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You are here:      Home News The Market of my childhood
The Market of my childhood

Hang Be market2People usually go to the market every day where you can catch the whiff of corn steamed glutinous rice cooked with dried onion, the smell of scented pommel leaves in season. Oh yes! How I remember the old days.

The smell of corn steamed glutinous rice cooked with dried onions and the scent of ripe pommel leaves still reminds me if my childhood. The taste of the crisp salty white eggplant takes me black to those summer afternoons spent shopping at the Hang Be Market with my mother. Oh, how I am reminded of the old days as I return to the market of my childhood.


During a time of financial hardship, my childhood home was located on Hang Bac Street near the old Hang Be Market. Some of my favorite childhood memories include going to the market with my mother during those days. The highlight of my day mane when I would find myself at the market eating balut and drinking a glass of cold black bean juice while my mother waited on the seller on the weigh out the young green rice wrapped in heavily scented green lotus leaves. After collecting the young green rice, we would head over to the ban seller where my mother would head over to the banana seller where my mother would carefully choose the best bananas for my favorite dish, young green rice with bananas. Many warm and unforgettable childhood memories were created for my sister and I as we looked forward to the luxurious treat my mother would prepare for us during those difficult days.

Thirty years have passed since those bittersweet days of my youth. As I walk up to the Hang Be Market, I realize that the market is even older than that. I asked a group of nearby elderly women how long the market has been here. They tell me, “a thousand years” and begin to recall the days when the market was in the middle of crossroads, where you could buy shrimp, fish, vegetables, and all kinds of leaves and flowers. In those down by the sellers when the market closed. The old women told me about it once being move to Tran Nhat Duat Streets (near the clock tower,) but it wasn’t safe for buyers and sellers so they moved it back to Hang Be Steer used to run along the old Red River dyke. When the river flowed high, it would rise up to the foot of the dyke, allowing rafts and boats to transport goods to the market from areas further up the river. That’s why it is called Hang Be. Eventually trading boats began to rush to the more accessible central market area bringing all kinds of edible goods with them, including sugar, fish fins, prawns, dried areca from Quy Nhon and Binh Dinh. Other products like rice blows, votive paper, fabrics, copper pots, and brass trays also eventually made their way to the market as well. In the 1920’s and 1930’s people took up half the street, setting up stalls to sell their products. Gradually the market grew and extended along four streets Gia Ngu, Yen The, Hang Be, and Cau Go streets where fish and vegetable were sold.

Though the market sold just about any things could possibly need, it was most popular for selling four main ingredients used in the most common dish. Processed foods were the pioneered dog meat, shredded salted pork, chicken, fish, and boiled shrimp paste with meat and fish sauce. S I walked through the market looking at the cooked bananas, soya curd with meat, simmered eel with banana and soya curd, or aborigine cooked with meat. I thought to myself; who can resist not trying something.

Moving away from the many tempting food choices, I walked to the middle of the crossroads where there was stall selling famous Da Sy knifes and steel scours. On the corner of Cau Go Street, I came across the stall of Do Thi Phuong, who sells all kinds of leaves, herbs, and spices. She told me that her house is in the Dai Yen Village down to her stall has been has been here for 55 years. It was handed down to her from her mother, Do Thi Quang. Her family history is tied that stall.

In the middle of the market is the famous salted vegetable and eggplant stall of 80 –year old, Pham Thi Hoi, who is known as Mrs.Boong. Her eyes are weak and dull now, but they light up every time she talks about the past, pointing out to me that she has been working at the market since before she was married. She started working at the market when she was only 15-years. She tells me about a market manager who acted as a master, compelling her to greet him as a mandarin, when they mit.

On the corner of Hang Be Street, you can still find famous stall of Mrs. Truong Tan selling Thanh Hoa bamboo baskets. Born in 1923, she has since passed away but the daughter, Nguyen Thi Lien, born in 1951m has taken the 60-year old family business. At another corner of the market on Gia Ngu Street you will find Mrs. An still selling glutinous corn rice and steamed glutinous rice as the has been doing for 50 years. The market is full of history.

However, despite its long-standing history with Hang Be Street, the market will soon be relocated to another area. Although everybody is aware of it, no one likes to talk about it because it makes so many people sad. I can’t help but sympathize with them. Once again I am reminded of my own childhood memories attached to this market.


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