Back again about the mercado yesterday, the heat kicked my butt, thank god I brought enough water to last the day. I walked from the hotel about 5 blocks to the Ben Thanh market, a huge market in the middle of the city, probably 5 to 6 square blocks in area. My research so far has been pretty much stifled with all the meetings and visits to museums and state sponsored monuments in and around the area. For the food, well quite honestly it's been for the most part marginal at best, ( from my perspective my opinion only ) it's hit and miss, some meals have been exceptional, and some just plain sucked. The company that is coordinating the trip has pre scheduled and selected all of our meals for us, and many in our group are not happy with the arrangement for obvious reasons, for me how do I research something I have no control over. So yesterday was my first chance to do some real research, and Ben Thanh was the place, very thing from soup to nuts and then some. As a ServSafe instructor, it was a food safety and sanitation night mare. The majority of proteins from fish, pork beef, poultry etc. are left out in the open for hours under little or no refrigeration, and cross contamination obviously is not in their vocabulary. I's pretty much 3rd world in practice here, but in reality you do with what you have to survive. The fresh seafood on the other hand is hands down the most beautiful and freshest I have ever seen. The fresh water prawns are farm raised and sold live, and are the U-1's and 2 category. For those of you that are not familiar with the term, "U count" is the number of product, in this case prawns or large shrimp, that are available at or under a pound, so U-1 means that, that particular prawn weighs approximately 1 pound, if they are U-2's, 2 shrimp weigh approximately 1/2 pound each, them there are some big puppies my friend, in the hands of an experienced cook, spliced down the middle, a little salt, pepper, bushed with drawn butter again nirvana on the grill with a little butter, fresh lemon juice lightly chopped caper and dill sauce, man don't get me started. The killer here is that at home you would be paying about $18 to $25 a pound for these guys, here you're looking at $4 to $8 a pound, and that's just one species of seafood, you also have the fresh shellfish, squid, octopus you name it it's here. It's getting late, and we have another meeting to go to in the morning, after that we have all of 3 hours to shop, or in my case I'm going to take a few of my colleagues to the market to show them what I found, on saturday we leave the hotel and head for a couple of day's on the Mekong Delta to study the indigenous people that live on the river, (mixed emotions on my end, for obvious reasons, but I'll leave it at that, I'm here to do research). Hope you like the shots.