Vietnam. Cantho Market

The market in Cantho is an example of the rich gastronomy of Vietnam integrated by over five hundred different dishes, all of them served with rice.

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Cantho (Vietnam) is the largest city in the delta. It’s small in size, but with a large population. The market in Cantho is an example of the rich gastronomy of Vietnam. Over five hundred different dishes, but all of them served with rice.

The Vietnamese boast that they eat everything that flies, except the airplanes, everything that swims, except the boats, and everything with legs, except the tables. And they’re not far wrong – some market stalls sell ‘delicacies’ which would turn the stomach of most westerners.

At five in the morning, in one corner of the market, the Lee family runs a flourishing fish business. 

Hue is thirty years old, and she is responsible for organising the sale of the merchandise every morning. Her biggest customer is the Vietnam government itself, which in turn, sells to the restaurants and the workers in the state factories. Along with her, another fifteen members of the family help to unload, classify and clean the fish. They transport the fish in primitive fish-farming boats. 

All types of boats come to the market to buy and sell many different things in the numerous floating markets around the delta.

Most people live in small villages, and never very far from the water, which is their only means of transport.

There are some roads in the delta, built by the French when they colonised this country, and the Americans during the war. Most road transport depends on the ferries, but travelling this way is not easy. Because of lack of space, the farmers lay out the rice to dry along the roads, making it very difficult for traffic. So, the Mekong has become the only real way to transport goods.

The small boats, in turn, supply the much larger ones, which travel to the most remote villages of the delta.

 It’s nine o’clock in the morning, and in the floating market of Phong Dien, a few kilometres to the south of Cantho, it’s almost impossible to move. At times, it’s difficult to know where the land ends and the water begins.

The delta was, until the eighteenth century, part of the Khmer Kingdom of neighbouring Cambodia, and was the last region to be annexed by Vietnam. The Cambodians have not forgotten this territory, which still today they call Lower Cambodia. It is one more reason for the mutual hatred between the two cultures.

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