Cambodia: A morning in the market
I love visiting markets when I’m traveling. The commotion of the narrow aisles and bargaining, the shock seeing hearts and livers laid out on a wooden platform and the fact that most tourists don’t even think to go see them make them appealing. Especially if you are spending only a few days in a foreign city, I think it is important to check out the market. You can learn a lot about the locals. Consider a meat stall: I saw pig ears, the snout, the entire head laid out next to cow livers, hearts and ropes of intestine. Much like Vietnam, the Cambodians let nothing go to waste. Waste has to be an unthinkable luxury to a country still recovering from decades of war. I applaud the use of the whole animal and have become much less squeamish in regard to meat since moving to Southeast Asia. The drawback to the no-waste approach, however, is that you may unknowingly be served a chicken spleen–tastes like blood, feels like an anchovy–with your rice and morning glory. Think gag reflex.
Yes, you do see flies crawling on the meat but in general markets in Vietnam and Cambodia seem quite clean. They don’t smell, even in the seafood section, and the animals are killed once in the morning and once in the afternoon so the meat is fresh.
For as much as I adore vegetables, the meat stalls interest me most. It’s so different that buying a plastic wrapped chicken or steak in the United States. In these open markets, you often see live animals, like fish or chickens, as well as their butchered cousins.
It helps to know where your food comes from. These chickens are preparing themselves for what lies ahead.
Coconuts are slaughtered joyfully. Though the ones I drank were much larger and green, they are probably the best source of hydration. I drank one every day while I was there. It’s fun to scoop out the sweet white flesh with a spoon, too.
If you are bothered by the crabs, just imagine that they are sunning themselves.
These women are selling bean sprouts and other vegetables. The red chunks in front are the same color and sheen as liver but I wonder if they are actually some kind of red bean paste. The best thing about markets in Asia is that the vegetables are sold next to the meat, which is sold next to the fruit, which is between the seafood and the clothes. This market in Phenom Penh even had hair salons, though I didn’t take a photo because I would not like to be photographed having my hair cut.
I didn’t ask how much the pig’s head cost.