Never has grocery shopping been more of a pleasure – or more interrupted by people crafting Instagram shots – than in these five kaleidoscopic markets.
Istanbul, Spice Bazaar
Few markets are as historic, aromatic or photogenic as Istanbul’s famed Spice Bazaar. It dates back more than 500 years and is a true cornucopia, with countless varieties of figs, dates and other dried fruit, in a spectrum of colours from cream to bronze, mahogany to ebony. Then there are the amber tones of local honey and soaked baklava desserts alongside olive oils that range from green to gold. But most of all, it’s the fresh and dried spices of every imaginable colour: deep red sumac, burnt orange saffron, tawny cumin, all begging to be tasted.
Bangkok, Klong Toey
Bangkok may be famous for its floating markets, but Klong Toey is the capital’s largest permanent wet market. At times it can be a sensory overload, with live produce including frogs and eels on offer – but if you’re feeling adventurous it’s the perfect spot for insects and unique flavours like creamy white ant eggs. Chef Bee Satongun of the city’s award-winning Paste restaurant visits Klong Toey to choose from vast verdant carpets of sweet and holy basil, coriander, lemongrass and kaffir lime.
(Related: Bangkok’s New Breed of Chefs)
Los Angeles, Farmers’ Market
Los Angelinos call their farmers’ market ‘The Original’ because it’s been in business since 1934. Back then, 12 local farmers sold produce from the back of trucks – today, there are more than 100 stalls and restaurants. California’s famously warm climate means a world of tempting sunny-hued apricots, oranges and other citrus, while strawberries, limes and avocados are hardly monochrome.
La Rochelle, Marché Central
Thanks to the nation’s famously knowledgeable chefs, French markets have few rivals when it comes to the breathtaking quality of their produce. La Rochelle on the Atlantic coastline boasts a stunning market filled with charcuterie, cheese and incredible seafood landed just hours before: mounds of famous silvery-grey Ile de Ré oysters, pink langoustines and ochre-shelled crabs. There’s also an abundance of fruit and vegetable stalls – the vibrant strawberries and vermilion tomatoes are particularly eye-catching.
Buenos Aires, Mercado San Telmo
Buenos Aires’ elegant Mercado San Telmo opened back in 1897 and is a key source of local beef in all its ruby red hues and fresh produce from across Argentina and Latin America. Chefs rub shoulders with locals from sunrise, bargaining and snacking on golden brown empanadas. Argentinean chef Agustin Balbi, who runs Haku in Hong Kong’s Tsim Sha Tsui, says: ‘The produce is super fresh – you can smell it in the air, especially the citrus and green leaves. Stalls explode with colour and there are so many tempting varieties to choose from.’