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Great food markets of the world

2nd October 2017

The best food markets from around the world you need on your edible bucket-list, courtesy of Killian Fox, Editor of the online food and drink magazine The Gannet.

Food markets: Inside Mercado de La Boqueria, in Barcelona. Photo by ja ma on Unsplash

Inside Mercado de La Boqueria, in Barcelona. Photo by ja ma on Unsplash

There are few pleasures greater than wandering into a busy food market in a foreign country and submitting to the great whirl of sensory impressions – spice colours and bird squawks, fruit tastes and fish smells – hitting you from every angle. I can vividly recall the extreme heat of a tiny chilli I ate as a teenager at the Blantyre market in Malawi, and the pungent intensity of Hue’s Dong Ba market in Vietnam after a rainstorm, and the kaleidoscope of unfamiliar favours at the Zapote farmers’ market in San José, Costa Rica. Here are some other notable examples.

Vast

La Central de Abasto in Mexico City. Photo via Jose M. Perez

La Central de Abasto in Mexico City. Photo via Jose M. Perez

La Central de Abasto in Mexico City is the world’s largest wholesale food market, sprawling over 328 hectares (810 acres) and housing more than 2,000 businesses, mostly fruit, veg and meat wholesalers. Each day, it disgorges 30,000 tons of food, fulfilling an estimated 80 per cent of the consumption needs of the Mexico City metropolitan area (some 25.4 million people).

See also: » Rungis in Paris is, at 234 hectares (578 acres), larger than Monaco.

Old

Borough Market, London. Photo via FollowYour Nose

Borough Market, London. Photo via FollowYour Nose

In 2014, Borough Market in London celebrated its 1,000th anniversary. The dating here is a bit sketchy, based as it is on a fleeting reference in an Icelandic historical account written 200 years later; also, the market moved around a bit before settling on its present site by London Bridge. Let’s just say it’s seen plenty of history, and that today, with scores of traders operating beneath the railway arches, it’s still going strong.

See also: » La Boqueria in Barcelona traces its origins back to the 13th century.

Fishy

Tsukiji fish Market, Tokyo. Photo via Anna & Michal

Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo. Photo via Anna & Michal

So vibrant is the Tsukiji fish market in central Tokyo that its status as a tourist attraction threatens to overwhelm its daily operation – shifting more than 2,000 tons of seafood every day. As a result, only 120 visitors are allowed into the daily tuna auctions. These take place in the inner market, which focuses on wholesale, while the retailers and restaurants – including rivals Sushi Dai and Daiwa-Zushi – do brisk business outside.

See also: » Noryangjin in Seoul has over 1,000 seafood varieties, many of them still alive.

Fruity

Azadpur Mandi, Delhi. Photo via IFPRI South Asia

Azadpur Mandi, Delhi. Photo via IFPRI South Asia

Azadpur Mandi in Delhi is said to be Asia’s largest wholesale market for fruit and vegetables. Every day, thousands of city vendors ock here to stock up on pineapples and lemons, red onions and giant orange pumpkins – the range of produce is staggering – and business continues all through the night.

See also: » New Covent Garden Market in London, the largest wholesale fruit and veg market in the UK.

Spicy

Spice Souk, Dubai. Photo via Elroy Serrao

Spice Souk, Dubai. Photo via Elroy Serrao

At odds with the outsized modernity of Dubai, the Spice Souk in the east of the city is a reminder of a time before skyscrapers and megamalls. Down its narrow passages, you’ll find colourful piles of turmeric, cinnamon, nutmeg, rose petals and dried fruit. Haggling may not go down so well at the Mall of the Emirates but it’s very much expected here.

See also: » The Spice Bazaar in Istanbul, built in the 1660s, was the last stop for camel caravans travelling on the Silk Road from China.

Five more food markets to visit

» St Lawrence Market (Toronto, Canada) Ver-o-Peso (Belém, Brazil)
» Mercato il Capo (Palermo, Italy)
» Or Tor Kor (Bangkok, Thailand)
» Queen Victoria Market (Melbourne, Australia)

The Gannet is an online magazine that explores people’s lives through the food they eat. Editor and co-founder Killian Fox is a regular contributor to Observer Food Monthly. He’d call himself an omnivore were it not for a lingering phobia of boiled eggs. 

This article originally features in ‘The Gannet’s Gastronomic Miscellany’ by Killian Fox, published by Mitchell Beazley, £11.99 www.octopusbooks.co.uk

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