12 Memorable Market Meals

It’s a no-brainer: the happy intersection of superfresh ingredients and a built-in trade of hungry customers yields some spectacular cooked-to-order meals in and around the world’s great markets. I spend about 30 weeks a year on the road and have a pretty deep list of favorite market dishes, a few standouts of which are described below, in no particular order. —Andrew Zimmern, host of the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods

By Andrew Zimmern

Published on May 25, 2010

1.** Razor Clams a la Plancha at La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain**

Served pil-pil style—spiked with chile, parsley, garlic, and olive oil—these freshly griddled mollusks (see ** Razor Clams with Chiles and Garlic**) are a favorite menu item of both the tapas bars and the retail seafood vendors at Spain's most famous market. They're a little chewier than most clams when cooked, but the fast sear of the griddle and the impeccable freshness of the shellfish offset any potential miscues. My favorites come from Bar Pinotxo. (Plaça de la Boqueria,

2. Indian Spice Mini Doughnuts at Mill City Farmers Market, Minneapolis, Minnesota
For the past three years, the Chef Shack food truck has served marketgoers in the Twin Cities its creative, delicious fare: softshell crab sandwiches, hand-cut fries with bacon ketchup, and braised-tongue tacos, among other pleasures. All are good, but in the cool, waxing Minnesota summer morning there is no better meal than a large cup of black coffee and a few of the Chef Shack's freshly fried cinnamon- and cardamom-perfumed mini doughnuts. (Intersection of South 2nd Street and Chicago Avenue,

3. Empanadas at Mercado Rodriguez, La Paz, Bolivia
Empanadas both sweet and savory are sold in almost every neighborhood of Bolivia's mountain-bound capital, but at the threshold of the Rodriguez Market, in the San Pedro neighborhood, you'll find a few stands tended to by indigenous Quechua and Aymara grandmas, who cook beef or chicken empanadas, stuffed and fried to order and served at a counter along with help-yourself bowls of traditional Bolivian salsas, including a superbly mouth-watering peanut salsa pureed with chile and garlic. Beats the local favorite of anticuchos—grilled beef heart—hands down, which in my book is saying a lot. (Calle Rodriquez and Max Parades.)

4. Fritole at Mercato Ballaro, Palermo, Sicily
This is a bona fide neighborhood market, with some of the best fish vendors in the city. The bottarga is legendary, but I keep coming back for meat, not fish: specifically, the fritole. In this part of Sicily, fritole means spicy fried cow offal (mostly tripe) cut into bite-size pieces and served from large vessels covered with towels. Though an acquired taste, when heaped on a roll and sprinkled with lemon juice and salt, the chewy morsels are market-strolling fare of the highest order. (Via Ballaro between Piazza Ballaro and Piazza del Carmen.)

5. Egg N****oodle Soup at Klong Toey Market, Bangkok, Thailand
Some of the best Chinese food in the world is served in Bangkok, and at the city's Klong Toey market there are dozens of stalls hawking Cantonese-style egg noodle soup: bowls brimming with wontons, greens, roast pork, and chicken broth. (Intersection of Rama IV and Narong Road.)

6. Banana-cue at Puerto Princesa Market, Palawan, Philippines
This island state in the southern part of the Philippine archipelago is famous for its banana plantations, and the markets here all have someone selling what the locals call banana-cue. Midget bananas are rolled in coarse palm sugar, skewered, and plunged into hot oil until they're caramelized. Think candy apple, but made with a banana. (I_ntersection of Malvar and Valencia streets_.)

7. Motes at the Ponchos Market, Otavalo, Ecuador
Ponchos, the largest open-air market in South America, is a true farmers' market. Here, animals of all kinds are sold and traded by a huge network of farms, slaughterhouses, and wholesalers of all types. Years ago, it grew to include a massive woolens and cloth mart, and after that came the produce and food vendors. Everywhere you turn you will find cooks serving motes, hefty bowls of plump steamed corn kernels topped with generous portions of roast pork and finished with tidy squares of crispy pork skin and a fresh-tasting tomato-onion-cilantro salsa. A simple and perfect meal. (Intersection of Calle Sucre and Calle Salinas.)

8. Mechoui at Djemaa el Fna Market, Marrakech, Morocco
Known for its adjacent covered souk, Djemaa el Fna is a bustling main square where vendors hawk mechoui, whole lamb that is pit-roasted for almost half a day. Meat from the legs, ribs, shoulders, saddle, and head is pulled by hand, piled onto a paper napkin, and served with a mixture of cumin and salt. Teamed with a glass of mint tea, this might be my all-time favorite market meal. (Djemaa el Fna, Old Medina District.)

9. Spicy Mentaiko at Noryangjin Fish Market, Seoul, South Korea
After the Tsukiji wholesale market in Tokyo, this is Asia's most famous seafood market, a giant Quonset hut-shaped building teeming with stalls selling every conceivable species of seafood. While shopping, I like to purchase an early lunch at one of the stalls offering mentaiko (salted, spicy pollack roe). Hawkers here sell dozens of varieties of this addictive and fishy snack, which has been adopted by the Japanese as one of their favorite foods. (Opposite Noryangjin Station.)

10. Tuna Oke-Oke at Maketi Fou Market, Apia, Upolu, Samoa
Housing a greens market and an adjacent seafood hall, the Maketi Fou on this small Pacific island is perhaps tops in my book for markets worldwide: it's small enough to navigate easily but large enough never to be boring. To make the refreshing snack called oke-oke, local food vendors take fistfuls of just-caught tuna, dice it, and serve it cool and raw with lime, coconut milk, and fresh chiles. The cost: about 40 cents. Really. (Fugalei Street.)

11. Tamales and Tlayudas at Mercado de Abastos, Oaxaca, Mexico
Excellent tamales and tlayudas—a crispy, pizzalike snack of whole tortillas topped with cheese, black beans, and roasted pork or chorizo—can be found all over this town, but head to the Abastos market for the best of the best. After a day spent watching mole grinders and cactus paddle picklers, you can regale yourself for a few pesos on the small batches of exquisite handmade tamales and tlayudas served up by the elderly Zapotec women who cook and sell them in the narrow side alleys of the market. (Ten blocks west of Oaxaca's main square.)

12.** Roasted Chicken at the Marche Bastille, Paris, France**
Walking the aisles of this riotous tented outdoor market ranks among life's greatest pleasures. My last stop is always one of the small stalls offering roasted Bresse-Gauloise or Faverolle chickens, flavorful breeds, which are turned on a spit, the fatty drippings cascading onto a tray filled with slow-roasting carrots and potatoes. I am lucky if I make it back to the flat with any bird left. (Boulevard Richard Lenoir between rue Amelot and rue St. Sabin.)

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