To re­ally un­der­stand any coun­try, you must head to at least one of its food mar­kets!

Hindustan Times - Brunch - - NEWS - Text and pho­tos by Ru­pali Dean

V eteran trav­ellers al­ways say, ‘Go to the lo­cal mar­ket to un­der­stand the lo­cal food, crafts and cul­ture’. I to­tally agree. When­ever I visit Eu­rope, I make it a point to see where the food I eat comes from, and, with a lit­tle bit of luck, learn to cook it too.

Of course, it’s also frus­trat­ing. All that lovely pro­duce, and no kitchen of my own to fill with it. But win­dow-shop­ping gets me by. So does test­ing and tast­ing. And now, hav­ing vis­ited sev­eral lo­cal mar­kets around Eu­rope, I know what it must be like to live in these cities.


Rungis @ Paris, France When a gour­mand friend sug­gests that I ex­pand my food hori­zon, I plan a trip to Rungis on the out­skirts of the city, where I in­tend to browse the world’s big­gest whole­sale mar­ket for fresh pro­duce.

You have to visit Rungis with an au­tho­rised guide, un­less you are a listed buyer or know one. When I ar­rive with Ca­role, my guide from La Route des Gourmets, at 5am, the mar­ket is well un­der­way; in fact the stalls at the Fish Pav­il­ion are al­most ready to close. I visit it any­way, and spend most of my time try­ing to get out of the way of the work­ers.

Next, we head to the Tripe or Of­fal Pav­il­ion, where I am bizarrely riv­eted by the an­i­mal body parts on dis­play, and then to the Meat Pav­il­ion, where you find ev­ery­thing from poul­try to meat, from tiny an­i­mals to huge ones.

Of course, the Cheese Pav­il­ion that comes next is the one I’m most at­tracted to, with its wheels of Gruyère and Comté. Then it’s dairy, then the fruit and veg­eta­bles, and then flow­ers, mak­ing the morn­ing pret­tier as we walk. In fact, it’s so gor­geous that I com­pletely for­get that I am hun­gry and have been promised break­fast, which is slightly odd since I am starv­ing.

Pretty is not the rea­son for the ex­is­tence of this mar­ket: this is not a place meant to at­tract tourists. It’s a real func­tion­ing whole­sale mar­ket for the ho­tels and restau­rants of Paris, and over­all, the look is more pris­tine than pretty.

Still, Rungis is an im­pres­sive place: a town in it­self, ev­ery pav­il­ion com­plete with street signs. So, when I even­tu­ally dig into break­fast (farm fresh eggs and multi­grain bread), my mood is one of awe. Reser­va­tions: www.rungis­in­ter­na­ en/vis­i­tors/or­gan­ise-your-visit FOODIE’S PILGRIMAGE La Bo­que­ria @ Barcelona, Spain The best way to en­joy the Mer­cat de Sant Joseph de la Bo­que­ria on Las Ram­blas, the em­blem­atic cov­ered mar­ket that has been around since the 1200s, is with break­fast at one of the restau­rants and bars.

The food is in­trigu­ingly sim­ple and de­li­cious. I be­gin with the crusty bread rubbed with raw tomato, driz­zled with olive oil and topped with thin slices of ham and some tor­tilla de patatas, and pair it with a lo­cal wine. Next is a Span­ish omelette, light, fluffy and stuffed with pota­toes, an un­pre­dicted vein of saline, and a hit of some­thing fra­grant.

Of course, I try the tapas too. Pop­u­lar cul­ture is pop­u­lar for a rea­son, and the tapas is amaz­ing!

As I stroll along the stalls, I am im­pressed by the pro­duce which runs the gamut from the famed Ja­mon Ibérico to cheeses, Span­ish olives, choco­lates, juices, nuts, cured meat, poul­try, seafood and more. The Ibérico ham melts in my mouth; it has a mild flavour, and is near per­fect. Strolling around the mar­ket, I re­alise that ven­dors at the back are less ex­pen­sive than the ones in front, so clearly it’s best to hunt for the best deals, know­ing that the best stalls will have the long­est queues.

The main thing to know about this mar­ket is that it’s meant for tourists by and large. So, the restau­rants and bars could be a wee bit more ex­pen­sive. You can taste and buy, or not, de­pend­ing on the depth of your ethics and pocket. To know more, log on to:­que­ria. barcelona/home OUT OF THE OR­DI­NARY Torve­hallerne @ Copen­hagen, Den­mark A ‘rick­shaw’ to Copen­hagen’s big­gest food mar­ket lo­cated be­side the Nør­re­port Sta­tion, takes us to two beau­ti­ful glass and steel mar­ket halls fac­ing each other on op­po­site sides of a square, packed with more than 80 mer­chants sell­ing the kind of pro­duce that you wouldn’t find just any­where: from or­ganic sausage, and ar­ti­sanal honey to Dan­ish pas­tries, rhubarb juice and other bounty.

I be­gin by bit­ing into a salted caramel mac­aron picked up from a stall called ‘Sweet Valen­tine’. It bursts with flavours and the

Rungis is a whole­sale mar­ket for the ho­tels and restau­rants of Paris and it looks more pris­tine than pretty

cream gan ache cen tre is di­vin e. Wan de­rin g about, I fight clichés as I ob­serve stun n in g pro­duce, in gre­dien ts an d food con cepts.

The sun is worth cel­e­bratin g so I lun ch al fresco, eatin g a wrap made of egg white in stead of dough bread from the ‘Palaeo’ stall. Palaeo food is food in spired by the di­ets of an cien t hu­man s, an d the men u in cludes healthy food an d or­gan ic freshly-squeezed juices. The spe­cial­ity here is the Ston e Age ‘Palaeo Bread’ made of mixed n uts an d seeds.

Of course, I also dig in to a thin crust pizza from Gorm’s an d later, a duck con fit san dwich from Ma Poule! Waitin g for my or­der, I can see the duck crispin g in a hot pan just be­hin d the coun ter, an d though this place is fa­mous for its Fren ch del­i­ca­cies, I reckon I could come back for that san dwich alon e!

Nat­u­rally, I also have to try the el­e­gan tly dec­o­rated open faced sour­dough-based rye bread san dwiches called

smør­re­brød, smeared with vel­vety but­ter an d buried un der top­pin gs of on e’s choice. Even though I am hope­lessly full, I stop at Hallern es for a smør­re­brød topped with cur­ried her­rin g, an d on e with roast belly of pork with red cab­bage top­pin g. Both are ab­so­lutely di­vin e! An d just when I thin k I am fully fed up, I spot Café Rosa. Dessert calls, an d I have n o re­grets. This is on e of the best ban an a cakes I have ever eaten !

To k n ow more, log on to www.vis­it­copen ha­ ha­gen / gas­tron omy/torve­hallern e OTHer NOTeWOrTHY FOOD M arKeTS Les Halles @ Lyon, France I am in love with this food san ctu­ary as­so­ci­ated with the legen dary chef Paul Bo­cuse, fa­ther of n ou­velle cuisin e. The over 60 stan ds re­tailin g in n umer­able gourmet de­lights leave me im­pressed. I also take a cook in g les­son here, an d later en joy a meal of lo­cal pro­duce with de­li­cious Fren ch win e. Cours Sa­leya @ Nice, France This quain t lit­tle mar­ket run n in g par­al­lel to the sea in the heart of the old town , packed with his­tory an d culin ary in spi­ra­tion , is worth an en tire morn in g an d is best dis­cov­ered on foot. Chez Theresa’s socca, a flat­bread made of chick pea flour, olive oil, wa­ter, an d salt soon be­comes my favourite sn ack in Nice. Mer­cado Cen­tral @ Va­len­cia, Spain The mar­ket has an ex­tern al area of over 8,000 square me­tres with over 1,000 sellin g posts, an d is la­belled as Eu­rope’s largest cov­ered mar­ket. I fin d a paella pan an d brin g it home. The re­mark able domed ceilin g leaves me awe-in spired; the n at­u­ral light comin g through the high coloured win dow pan els makes the pro­duce look even more en chan tin g.

CHERRY-PICKED The socca is a must try in Nice while (in­set) Rungis on the out­skirts of Paris is the world’s big­gest whole­sale mar­ket for fresh pro­duce

Torve­hallerne of­fers ev­ery­thing from ar­ti­sanal honey to Dan­ish pas­tries, rhubarb juice and other bounty TASTY TREATS

Torve­hallerne in Copen­hagen, Den­mark, com­prises two beau­ti­ful glass and steel mar­ket halls fac­ing each other on op­po­site sides of a square DAN­ISH DE­LIGHTS

BEST OF BARCELONA La Bo­que­ria in Barcelona, Spain, is the em­blem­atic cov­ered mar­ket that has been around since the 1200s


the chill thrill Torve­hallern e is lo­cated be­side the Nør­re­port Sta­tion

re­tail ren­dezvous Some of the vi­bran t stalls at La Bo­que­ria in Barcelon a, Spain

spoilt For choice Mer­cado Cen tral in Valen cia, Spain , is la­belled as Eu­rope’s largest cov­ered mark et

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