To mar­ket, to mar­ket

The Weekend Australian - Life - - FOOD & WINE - JOHN LETH­LEAN

Many tourists visit Phuket with­out ac­tu­ally get­ting to Phuket Town. Don’t make that mis­take. The lo­cal food mar­ket, par­tic­u­larly the wet mar­ket, is an artery that goes straight to the heart of a com­mu­nity: a di­vin­ing rod for the lo­cal food cul­ture. Talad Kaset is a great ex­pe­ri­ence for any food nut — raw, real and heaps of fun.

Go early in the morn­ing, be­fore it gets too hot, when all the fresh seafood has come from the town’s docks, where boats have come in at 3am to have their haul sorted and bought. The mar­ket ac­tu­ally opens at 2am, but we’d rec­om­mend be­ing there around 7am when things are in full swing. But give your­self at least an hour: Talad Kaset is the com­plete Thai food mar­ket catas­tro­phe.

You will find ev­ery con­ceiv­able piece of fresh chicken and pig, skinned frogs, mighty piles of dif­fer­ent shrimp pastes, live birds, whole fish, dried fish, butchered fish, fried fish, shell­fish, live eels and frogs, live tor­toises, crabs, quail, herbs, fruit and ve­g­ies of mys­te­ri­ous iden­tity, plus a stall de­voted to the pro­duc­tion of fresh co­conut cream with a mas­sive ma­chine.

Some of it ain’t pretty; the faces of the ven­dors, how­ever, will put a song in your heart.

And, of course, you can eat at the mar­ket, too. In­side there are plenty of lo­cal break­fast op­tions, both sit-down street food stalls and take­away stalls.

Many of the mar­ket ven­dors are Mus­lim and the foods re­flect that, plus the south­ern na­ture of the is­land. On of­fer are the likes of roti served with curry sauce on the side and a fill­ing of egg; sticky rice with co­conut cream and jack­fruit; khao tom mad, ba­nana and black beans sprin­kled with sticky rice and co­conut milk, steamed.

Gird your loins and have a go. And if you hap­pen to be self-cater­ing on your Thai visit, shop till you drop, spend very lit­tle, and go home and cook like David Thomp­son.

Ad­dress: Thanon Ong Sim Phai, Mueang Phuket, Phuket, Thai­land The au­thor was flown to Thai­land by Tourism Thai­land and was a guest at Iniala Beach House.

Many of the ven­dors at Phuket’s busy Talad Kaset are Mus­lim

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