Wet Markets

I love markets, particularly wet markets.

Saint-Romain-en-Gal is the name of the village (about 1,300 inhabitants) where I was brought up and where my parents still live in. It is located by the Rhône River. There is no market in my village. What a pity!  We need to go to Vienne and cross the Rhône to find the nearest market. Vienne is a much larger town with over 30,000 inhabitants.

There are 2 kinds of markets in Vienne (Isère, France):
- The daily market held either on Place F. Mitterand or Cours Brillier. There are only a few stallholders who sell vegetable, fruit, fish, meat, cheese, bread, and flowers. The stalls open early in the morning and close at around noon.

- The weekly market - the marché du samedi - held every Saturday morning. At about 5am greengrocers as well as producers and farmers unpack vegetables and fruit on wooden tables and display their goods with great care and skill hoping that there will be nothing left to bring back home when the market ends at around 1 pm.
Saturday market offers more varieties and is very busy. Buyers and sellers come from miles away to Vienne.  We can also find specialised stallholders spread all over the town with clothes, shoes, accessories, toys, gadgets, CDs, books, tableware, kitchenware, fabric, etc.

It is the place and time to look for bargains!

Pumpkin, turnips, carrots, leeks. potatoes, tomatoes, etc...

My friend's stall in Vienne
Read more >> in my post dated August 5, 2011 called french-outdoor-market.

I also have good memories of the wet markets in Paris. Here are the 2 markets that gave me a special feeling:

- Rue Mouffetard (5th arr. near the Latin Quartier): this is a beautiful street with many shops and colourful stalls and displays. The market is open from morning till evening. The goods are exclusive and pricier than most other markets. I would stroll there from time to time with my boyfriend.

- Rue de la Convention (15th arr.): this is where I used to buy russet apples after classes when the sellers were about to leave and reducing their prices. My school, where I studied Applied Ceramics, was 5 minutes away from the Convention market (at No. 63 rue Olivier de Serres).

Markets also remind me of the week-ends when I worked part-time selling tripes at the market. I would take the RER (railway network) from Nanterre to the 13th and 20th arrondissement of Paris on Saturday and Sunday mornings respectively to help the Choux family at their stall. 
These markets are situated in the 2 Chinatowns of Paris and we had many Asians clients as they are fond of tripes. I have not been back to these places since moving to Hong Kong.

Mr Choux (choux means cabbage in French) was a tripe butcher. He was selling offal at markets and also owned a tripe shop on the outskirts of ParisMr and Mrs Choux were very kind to me.   My salary increased a few times during the 2 school years I worked for them. I remember being paid about 200 F per morning (~ 30 euros) at the end of the 2nd year. I saved my earnings to cover the cost of my trips to Hong Kong (a return ticket in 1985 and a single ticket in 1986).  Mr Choux would also give me some food to bring home after work. Most of the time it would be a slice of “Tripe à la Mode de Caen”. This dish was already cooked and needed just reheating. This specialty of Normandy is prepared with 4 different parts of beef stomach and a veal trotter, and is stewed slowly with carrots, onions, celery, leek, spices, and a drop of calvados.   Sometimes, but less often, it would be a flank or hanger steak, which are refined and pricey cuts.  The latter cuts being the only 2 beefsteaks considered offal. 
I remember being invited once to the Choux's home and having calf sweetbread vol-au-vent (háap-sôu) {a light puff pastry} filled with sweetbread (ris-de-veau) in a mushroom béchamel sauce.  This dish is not ordinary and was definitely very special for me, poor student, at that time.

I lost contact of the Choux family after so many years and I wonder what had happened to them.

The winter 1985-86 was particularly cold and my hands were freezing underneath my latex gloves. Tripe are displayed on a bed of crushed ice! To warm up my body I wore a Chinese style waistcoat lined with camel hair. This vest belonged to my boyfriend and was a gift from his mother. He cherished it and left it to me before he returned to Hong Kong after completing his PhD in June 1985. His waistcoat has kept me warm. I took it back to him when I came to Hong Kong in June 1986 and we still have it today. He wears it sometimes although it is now worn through after so many years.  However, it brings us so many souvenirs that it is going to be difficult to dispose of it one day.

What I enjoyed most during my job was the market atmosphere: its flow of people and colourful displays. The mid-morning break was also a favourite, though short, time which I enjoyed with a coffee and croissant in front of the outdoor butane heater (in the winter).

But I also recall that it was no fun setting up the booth early in the morning and most of all taking the RER at 5:30 am. I saw very strange people in those trains.  Whenever I came close to some weird passengers I imagined that I was so small that they could not see me. It seems to work. Nobody ever talked to me.. nothing happened... But I was there on my way to the market!

Hong Kong wet markets are quite different than those in France both in term of range of products and in the way the goods are presented. 
You can see photos of Mongkok wet market  in my post dated October 20, 2011. 

An array of colourful food products