Mak Kai Market, Vientiane

On the weekend, Xairung 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 great for stocking up on your Lao kitchen supplies including sticky rice steamers, chopping boards, and of course, machetes.  

Kids cut up plasticine on hand hewn wooden boards. The little one does so with a machete.

Kids cut up plasticine on hand hewn wooden boards. The little one does so with a machete.

eatdrinklaos-mak-kai-street

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 thin rubber flip flops. How precious am I?

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 supposed to be very good but takes a solid 3 hours to cook. 

eatdrinklaos-mak-kai-sticky-rice.jpg

Just inside the market, we stopped to peer at the insects, their chargrilled forms almost disguising their origins.  

We decided they were most likely grasshoppers, crickets, and bamboo worms. 

We decided they were most likely grasshoppers, crickets, and bamboo worms. 

For the fussy eater who prefers to cook their own insects, there are live options too. 

Newly hatched wasp larvae wriggle their heads out of their nest

Newly hatched wasp larvae wriggle their heads out of their nest

What is in there? Netting keeps this unseen creature inside its bamboo shoot.

What is in there? Netting keeps this unseen creature inside its bamboo shoot.

And there's more...  

Strips of buffalo skin

Strips of buffalo skin

Fresh honey

Fresh honey

Lao Lao, the highly potent local tipple

Lao Lao, the highly potent local tipple

Dried Chinese mushrooms. This market obviously caters to the medicinal crowd; there were also dried roots, herbs, scorpion potions, and other relics like that below...

Dried Chinese mushrooms. This market obviously caters to the medicinal crowd; there were also dried roots, herbs, scorpion potions, and other relics like that below...

"They are fake!" laughed a woman, upon seeing our startled faces. I truly hope so.

"They are fake!" laughed a woman, 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.

eatdrinklaos-mak-kai-chickens

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.

eatdrinklaos-mak-kai-baby-rabbits
eatdrinklaos-mak-kai-baby-turtles

Over on the other side, there were some fishy stalls too.

These looked like young catfish to me

These looked like young catfish to me

Snails - harvested from pretty much anywhere

Snails - harvested from pretty much anywhere

River weed, this stuff is actually really tasty

River weed, this stuff is actually really 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.

eatdrinklaos-mak-kai-veggies
eatdrinklaos-mak-kai-fruit

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.

Happy eating!