Travel writer and FOOD AND WINE contributor Nadia El Ferdaoussi highlights some of the food markets that really made an impact on her.
One of the first things I research when visiting a new destination are the local food markets. For me, it’s the most important thing to do if I want to get a real feel for a city and its cuisine. See what the locals are buying and eating, do some people watching and, of course, sample as much as possible. There are a few from my travels which have really stood out because they each offer an experience unique to that place;
1. Jemaa el-Fna, Marrakech
This night street food market isn’t for the faint-hearted. It’s loud, the vendors are extra boisterous after dark and the whole thing can feel a little overwhelming. If you accept Jemaa el-Fna for what it is though, you’ll be rewarded with one of the best meals in Marrakech. The main square comes alive with rows of street food stalls, each with their grill fired up and aromas wafting into the night air. Pick a stand and choose from skewers of meat and fish, merguez sausages and couscous.
If you’re feeling adventurous, give the pastilla a try. A sweet and savoury local delicacy, traditionally made with pigeon, encased in pastry and dusted with sugar and cinnamon – it’s surprisingly tasty. For those with a sweet tooth, keep an eye out for the pastry carts rolling around the square.
2. Neighbourgoods Market at the Old Biscuit Mill, Cape Town
In the heart of downtown Woodstock, this vibrant hub of culture, music, art and food deserves your Saturday morning when visiting Cape Town. The quality of South African food is no secret and the value is sometimes hard to believe. This place brings it all together. From burgers to burrata, great coffee and affordable South African sparkling wine - the only problem you’ll face is deciding what to taste.
3. Mercado de Abastos de Santiago
One for seafood lovers, this part of Galicia is foodie heaven for shellfish aficionados. Oysters, mussels, spider crab and razor clams are in abundance at the Mercado but you must try the local delicacy - percebes. These barnacles come from the rocks off Spain’s northwest coast, they’re extremely dangerous to harvest - the reason for the high price. You’ll want to pair your seafood brunch with a glass of Rías Baixas Albariño of course, readily available in the market.
4. St. George’s Market, Belfast
Every weekend, the finest fresh local produce is on offer at Belfast’s most iconic market and on Sundays, you can enjoy live music too. Try a breakfast buttie on a Belfast bap, paella, curry, freshly baked cakes, or whatever you fancy - they have it all. Don’t forget to buy some wheaten bread to take home, along with some lovely local jams and chutneys.
5. Paloquemao, Bogotá
From hot arepas oozing with cheese to steaming tamales, make sure you visit this Colombian market hungry. The local vendors are more than happy to give you a taste of the tropical fruits as they welcome more tourists into the market than ever before. The huge indoor space is lined with stalls of herbs and spices, fresh fruit and veg, fish and colourful flowers. It’s easy to spend a couple of hours getting lost amongst the rows and taking frequent stops for coffee and corn cakes.
Author: Nadia El Ferdaoussi
Dublin native, Nadia is a freelance travel writer whose plan is to wander the globe until the novelty wears off (if that ever happens). Despite travelling to exotic locations the world over, her favourite country is Ireland, “when the sun shines, there’s no better place.” Her dream job would be mystery shopping in hotels, since she has a keen eye for detail and already spends most of her time living out of a suitcase. Nadia has a new found passion for wine and is quickly moving up through the ranks in terms of wine education. Her bucket list destination? Antarctica.