I always come to this Chinese vendor. I was so excited to buy fresh baby corns since I've only had the canned stuff!

She also has a great variety of mushrooms and I love mushrooms! Unfortunately some look better than they taste. On top is fresh nấm thông khô (so flavourful! not sure if they're the same as shitake but they're so heartier). Second is nấm đùi gà - literally chicken thigh mushrooms. Third are oyster mushrooms. The last one I don't know the name but they are very common; I actually like the canned ones better than the fresh ones.

They also sell lạp xưởng with chunks of peppercorn that I used to make fried rice. I'll have a post about food I have cooked here!

Enough with the food. As I mentioned, there is more than food at Chợ Bến Thành. I still have not bought much in terms of touristy knickknacks. I will have to start shopping for gifts soon! It's hard though when you see these things everywhere; they just don't feel as special anymore!

The beauty product row: perfume, shampoo, etc.

There are many fabric vendors targeting both tourists and locals. The colourful fabric is to make áo dài (Vietnamese dress). You can even get your clothes made here!

The West side of the market targets tourists but don't believe the sign and still try to negotiate!

Lacoste or Ralph Lauren shirts anyone?

Pretty bejewelled slippers.

Wooden statues and chopsticks.

Those fruit on the left are fake. The fruit picks are so kitschy I might have to get some!

Colourful silk lanterns.

Cute figurines wearing Vietnamese costumes.

Stuffed elephants from Sapa.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Pinoy Food

If you were wondering what Filipino food is, The Gastronomer covered Pinoy food from our trip on her blog. I don't think Pinoy food is a very well known cuisine. We had a chance to have some authentic food and it was great! Check it out: Pinoy Food on Gastronomy.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Night Out

I have not posted anything recently (not sure anyone's noticed!) because, unfortunately, my laptop is ailing from a virus, supposedly from an Asian website (damn Asian websites!). I am using The Boyfriend's laptop but I have no way of uploading pictures because I did not bring my USB cord and he does not have the little slot for my camera card. So there will be no part II of Cho Ben Thanh until I figure out another solution.

I've had in mind a couple of posts that do not require pictures. However, it does not seem as much fun! But here goes...

Last night, The Boyfriend and I went out for The Gastronomer's and The Astronomer's last weekend in HCMC (Boo-urns!). I thought it would be interesting to list how much such a night out would cost. All prices are for two people.

50,000 dong - Taxi ride
70,000 dong - Dinner of banh xeo and bo la lot (including 2 Saigon bia)
25,000 dong - Taxi ride to ice cream place (split with 2 others)
60,000 dong - Ice cream
120,000 dong - Bowling

Our total tally was 325,000 dong (about $20) for two people which I think is a great deal, considering it included dinner, alcohol, dessert and entertainment! To be clear, I would not call this typical. Dinner for two for us can range between 40,000 dong to 400,000 dong, depending on where we go. While I think it's cheap, I have no delusion that all Vietnamese can afford to go bowling. I'm sure the average Vietnamese person would find this expensive. I just wanted to show that fun can be had for a good price!

The Gastronomer was lovely enough to share this picture with me. It's a large crowd; The Gastronomer and The Astronomer must be popular... They'll be missed!

Here are some sizzling banh xeo. Can you hear all ten go "xeo"?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Chợ Bến Thành – Part I

One of the most common sights in Vietnam is food markets. Chợ Bến Thành is the best known market in HCMC. I’ve already posted about the food I’ve been eating at Chợ Bến Thành but I’ve been meaning to have a whole overview of Chợ Bến Thành since there is so much more than just the “food court”. I live a minute away so I am pretty familiar with this market. You can’t get lost like you would in a souk in Morocco but there is definitely a lot to see. I will cover the fresh food section around the market and will have another post on what’s inside.

I live by the north side of the market or by the cửa bắc (north entry). When we first started living here, The Boyfriend asked me what cửa bắc meant. Not having started my Vietnamese lessons, I had no idea. Now it’s so obvious! My Vietnamese lessons are already paying dividends (unlike my currently underperforming stocks...)! By the cửa bắc are flower vendors and fruit vendors. I find the fruit vendors here though quite pricey so I never buy fruit from them. I love going through the doors because it smells like fresh flowers!

Cửa Bắc. The north side entry of Chợ Bến Thành.

Fresh flower merchants by the northern entry.

Fruit vendors on Lê Thánh Tôn St. always stack their fruit nicely but charge a lot.

Right after the flower section, on the right and left side is the fresh food market. This is my favourite section. They sell anything fresh you can think of (and some things you would never think of): vegetables, meat, fish, frogs, seafood, eggs, etc. It is most active in the morning. Customers look at produce and negotiate. Vendors clean fish. I’ve even witnessed passionate arguments with women on the verge of physical altercations. I could learn a few Vietnamese swear words from them. For this section, pictures are worth a thousand words!

All sorts of fresh vegetables are sold.

Fresh green peppercorns. I love finding things I’m not used to seeing fresh!

The gac fruit is so amazing looking. Read all about it on Gastronomy!

Freshly grated coconut. You can find a lot of food here already prepped so you can save yourself the hassle: peeled potatoes, sliced onions, minced garlic, etc.

Tofu vendor. There’s a little girl who always helps her mom sell tofu.

Fresh seafood. The shrimps are still alive!

Fish debris. Eewwwwww!

Don’t these crabs look beautiful with their bright blue coloured claws?

Poor Frogs. Before, and unfortunately after.

This vendor only sells fake flowers.

The meat and fish rows. It can get stinky in here!

I don’t know what these are but I was told they’re from the sea…

Fresh and dried fish.

All sorts of innards. Looks yummy…!

Hooves anyone?

The crab vendor. All picked and ready to eat, or at least cook with. Isn’t this to die for?

Fresh snails and clams.

I always buy vegetables here, but did you notice what else she sells??

Yep, that's right. Some type of grub.