Phu Quoc Night Market Dinner – 105 of 365

Choosing seafood for the grill

Nine hours on a motorbike exploring this island’s rutted red dirt roads well off the tourist trail yielded a few nice surprises such as a great shrimp and pork lunch, women laying out fish to dry and even a few fish sauce factories stinking the humid air up to high heaven.   But who would have known this conservative island caters to some more unusual tastes through women known locally as “ecological girls” or “clean vegetables.”  Just when I think I have heard of it all, along comes Vietnam to dump a new one on me.

A local man named Vu explained wealthy businessmen hire these so called clean vegetables for a day or two of nude frolicking in the surf and sand, and these girls view themselves as high class entrepreneurs rather than the run of the mill prostitutes whom they consider dirty and less than fresh.   Indeed, this island turns out to offer different strokes for different folks, and I got the distinct impression Vu might be a vegetable broker of sorts when he mentioned he could arrange some evening fun.

Dinner on the grill

No thanks, I’ll pass.   Earlier I had met a German couple anyhow, and we were more interested in sampling island delights of a different kind.  Frank, Kathrin, and I aimed our motorbikes at the Night Market in Duong Dong Town on the quest for the elusive foodgasm and descended into the crowd.

This strip of very basic restaurants comes to life after dark along a jam packed pedestrian zone dedicated to a more legitimate tourist trade.   Imagine tarp covered open air joints with display tables of every seafood these same very waters hosting frolicking ecological girls could ever think about producing.  My new friends and I randomly chose one called “Sand Food,” and the English speaking owner, Quyen, guided us through his freshest of fresh selections.  I swear he could make a seafood lover out of anyone with his enthusiasm for ocean treats.

Within minutes our mound of seafood was cooking away on a smoking charcoal grill.   Tuna kebabs with pineapple, carrots, eggplant, and a sweet marinade; sea urchin with peanuts and seasoned oil; spicy grilled tuna fillets; and plain calamari were my smorgasbord.  At a whopping 50 cents, the sea urchin was one of the more unusual choices of the evening.   The thin black layer of whatever that is on the inside of the shell is scraped away with a spoon and the salty taste smacks of the ocean.  I liked it enough to order two more.  All this gut stuffing goodness plus a 333 brand beer to digest it all cost less than $10.

Grilled Sea Urchin

Yes, it’s totally on the tourist trail.  It’s overrun by the sunburned masses.  It’s really not a “local” experience at all with English menus and sanitized surroundings.  And you know what?  I love this place.  I would travel back to Phu Quoc just to sample the far from run of the mill Night Market again.  It’s really that good, cheap, and fresh.

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Categories: Vietnamese Food

One Comment on “Phu Quoc Night Market Dinner – 105 of 365”

  1. idadownunder
    March 30, 2012 at 9:09 am #

    Hi:) I´m a nutritionist student from Perth (Australia), and i´m having a project about the food culture from Vietnam. Found your blog really exiting and going to follow your food journey:) Cheers, Ida

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