Where can I find fresh dill? Where can one buy avocados? I find people asking questions like these often online, and my answers to them are always the same, go to the local morning markets. There, you are able to find everything you need for your house, and most importantly, you can support the local farmers and small businesses while having an adventure in the market.
The morning market we visit weekly is based on the old street in Dali. The definition of old in this case has a history going back well over 100 years, when the Qing dynasty still ruled Taiwan. Dali used to be the 6th biggest harbor. Nowhere can we find any evidence of a harbor at all in this market, but these old buildings still tell a fascinating story. About 150 meters long, the old street has a unique character that we don’t see in the city. Built by bricks and wood, these buildings are not just significant historically, they are extremely important to society today and tomorrow, as people still live there, serve their customers daily and depend upon its survival.
Wandering around supermarkets can be a chore, and just can not offer the same personal touch of a morning market. Strolling through the morning market is pleasant and charming. We find the freshest cucumbers and veggies that are grown by grandmas, free range pork, organic eggs, a seamstress to fix clothes for a few NT, and the very dedicated fish mongers, whom rise at 2 or 3am to bring us the catch of the day…it’s always fun and exciting to go to the market for a treasure hunt.
This community market has a huge variety of stuff to look into. Most shops on the old street are run by families. And these families really value every transaction, and often want to engage in pleasantries. They’ll often remember what you like, make suggestions, show sincere concern and curiosity, give free samples, enquire about what dishes one is cooking, and genuinely just be happy to see you. It’s delightful. You can see a great grandma, going strong in her 85th year, working in the grocery store in the morning, and her great grandson is on duty at night. That’s 4 generations! They are all friendly and helpful. On one occasion, I was trying to buy chili peppers, which they don’t sell at the shop. Instead of making me go somewhere else, the grandma just grabbed a bunch form her kitchen in the back of the shop and handed them to me.
Where can you find fresh food in town at reasonable prices and nice warm service? Check out your local morning markets or evening markets. They are full of surprises and you will have a tremendous experience shopping there.
Published in Guan Xi Magazine-Summer 2015 issue