Thursday, August 6, 2015

Exploring Local Markets (Part 1: Kyoto and London)

For us, part of the fun when traveling was to check out the local markets and explore the different ingredients available in different countries. Through that you learned so much more about their cuisine and culture and had a glimpse of the lives of the locals, so much more than going through museums or eating at the finest restaurants.

This time we didn't spend enough time in each place to really settle and cook, still we had a good time walking through aisles, going around stalls by stalls, admiring the fresh produce offered, and in some case, buying some and carrying them home whichever possible.

Let's start with our first two stops, with 2 iconic markets which serve locals for their daily grocery shopping needs, and tourists for their sightseeing experience.

1. Nishiki Market in Kyoto

Each time in Kyoto we tried to check out different temples, for they are far too many for us to cover in a single trip, but we always ended up strolling through Nishiki Market, aka Kyoto's Kitchen in the town center.

This time we came on a weekday morning so it's not crowded at all - mostly just old grandmas walking slowly, carrying their bags doing the routine grocery shopping. Even at the always popular Aritsugu, a 300-year-old knife shop made famous by numerous TV shows and guide books at home and aboard, there were only a handful customers inside when we happened to walk by.

The market stretches a few block near the Shijo district along Nishikikoji-Dori lined with food-related shops on both sides, some passed down from one generation to another. Here you could find anything from fresh seafood and vegetables, to eggs and rice and wines, and a few shops selling pickled vegetables, a Kyoto specialty, especially the one known as Narazuke, cured with sake lees.

In addition to raw ingredients, there were also numerous shops selling cooked food, from tempura to steamed skewers of fish cakes to egg rolls and snacks. There were also shops selling cookware and tableware - of course, none more famous than Aritsugu, a knifemaker store since 1560. One could easily spend hours just exploring every single shops.

We didn't buy or eat anything this time - but that's just because I know I will be coming back in a month's time. This was a pure reconnaissance trip.

Nishiki Market:

2. Borough Market in London

We essentially did zero sightseeing whilst in London, except spending a morning at Borough Market. We began our market adventure at Monmouth Coffee right outside, and this popular artisan coffee chain seemed to be the place to be, with scores of people waiting in line patiently for their cup of joe. Both their coffees and pastries were great.

And once we stepped inside the market, we literally had to drag ourselves out for our lunch booking. Everything we want it's right there, from spices to cheeses to vegetables and fruits, chocolates, charcuterie, so on and so forth. They also have a little kitchen supply store on one end with an adequate collection of goods, and a few cooked food stalls that could keep us well-fed for the entire day.

Borough Market:

Next: Exploring Local Markets (Part 2: Paris and Milan) 

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