I’m not a shopper. There’s something about those great air-conditioned malls that sets my teeth on edge. I think it has something to do with the lack of windows, or that anything could be happening outside and you wouldn’t know about it. How many times have you come out of one of those places and been surprised that the blue sunny day is now suddenly grey and stormy? That’s what I mean.
I suspect it’s the same theory as with casinos- remove the windows, fill it with artificial light, and remove all normal cues for time management to make you buy more of what you don’t need. Whatever it is, they make me feel claustrophobic. I’m shuddering as I write.
I do, however, have this theory that it helps to get under the skin of a place if you know how the locals shop. Not how they think the tourists will want to shop, but how they want to shop. More specifically, how they want to shop for food. It’s why wherever we are we try to seek out the fresh food markets. There’s something about knowing the ingredients that are used and where they come from that helps texture and layer the picture and impression of a place.
Kamala has two markets. There’s the one held on Friday afternoons in the coconut grove opposite Phuket FantaSea (the main tourist attraction in the town). It sells fresh fruit and vegetables, clothes, CDs and DVDs and the usual types of things sold in the shops in town. It’s huge, and is almost a tourist attraction in its own right.
Then there’s the village market, or Talad Nat. It’s held Wednesday and Saturday afternoons on the back road to Patong- opposite the Big C supermarket. There’s a shortcut you can take through town- just follow the market and walkway signs down Foxtail Place. Anyways, this is the market I chose to visit.
It’s full of fresh fruit and vegetables. Some of the ingredients I know, but there are many that I had no idea what they were or what they were used in.
Herbs and foraged ingredients- some from the land, some from the sea, some cultivated, some foraged. Thais don’t just use the leaves in herbs, but also the roots, stems and seeds. Many of these herbs aren’t just destined for the table- they also have medicinal uses.
There were those little apple shaped or tomato shaped aubergines that add that something special to a green curry sauce. And the pea aubergines that pop in your mouth…
There were shallots, and garlic, and chilli and anchovies…
All the ingredients to make your spice pastes…and in case you don’t want to make your own, the Kamal version of the ready-made paste in a jar.
There were fresh fruits
and fresh flowers.
The waters off Phuket are teeming with fish, and right at the end of the market were tables of fresh fish…
and dried fish.
If you’re hungry you can stop for a snack
or pick up an entire meal to takeaway- in a bag. The Thai version of takeaway.
On my way out I picked up some khao niao mamuang- mango with coconut milk on steamed sticky rice. I don’t have a sweet tooth, but this was good. I ate it as I wandered back into town via the beach and the temple, or wat. I tried some later that night at Savoey’s in Patong, but somehow it tasted so much better in the open air, with the smells and the bustle of the market all around.