The Old Oakland Farmers Market was one of my favorites when I used to live in the east bay. It's unpretentious yet exotic culture makes it distinct. Its the size of four city blocks and lasts almost all day 8am-3pm every Friday. Last week I found myself missing the market, missing the simplicity of Oakland, and with an urge to get out of from San Francisco I made the trek across the bay
Some things about my visit I found alluring:
Tablecloths. They really work it at the market. Newly in season tomatoes pop against a wild black and white zebra print. Lemons look abundant while they blend in with their clothy counterparts. Sometimes the tables are just colorful and fun.
Asian families, not hipsters run this market. Instead of your usual hip and crunchy vibes from other markets I'm refreshed to find parents and children that hang out together. At one stand a young girl worked beside her parents while chatting me up. She suggested getting a leafy green i'd never seen before. She said it was called Shamu. I'm a little hard of hearing so could be wrong but I couldn't help but think of the famous spotty whale from that movie. It looked and taste a lot like a version of a pea green but with smaller stems. At another stand there was a young chubby kid just hanging out. He sat on empty produce boxes playing and working on his knife skills while his parents worked the crowd. I asked how to use some green I hadn't seen before. He said, "i don't know". I moved on thinking that was just fine how wouldn't know either.
What's popular at the market are crops with fresh flavors, asian produce, herbs, fish, sweets, and bright colorful flowers that I and nearby chinatown residents love. That morning I came across my new favorite herb. It's called Rau Ram. It's coriander like, a bit spicy, musky, and slightly lemony & bitter. The woman who was selling it said she loved it in chicken salad but it's really great in almost anything, lettuce wraps, soups, etc. Prices are cheap too are at this market. You can walk away with a weeks worth of produce for a family for about 20-30 bucks.
I decided to leave the market with the fixings for a light and herbaceous side salad for dinner. I bought a pound of cucumbers, a bunch of rau ram, thai basil, cilantro, and a red onion. There's no one way to make this salad. You can cut the cucumbers anyway you like. The onion should be thinly sliced though so they really soak up the dressing. The dressing I made was fish sauce, vinegar, lime, oil, and a little sugar. Just toss the cucumbers, onions, and your picked herbs together and you're set.