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Saigon’s seafood kingdom by night

By VnExpress   August 6, 2016 | 07:30 am GMT+7

A fishy part of the city comes alive as the night reigns supreme.

Vietnamese haven't really taken up the habit of going to surpermarkets and planning meals a week or month ahead. They prefer fresh food, leading to the everyday ritual of going to the market in the morning. This demand has given way to a supply chain that develops itself in the best way to cater to this lifestyle. Large roofs over areas called ‘cho’ (bazaar) are thus found across Vietnam, both under authorities’ control and impromptu.

Vietnamese also love seafood, especially urbanites who live far from waters. Those swimming creatures may be a norm to coastal residents but have long evolved to an indicator of a prosperous life inland.

The demand brought by increasing living standards has called for a larger-scale supply than neighborhood bazaars. Binh Dien wholesale bazaar a bit off central Saigon is just the answer bulk buyers need and a curious destination for those eager to get a taste of the city's "actual" nightlife.

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Sitting on the street of Nguyen Van Linh of District 8, Binh Dien is the biggest hub for seafood in southern Vietnam with an area of 20,000 square meters. Come nightfall the market lights up, but it reaches its height at midnight when boats and ships arrive at the dock nearby to unload seafood.

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Hundreds of fishes are on sale here, some even challenge the knowledge of seasoned housewives.

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A market dedicated to a sole kind of food is usually the wholesale supplier to traders or supermarkets rather than retail customers.

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The leading product here is basa fish, the fish that goes on to make fish nuggets and fish and chips.

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A seller spreads ice over fish as a way to keep them fresh.

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Squids and octopuses come at a few dollars per kilogram.

Chợ cá tươi rói ở Sài Gòn chỉ bán vào ban đêm

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Mackerels are chopped and sold fresh on site.

Chợ cá tươi rói ở Sài Gòn chỉ bán vào ban đêm

Their eggs are sold separately.

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“Iron shrimps”, as the locals call it, are one with a lot tastier flesh at the expense of a soft shell.

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“Ba khia”, a small-size crab of the Mekong Delta.

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Baby snakehead fish.

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'Ca bong' is a very familiar fish to Vietnamese, small enough to fry until bone-edible.

Chợ cá tươi rói ở Sài Gòn chỉ bán vào ban đêm

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Crabs from Ca Mau, the southernmost province of Vietnam, also arrive here.

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Pre-peeled snails.

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The market closes at 6 a.m., when almost everyone starts their day.

Photos by Mr. True

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Tags: saigon market