On the weekend, Jen and I headed north west on route 10 to Mak Kai market. This large market is about 20 minutes out of the city centre but it took us about twice that due to roadworks. I was a bit surprised to see roadworks on a Saturday morning actually, rather than by torchlight in the dead of the night (Vietnam-style) but this way is probably more sensible.
Mak Kai is a great place to stock up on your Lao kitchen supplies including sticky rice steamers, chopping boards, and of course, machetes.
Across the road is the market itself, housed in a large wall-less hangar with a corrugated tin roof. Stalls are set up on makeshift wooden tables covered with plastic table cloths or sheets of newspaper. The ground is cement and puddly, making me wish I'd worn sneakers instead of the Lao standard of thin rubber flip flops.
Just outside on the right is a sticky rice stall. I bought a kilo of 'red' rice for 8,000 kip. This raw type of rice is full of fibre but takes a solid 3 hours to cook.
Just inside the market, we stopped to peer at the insects, their chargrilled forms almost disguising their origins.
For the fussy eater who prefers to cook their own insects, there are live options too.
And there's more... hairy buffalo skin, fresh honey, and Lao Lao, the highly potent local tipple.
This market obviously caters to the medicinal crowd; there were also dried mushrooms, dried roots, herbs, scorpion potions, and other relics like that below...
"They are fake!" laughed a the seller, upon seeing our startled faces. I truly hope so.
A squawking behind us made me turn to see several scrawny chickens, roosters, turkeys, geese, baby chicks and one magnificent green parrot in cages behind us.
There were also baby rabbits (for pets) and big ones (not for pets - sold by the kilo), and a glass bowl of baby Lao turtles. These were to be released for good karma. Laotians are big on good karma, though evidently there's some differentiation between turtle karma and rabbit karma.
Over on the other side, there were some fishy stalls too.. Baby catfish, snails and the ubiquitous river weed, which is when fried up is actually very tasty.
And of course, there were the usual fresh veggies and fruits, of which we both bought a heap, because they're fresh, seasonal, homegrown (usually without chemicals) and very cheap.
Intrigued? Excited? Need a new machete? You'll want to go to Mak Kai then. And if you're wondering how to best cook buffalo skin, or wasp larvae, or what exactly were in those netted bamboo shoots, you'll find out in later posts.