Despite the growth of supermarkets, wet markets and street markets still play a pivotal role in the supply of groceries to Vietnamese households. Many people, primarily women, visit the market twice a day, working trips around school drop-offs and, for many, their paying jobs.
Street market to us — and this may not be everyone’s definition — means a temporary market that pops up along the street at peak times, but a wet market is a more permanent structure, and so-called because of the amount of water used to wash floors and surfaces, spray fresh fruit and vegetables and play temporary home to the fresh fish and seafood on sale.
Wet markets in Hanoi that are well located for visits include Chau Long market — where these photos were taken — and Hom market on Pho Hue, although others abound, such as one at the western end of Doi Can Street and off Au Co Street, by the flower market.
Size and produce may vary from market to market, but generally you’ll find vegetables, meat, fish, seafood, tofu, eggs and an assortment of dried goods. Fruit is more likely to be found on the street outside, being sold off the back of a bicycle or from a basket on the pavement, although bananas and pineapples seem to be allowed access to the covered market.
The produce sold at the market is fresher than you’re likely to find in supermarkets in the West. Meat is brought in freshly slaughtered as required and fish is stored, live, in plastic boxes or tiled tanks full of water until needed.
Cured and cooked meat is also available, including gio tai (pureed pork) and cha que (cured pork). It may not look appealing but can be very tasty.
The markets may look disorganised but there’s a place for everything and everything’s in its place.
Ready-to-cook food is readily available too, be it peeled garlic cloves, thinly sliced or minced beef, peeled and de-eyed pineapple , sliced bamboo or grated coconut.
Take your time wandering through a market and you can watch to see how various tricky items are prepared for yourself.
Eggs are so fresh they’re almost warm, and come in duck, chicken and quail varieties.
Many shoppers buy just what they need for the day: a bag of prepared herbs, two chillies, a handful of peeled garlic cloves, quarter of a cabbage, half a red pepper, 100 grams of minced pork… it makes sense for the budget, the diet and ensures the markets are lively every day.
Interested in other Hanoi markets? We’ve covered some other general markets before.
By Sarah Turner
Last updated on 30th January, 2015.