Banzaan Market is one of our first stops when we arrive at Patong Beach on the island of Phuket in Thailand. The food stalls are brimming with fresh vegetables, exotic tropical fruits and the best assortment of fish and shell fish you will see anywhere in the world. This covered market is set on two levels, is clean and modern and has an escalator running to the second floor. All the better for getting your selection of succulent seafood hastily up to the cooking area to be prepared to exactly your taste.
The fruit displays are a visual feast, with purple dragon fruit, yellow and red papayas, luscious, blushing mangos, tangy pomelos, plump, nutritious mangosteens, rich red melons, the sweetest fresh lychees and the ‘king of fruit’, Durian, with its unforgettable pungent aroma, banned in most hotels and for good reason.
For those watching their waistlines, the freshest asian vegetables are in abundance. Look for the long crisp green snake beans and the small marble-like Thai egg plants, commonly used in Thai cooking. Apart from the many familiar vegetables we always find plenty of surprises. This time we found banana flowers used in Pad Thai, bitter melons used commonly in Thai curries and the greenest of herbs like ‘holy basil’ with its fragrant aniseed aroma for infusing Thai cooking with so much depth of flavour.
The seafood section is the jewel in the crown of the market. Huge quantities of fresh whole fish and prawns are neatly displayed on beds of glistening ice. Pearly flawless calamari and gigantic red and green, live lobsters with long waving tentacles await their destiny. Some of the stall owners sell live fish and prawns. Take the chance and plunge your hand into one of the water tubs and select your own ‘jumbo’ prawns, most weighing over a quarter of a kilo each.
Nearby there is the fresh chicken section. The cleavers are wielded to chop the chickens in every possible way. Here you’ll see a large range of yellow skinned, corn fed chickens on display. You can also buy fresh meat at the market, mostly pork. No Tesco plastic trays of meat sold here. Just point to what you would like and for only a few baht, it’s yours!
Often, when we are a travelling, we would love to buy the fresh produce but have no way of cooking it. This is not the case at Banzaan Market. In the upstairs section of the market there are about two dozen kitchen stalls that will cook any of the food you have purchased from the downstairs markets, for a small fee of course.
To organise our lunch at the market we first selected a live snapper. We watched it flip around on the scales, weighing in at about one kilogram. We then passed over two hundred Baht ($8 AUD) and soon our cleaned and scaled fat, fresh fish was ready for cooking. We also purchased two jumbo prawns, fairly pricey but worth the cost.
Upstairs we found a kitchen displaying the sign, ‘We Can Cook for You’. From the menu we selected the method of cooking. For the prawns we chose BBQ with garlic butter and the fish, deep fried with chilli salsa. While waiting we sipped on delicious cold young coconut juice straight from the shell. When our cooked seafood arrived at the table it looked delectable and the taste was spicy, fragrant and totally delicious. Served with some stir fried morning glory, our lunch was far better than any we might order at more renowned establishments.
To find the market, walk behind Phuket’s Jungceylon Shopping Centre to Sai Kor Road. There are a number of entrances to the market. There is also a small temple outside the market building that is worth a visit. At night the outside area becomes crowded with pop up stalls selling an array of souvenirs, trinkets and Thai style objets d’art. At about 6.30 the outdoor food market opens for dinner.
Whatever else you decide to do in Phuket, treat yourself to this unique and sumptuous experience at least once and we’re positive you’ll come back for more. Bon appétit! and as Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “the purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
We hope Banzaan Market (http://www.phuket.com/shopping/banzaan-market.htm#) has all this in store for you.
Know Before You Go
The market opens at 7am and closes at 5pm
Lunch time is the best time to visit.
Upstairs you will find the small kitchen stalls as well as others stalls selling clothes, flowers and toys.