Visiting a local market is always a must when you are traveling abroad. You learn so much about the culture and the way of living by walking around the market and observing how local people purchase things. It’s more exciting when you are in Asia where local markets are totally different. That's why in every Vietnam food tour, you find a visit to the local wet market.
Scroll down to know 5 things about local markets in Vietnam that no one tell you. At the end of this post, there is a video of bustling life in a Vietnam wet market.
In Asia, local markets are simply places where butchers and grocers sell fresh products straight from the farms. You’ll also find live animals such as chickens or fish. These markets are also referred to as wet markets due to the fact that the floors are always wet when sellers wash their vegetables or clean fish.
Recently, some people in the West often associate wet markets with the source of Covid-19, but that’s not true in Vietnam where you can’t find any wild animals sold in those markets.
There are countless wet markets in Vietnam. Wherever there is a community living, there is a wet market. They are different in size and opening hours. In big cities, wet markets open all day due to the greater demand, in the middle of the residential streets while in the countryside, they open in the morning only, on a vacant ground. Specially in the remote mountain areas, markets open only one day a week. It can be Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. There, markets are not the only places for ethnic people to come to purchase but to meet, catch up with news, and show off their beautiful clothes.
Wet markets showcase the lively aspects of the life of the locals in Vietnam. That’s why most city tours and cooking classes have local market visits in the itinerary.
Even though the markets open at around 5 am, the sellers have to get up much earlier than that. They go to wholesale markets to collect the products which are sold at cheaper prices.
Vegetables from the outskirts of big cities are transported to the wholesale markets, and from there, the goods will be delivered to smaller markets in the cities. If you are in Hanoi, try to get out of your bed and go to the streets around 3 - 4 am, you will see motorbikes loaded with vegetables ride silently in the dim light of the hours before dawn. All the food is fresh. What you have for your dinner might still be in the garden the day before.
In the countryside and mountain regions, the farmers sometimes are the sellers. They bring everything they have in the gardens, vegetables, herbs, fruits, chickens, and pigs to the markets.
You find almost everything here for healthy, filling, and delicious meals. A wide variety of meat (beef, chicken, pork, pigeon), seafood (crabs, shrimps, prawns, oysters, clams, snails, all kinds of fishes), eggs (chicken eggs, duck eggs, goose eggs, quail eggs), nutritious tropical vegetables, grains, etc, What attracts me the most are stalls selling ready-to-eat food that give off a tempting aroma that no one can resist, and snack stalls with tables and chairs where you can stop in between your exploration to enjoy some Vietnamese delicacies.
Vietnamese people have long favored fresh produce. Vegetables and meat of the day are more favorable as they are fresher, more flavorful, and taste better.
As I mentioned earlier, wet markets are open in a densely populated community, making it very convenient to shop daily instead of weekly shop. Modern markets have been built next to a wet market in order to change the local’s shopping habits, “for better hygiene and food safety and urban aesthetic”, as officers said. But it wasn’t very unsuccessful. People find it easier to stop at any market on the street to buy food for their dinner, on the way to driving home from work.
However, this traditional practice has been changing in recent years, quite slowly though. Young consumers are being lured to online shopping with generous and frequent discounts and supermarkets for the safety and traceability of the produce. Wet markets have lost market shares to these new shopping services.
A picture is worth a thousand words. We try to bring a traditional market and everyday life in Vietnam alive with this video.