There is no better way to discover the local cuisine and culture of every country’s cuisine than the outdoor food markets.
Andrew Zimmern, an American television star, chef, author and subject expert, presents us his favorite food markets around the world. As he characteristically states: “Through my travels I have found that there is no better way to feel the pulse of a city or to understand the local culture than to visit a food market.“
Marrakech, Morocco – Djemaa el Fna
Next to Marrakech’s historic Medina, this bustling central square is always at the top of the list for travelers. It is a vibrant cultural spectacle for thousands of years, with snake charms, acrobats, Berber musicians, herbalists and beggars. There are many restaurants in the area, but it is a good idea to enjoy your meal in the center of the action. Follow mechoui sellers with your nose.
This roast lamb is eaten by hand, served with cumin and salt and will be served on a large napkin. Combined with a glass of mint tea, it is an all-time classic meal. Getting lost in Djemaa is half the fun. Navigate to its furthest points and try to find where you started. Good luck!
Montreal – Marché Atwater
In the 1930s, this art deco market was built as a government plan to stimulate the economy and today houses dozens of suppliers of products, delicatessen, cheese dealers, boulangeries, florists and high quality chocolates. With kiosks and benches inside the two-storey building and outside, it is the perfect walk to fill your afternoon. Don’t miss the Fromagerie Atwater. These guys know their job well and sell more than 750 different kinds of cheese. There are still plenty of options for lunch, such as Satay Brothers steamed pork buns, as well as savory and sweet crepes from Creperie du Marché.
Palawan, Philippines – Puerto Princesa Market
With crystal clear waters, fresh produce and an incredibly wide variety of seafood, this picturesque island in the southern part of the Philippine archipelago is a magical place. The Puerto Princesa market is the starting point for tourists looking for something different. First stop, the public market. Mountains of tropical fruits and fresh seafood have their honor, but bananas are the ones stealing the show. The Midget bananas are wrapped in thick sugar and then caramelized in hot oil. It’s like a tropical version of caramelized apple.
Chengdu, China – Outdoor Market in Qingyang District
Chengdu is one of the most famous food cities on the planet. In 2010, the capital of Sichuan was named by UNESCO “City of Gastronomy”, one of the few corresponding cities in the world, based on the relationship between nutrition and culture. The abundance of its outdoor markets is truly impressive. Head to Qingyang District, where you will find fish, pork and offal stands, frog buckets, vegetable pickle and tofu. You will also find spicy pasta, crispy pancakes and charcoal rabbit. This food is so hot and spicy that it will burn your throat, leaving a wonderful taste in your mouth.
Seoul – Noryangjin Fish Market
The Noryangjin Fish Market in Seoul is definitely worth a visit, both because of its size and variety. Imagine benches with skates, mussels, seafood, tuna and everything else you can think of. It is the largest and oldest market in Seoul, with more than 700 private seafood stands. As you walk down the aisles, grab a snack of spicy codfish. You will find dozens of varieties of this addictive snack all over the market. Buy fish, the fisherman will cook it for you and then go to one of the nearby restaurants where they will cook it for you. It’s a dream come true.
St. Petersburg – Kuznechny Market
Just next to the metro station in the heart of the city, Market Market houses a real Amalthea horn with Russian food and souvenirs. Inside the large, vaulted building, you’ll find places dedicated to Russian pillars: caviar, smoked fish, traditional butchers, cheeses and pyramids of fresh produce. There are plenty of weird deals on offer, as a trip to St. Petersburg would not be complete without tasting a heart of bulls or dried herring with its intact sack of eggs. Honey suppliers compete to get your attention by offering you fresh honey that is truly worth a try.
Oaxaca, Mexico – Mercado de Abastos
You could spend a whole day at Oaxaca’s four-acre central market. You may still need to buy an extra suitcase to carry the tempting handmade crafts, and their food will not go back. The smell of the market alone is intoxicating, a blend of fresh coriander, sugar cane and chili. After a day out in the city, you’ll be ready to taste handmade tamales and tlayudas offered by older women who cook and sell in the narrow streets of the market.
Paris – Marché Bastille
It is the largest and best outdoor market in Paris. A stroll along these corridors ranks among the truly greatest pleasures in life. Large quantities of Brie, a huge assortment of goat cheese, sausages, fresh produce, buckets of salty olives and all kinds of meat you can imagine are enticing to the visitors. Open up your appetite with gourmet offerings and end up with roast chicken. Don’t miss out on bread traders, oysters, and wine gurus.
Ecuador – Otavalo Market
Nestled high in the Andes between two inert volcanoes in the Valle del Amanecer, Otavalo has been the crossroads of the pre-Inca trade route. Today, it is probably the most famous textile market in the country. This means you will find hordes of tourists looking for world-renowned wallpapers, but if you look better, you will find a picturesque town with a rich history and excellent culinary traditions.
Wake up at sunrise on Saturday morning and head to the Plaza de Ponchos, which houses a traditional farm market. Animals of all kinds are sold here and traded for a vast network of farms, slaughterhouses and wholesalers. Find one of the many cooks who serve motes, heavy bowls of steamed corn and roast pork.
Palermo – Mercato di Ballarò
This beautiful neighborhood market is known for its fresh fish, but another strong point is the meat, and in particular the fritole, which is fried cow offal cut into small pieces. Another particular preference is the spices, especially when sprinkled with salt and lemon juice. Although you will see many tourists strolling under the sea with umbrellas covering the benches, the locals are the ones flocking mainly to the market to taste tripe, gut soup, panelle (eggplant pancakes) with eggplant and Panini with spleen.