On the morning I went hunting for breakfast, I came across a morning market that was very much alive and kicking. It was now 7 am and life was going on here. People picking up breakfast, people shopping for groceries and vendors competing with their neighboring competition. A little more to eat wouldn't hurt I thought.
While some locals run their businesses at a farmer's market or stall, there are vendors on wheels. Two wheels to be exact. Most of them sell fruit but I've seen something as wild as a guy riding with a hot deep fryer filled with oil on the back seat of his bicycle. I named him "Mr. Deep Fry-cycle". If the LA health inspection gets riled up over a taco truck on a street, imagine what they would say about the "deep fry-cycle". He would be sent to prison!
No matter where I am, the sounds and smells of a farmer's market are all part of the experience. Your senses are put to the test with each step that you take. In a sense, it is a bit of a sensory overload, but that of enjoyment.
Similar vendors are grouped together and although they are selling the same product and directly competing with each other, it's a friendly rivalry. I bought these freshly-fried fish cakes (ca chien) which I love almost more than anything. The fish was so tasty and full of that 'bouncey' bite that I look for in pureed/paste-like Asian products. Thai fish cakes for example, oh man.
Who doesn't like fried tofu. I didn't see anything that resembled Taiwanese stinky tofu, which I enjoy as well.
7 am, and the grill masters are out. Here's a Vietnamese version of yakitori. You've got various ground meat that are shaped into balls and chicken/pork organs. They served fish sauce dip on the side and the smell was great.
In addition to your standard seafood fare like fish and mollusks, you get beautiful blue-colored prawns fresh from the sea. These things were some of the largest prawns I've seen.
Most of the vegetables and seafood were all set outside. I then walked into a large depot that had something entirely different going on: meat. And to my surprise, there was not one single man wielding a sharp cleaver. Here in Saigon, the women are the Queens of the Kitchen and can very well chop up a pig faster than you can ever.
While most Westerners turn away upon the site of a completely butchered pig, it is actually more respectful and resourceful to use everything. I saw everything chopped up and ready for purchase. There were no putrid smells of death because everything was so fresh.
Ribs, chops, shanks, ears, offals, feet, tails and head. Nothing gone to waste. These were some of the most bad-ass women I've come across. And the irony of it at all, they still managed to look as beautiful as they could with jewelry, dyed hair, make-up and painted nails. Nothing will get in the way of good looks, even if it means dissecting a 250-lb pig on an early morning. Thanks for reading.
More postings on Saigon, Vietnam:
Saigon, Vietnam - Hello Saigon, Nice to Meet You and Eat You
Saigon, Vietnam - Banh Xeo 46A, a Taste of Vietnamese Crepes
Saigon, Vietnam - Bun Bo Hue, An Afternoon with Nguyen Thi Thanh
Saigon, Vietnam - Saigon Seafood Stalls