I love Thai markets.
There is nothing that compares to the feeling I get when I walk through the organized chaos of absolutely any market in Thailand. Whether it’s my local village’s Saturday morning set up or the monstrosity that is JJ market in Bangkok, a feeling of overwhelming giddiness overcomes me each and every time I go.
I could go on for days about the different vendors, products, and people, but for your sake I’ll narrow down the spectrum a little bit and focus on one particular type of market … the food market.
My town’s food market opens up in an alleyway early every Saturday morning. One narrow street is packed on both sides by vendors selling anything from dried herbs to fresh seafood. And when I say fresh seafood I mean fresh. It’s not unlikely for me to see shrimp swimming around in a tank or frogs jumping up and down in a bin. As I work my way down the aisle I can stop in one for a handful of garlic cloves and a few grams of cumin seeds and then proceed next door to get a fresh cut of meat from the local butcher. I can dig my way through piles of fresh vegetables or indulge myself in the fresh kanomes (snacks and pastries). I love it.
Now, I talk about this market as though I go all the time. In fact, I’ve only ever been twice. Both of these trips I was accompanied by my host mother and she purchased items for our evening’s meal. I haven’t gone on my own because there hasn’t really been a need to. I have never cooked a meal on my own, in my own house, with no supervision. All my cooking has been doing with my host mother who has already purchased and prepped the ingredients.
So, while I love the market, I’m still an amateur. I don’t know the lay of the land. I don’t know exactly where to find all the ingredients I need. I don’t have a plan of attack, which is very necessarily when entering the hustle and bustle of any market like this. You can easily be consumed by the frenzy never to be seen again. Obviously that’s an overstatement, but perhaps not by much. You should see the shop keepers. They run a mean operation.
Needless to say, I’m very excited (and nervous) for Saturday morning. I will be braving the market on my own, putting my language skills to the test, and attempting to purchase the ingredients I need for my first recipe, which is still undecided. I considered asking for a chaperone but decided against it. The only way this will work is if I jump in with two feet!
Oh, and one more thing I love about Thailand is the prices. Everything in Thailand is so cheap! I went to the store last night to buy all of my basics – fish oil, oyster sauce, shrimp paste, palm oil, salt, pepper – and my total didn’t even reach $10 USD. I can buy an entire pineapple for two bucks, a large bag of fresh shrimp for the same. One good thing about cooking in Thailand is that it definitely won’t break my bank … a good thing since I plan on doing a lot of it!