Posted by: sharemore1 | October 6, 2010

Fish, Crab and Shrimp, Alive Alive Oh

Please note the new Q&A page in the banner above.  That’s for you to ask questions or suggest topics you’d like me to blog about.  Let me hear from you.

*  *  *  *


    Pho for Breakfast


    Come with me to the local market, down three short alleys from our apartment.  First we’ll stop for a pho at a restaurant with the unlikely name of Cinderella.  Pho, a rice noodle dish with beef or chicken, is the typical Hanoi breakfast.  It is usually eaten in a restaurant because no one has time to simmer the beef bones, onions and spices for hours at home.

    Right across the street is the market, where vendors work seven days a week, from before daylight until after dark.  It’s women who do the buying and most of the selling.  My husband Moshe is the only man we see regularly shopping in the market.

Shoppers ride down the narrow street on their motorbikes or bicycles, loading them up with meat, produce, clothes and kitchen wares.  Those on foot squat eye-level with the seller to make their selections.  Squatting is a skill I envy, but struggle to emulate.


Buying Produce



Peeling Pineapple


We’ll stop first where we usually buy our vegetables–baby bok choy, green onions, shitake mushrooms, leaf lettuce, tomatoes, and a mix of vegetables sliced for stir fry. The woman smiles and points to the small pineapples she has for sale.  She knows our weakness.  I nod and she  quickly peels the sweet fruit for us.  I hand her about $3.00 in Vietnamese dong.

Then we move on to the poultry market where I carefully select some eggs, which I carry in a plastic bag taking care not to crack them. Beyond the egg seller are chickens already butchered and plucked.


Chickens and Eggs


The next challenge is to buy fish sauce for the stir fry.  On the table are several bottles, whose contents are a mystery.  I play a one-sided game of Charades with the seller, pantomiming the motions of stir-frying and pouring sauce over the top.  She looks perplexed.  Then someone comes by to translate the key words:  vegetables and fish oil.  With an “ah ha” look, the woman behind the table hands over a bottle with a picture of a fish on it.  She then insists that I buy a little packet of something that looks like coarse salt.  I add it to my bag, trusting I can figure out how to use it.


Which is the Right Sauce?


On to the fish section, where little crabs scuttle up the sides of their pan and fish sometimes manage to flip out (see A Day in Hanoi).  Even the shrimp hop about when the woman tries to grab some for me.  A little farther on are bags of dried fish that give off a pungent aroma.


Crawling Crabs










Shopping done, we can enjoy the sights of the market.  A man pushes his bicycle down the aisle, tempting me with the garlic, shallots and ginger he carries in a basket secured over his back wheel.   But my hands are full, so I’ll wait until another day.

Shallots, Garlic and Ginger
The meat market is under a covered pavilion, with rows of beef and pork laid out on open counters.  All parts of the animal are used, so you can get beef tongue, pigs feet, intestines, tripe, tendons and bones if you choose.  Meat can be ground on the spot.  There are no plastic-wrapped Styrofoam containers of course; everything is carried home in little plastic bags.


Meat Market



A Line of Clothes


There are little variety shops tucked along the street.  They sell pots and pans, colanders, kitchen implements, wallets, headbands and nail polish.  Others sell clothes hung up on a line tied between two trees.

It’s time to go home before I break the eggs.  Walking back to the apartment, laden with groceries, I am already imagining how the stir fry will taste with the fresh vegetables and shrimp, the new fish sauce and contents of the mystery packet.


Stir Fry



  1. Nice post. I feel like I am right there with you. The women must be strong to ride those bikes loaded with food. Where are the men? I’d guess they are working, but I wonder what kind of jobs they do, maybe building, farming, etc. The stir fry looks yummy! Good idea to add a Q & A page. Looks like you figured out the formatting. Thanks for sharing your Hanoi shopping trip!

  2. Great images of life in Vietnam!

  3. Glad to have my creative partner with me. Loads of wonderful experiences, stay tuned a lot more is coming on this blog.

  4. Can’t wait! Everytime I read these posts, I’m inspired by the creativity and work ethic of the Vietnamese! They sure do have a “can do” approach to life. Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: