I had my first bowl of this famous soup in a little étterem just outside of Budapest’s Central Market. Truth be told, the first spoonful reminded me Campbell’s Vegetable soup. However a dollop of hot paprika paste quickly lifted it from bland to tasty. Packed with meat and potatoes and partnered with some excellent bread, it was a fine lunch.
The essential ingredient in goulash is paprika and the finest paprika is sold in the Central Market. This particular stall sold all kinds of paprika but they also made their own. Lined up on display, the packages looked like artisan ground coffee. Certainly, they were as fragrant. I purchased a couple bags to take home. But you know how fresh coffee can smell so delightful in the shop but overpowering at home? It’s the same with freshly roasted paprika. Back in the hotel I had to double, triple, quadruple bag the packets to muffle the smell.
I love visiting markets and seeing the foods on display. When I look at the fruits, vegetables and meats, I am inspired to cook. In European markets, produce is relatively easy to identify but meats can be challenging.
For instance, in one stall I saw a huge tray of glisteny fresh chicken (csirke) livers that had me hankering to fix pate. In another stall, the eye catching display of rich red poultry meat had me thinking of duck magret and boneless confit. As it turns out, pulyka is actually turkey. Unlike in Canada, in Hungary the whole bird is butchered and sold fresh in portion friendly cuts. What a good idea!
I took this shot at Chow Kit Market in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It’s part of a series on local markets where I try to capture their look and feel. I had a simple intent of showing a dry goods shop, different from the standard shots of vegetables and meat.
What caught my eye about this photo?
Originally it was the orange color of his shirt. The eye-catch which connected the passer-by to the shelves in the shop. But then the color became lines and my eye followed the network of lines within lines, the boxes within boxes. Unconsciously, my eye was drawn to the pattern within the picture, the order imposed on this chaos of small things. But then my eye grew tired of straight lines. It pulled back to follow the curves. The dark slope of the shopkeeper hunched over the counter. The blurred profile of the passer-by. The orange color of his shirt.
Across Seoul’s ancient Heunginjimum Gate lies the Dongdaemun Shopping Complex and entrance to one of the busiest textile districts in Asia. This is a busy but orderly intersection with cars, minivans and motor bikes turning right into downtown Seoul or heading left, out of the city core. When the traffic light changes a huddle of well dressed pedestrians surge across the street. A lone chige porter runs through the crowd, his stride quick and nimble with an empty wooden A-frame balanced lightly on his shoulders.
Further away, in the core of the textile market, the traffic composition changes. In this neighborhood of wholesalers and resellers, the roads are congested with people and automobiles delivering and unloading goods. The warren of narrow alleys are blocked to large vehicles. Instead they stop at the boundaries where porters load bales of cloth and packages onto their A-frame carriers. Three wheeled and bi-pedaled porters throng the streets and it’s an artful dance to avoid collision on the packed sidewalks.
I am fascinated by the chige carriers. Made of wood and rope, the sturdy A-frame back carriers were originally used by Korean farmers and field workers. It was designed to hang the weight of the load on the shoulders while the center of gravity was low in the back. This allowed the bearer to carry heavy loads while walking, even on a steep gradient. During the Korean war, the carrier was quickly adopted by the United Nations troops. The Americans called them A-frames, the British called them ‘jiggies.’ Backpackers will recognize the origins of modern day aluminum frames used to hoist camping, hunting and baby gear all over the world.
It is early afternoon, late in a day that started in midnight morning. Dongdaemun is busiest at night during the after-hours of day-time business, when buyers converge on the district to purchase supplies. It makes sense that food vendors dash by, delivering dinner on heavily laden trays balanced on their heads. They move with apparent sonar vision, eyes cast down, deftly avoiding stationary and moving obstacles.
I love the busyness of the market, the earnest vitality of hard working people going about their lives. There’s nothing artificial here. Nothing reconstructed, recreated or re-enacted. It’s a working market with a thrum of energy that’s as real as the sound of traffic, the heat of the crowds and the brush of pedestrians passing you by.