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Ridley Road Food Market (London)
Member Name: spankygoodtime
Ridley Road Food Market (London)
Date: 25/05/02, updated on 25/05/02 (235 review reads)
Advantages: Good selction of exotic fruit and veg, Great atmosphere
The drawback to many of London’s street markets is that they are only held on certain days. One notable exception to this is Ridley Road in Dalston, which is open every day of the week, so if you are in London for a short time and want to visit one of its many markets then consider coming here.
What you will find is not some trendy art and crafts market, but a road mingling with people from every corner of the globe selling or buying provisions of every sort in a vast cultural melting pot. The first thing that hits you is the noise. Reggae competes with Arabic music, then as you move on segues into hymns from one of the stands selling bibles and other religious materials. Then there are the smells. Smoke from the jerk chicken on the griddle at one of the Caribbean food stalls stings your eyes and assaults your nose then blends into curry as you move away.
The range of fruit and vegetables is amazing. Huge yams, sweet potatoes, plantains and custard apples jostle with asparagus and strawberries, along with some Asian fruits such as the durian. When I visited, seeing that strange fruit took me back to backpacking in Asia, as it is much loved in that part of the World. You only have to taste one once and it is almost certain you will never want to again. Once the fruit is cut, the smell is indescribable and I can assure you that if you go near one at Ridley Road you will know about it. When I visited this market, one vendor tried to get me to try some, but I have been there and tasted this disgusting fruit before. People from Asia love it, but they are well aware that to almost everyone else it tastes revolting. They find the expression on Europeans’ faces when they try durian very amusing, so don’t give any of the sellers the chance of a joke at your expense.
If you are a student looking for some cheap cutlery or a few pots and pans, you will think you have gone to heaven. Every other shop on the street is t
he type that offers all their goods for a pound, and how they all keep going, I really don’t know. All sorts of cheap household and gardening products are available at rock bottom prices. If you are having a party then check out one of the several shops on the street selling all kinds of fun stuff at prices that won’t break the bank.
This lively market has been held here for over a century and there are many family run butchers and fishmongers that have been situated here for many years. Take your pick from every cut and kind of meat imaginable, and I am not just talking about sheep, cows, chicken or pigs. Goat or horsemeat, can also be found if you know who to see.
If you like eating fish, then fresh cod and haddock might appeal, or one of the more exotic species such as red snapper or parrotfish. Or perhaps you’d like to carry a live conger eel home. But, whatever you do, remember to buy meat and fish from shops that keep their produce under proper refrigeration, as some of the shops on this street would keep an Environmental Health Officer busy for days. I saw uncovered plastic buckets full of unidentifiable meats and fish in spicy marinades, plonked in the street outside shops. As a chef who works with food all the time, there’s not a lot I can say.
I guess things like this just add to the unique character of this market which has caught the attention of more than one film producer. Any fan of the BBC series Maisie Raine starring Pauline Quirk, might have seen Ridley Road Market in some of the programmes as some of the scenes were shot here.
Dalston is not one of your trendy, yuppie areas of London and I hope it never will be. Many of the people here are immigrants from all over the World who have had it hard and have had experience of racial discrimination from the ignorant. But for the open minded visitor who has not come to gawk or pass judgement it has a character all of its own a
nd the market is well worth a look around.
Ridley Rd, Dalston E8 Open Mon-Wed, 9am-3pm Thurs 9am-noon, Fri & Sat 9am-5pm, Sun10am-3pm
Angel Tube then bus 30 or 38 (Cross the road)
British Rail: Dalston or Kingsland
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