Visiting traditional food markets in foreign countries is one of the best ways to peer into everyday life and understand the appetites and traditions of the local people. I recently spent some time in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, commonly known as Jogja, the second most important tourist destination in the country, after Bali (currently experiencing the boom effect of Eat, Pray, Love). It's a university town and a center of Javanese culture, with many artisanal workshops devoted to batik, silver and puppets. On my visit, I spent hours in Beringharjo market, a labyrinthine, open-air edifice built in 1758 on the site of a former banyan tree forest.
The place is teeming with humanity. Sullen youths smoking clove cigarettes, wizened old ladies hunched over baskets of shallots, krupuk sellers, batik-clad matrons shopping for fish, the occasional leathery homeless man brandishing a tin begging cup. Equally compelling are the local ingredients and specialties, from fresh vegetables and meats to fried tofu and tempeh, bubbling soups and grilled satays. What's most fascinating to me are the things we rarely see in our markets at home, the evidence of a culture that wastes nothing -- not the water buffalo skin, the animal blood, the pigs' heads. This is nose-to-tail eating as it has always been practiced in poorer communities and it shows ingenuity, tradition and a great respect for the whole animal.
For more photos of Indonesian markets, foods and crafts, visit http://gluttonforlife.com