Sunday, February 01, 2009

Vietnamese Delights

Crimeny! This joint is crowded and hopping with people trying to navigate the aisles. I went to the Phu Cuong Market on the corner of Pearl Street and Dot Ave to pick up some mung bean sprouts for a special dinner. Unfortunately, I was shouldering my Chrome messenger bag to carry my purchase home and it made me the biggest person in the building. The aisles are narrow and the produce spills into traffic. As if the layout didn't provide enough obstacles, the store is full of people pinching the fruit, sniffing the vegetables and poking at the seafood to test for freshness.

This blue, ceramic-tiled building may not be the most appealing establishment but it's busy. I can't say it's the busiest in the neighborhood though. It is right across the street from the Ba-Le Bakery (buy two baguettes get one free!) where patrons tie up traffic by double parking and milling about the thoroughfare with bags laden with sandwiches and, of course, baguettes. Dorchester is a busy place but this intersection takes the cake. I don't want to imply it's a nuisance, because it's not. Who can begrudge success? Besides, this little knot in Dot Ave's tapestry provides a chance to stop and enjoy the locale rather than speeding by.

The shop's congestion must be good for business. Once I located the bean sprouts I had come for, I was trapped in an eddy of fellow patrons grabbing for daikon in one direction and a cross-current of people shopping for basil. The situation made me notice and pick up a bag of fresh chilies and a pound of greens I've never seen before. They smelled good so I thought I'd add them to the stovetop. While waiting in line at the counter I was buffeted back by the crowd, so I impulsively picked up a bottle of hoisin sauce as I watched one of the staff hoist some eels out of a try-bucket. All around me was bustle and commerce. When I finally had my purchases rung up they totaled $6.35, considerably more than I would have spent if I had just walked in, picked up my sprouts, and walked out.

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