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Sep 21, 2001 09:24 PM

tamales + stuff at the Old Oakland farmers market

  • p

The farmers market held every friday morning in Oakland on 9th St between Broadway + Clay is worth a visit, if you like cheap fresh vegetables -- some that I have not seen anywhere else.

I like to buy things and then figure out what to do with them later. Last week I got a big winter melon and made a delicious and simple soup; I got a few daikons, and made some kimchi (which is still fermenting, so i have no idea if it worked or not); and as this week, I loaded up on the fresh black-eyed peas, which always go early since everyone seems to want to do SOMETHING with them (last week we made a version of Indian dosa pancakes with them...amazing!).

One thing to remember is that though it's a very high-density market with lots of intimidatingly weird produce and diligent, fast-moving shoppers, _every one_ of the sellers I've talked to is very happy to answer questions and was very helpful. For that matter, a lot of the shoppers are pretty talkative, as long as you don't start taking the good peas out from under their noses.

OK, the food! We got to the market a little early, and the tamales weren't hot yet, so I got us a bockwurst to eat with our morning coffee. The bockwurst was procured from a stand on Washington just north of 9th. I don't remember the name. They make sausages, they're based in Lodi, and they sell sausages packaged as well as to eat there. I got the bockwurst with sauerkraut, onions, and mustard. It came warmed on a steamed bun. I'd never had bockwurst before today -- I got it cuz it was the only non-chicken sausage other than Andouille, which was too spicy for 8am. Bockwurst is one of those white sausages, like brats, I guess. It was really good, very mild, just barely flavored with onions and milk. One of the only sausages I've had where I've appreciated the chewy texture of the casing.

After the sausage, we wandered around and loaded up our packs with produce...this week I got a bag of tiny red pipin chiles, to pickle in sherry; a bundle of lemongrass; some big white peaches that I enjoyed from last week; and some tiny scallions that look like green onions but have a reddish tint and smell like garlic. Along with a bunch of other stuff I don't remember.

One thing to not bother with, unfortunately, is the stand with indian breads and pre-made sauces, at the corner of 9th and washington. I got some lentil roti there last week, and it was overpriced, and very uninteresting -- rubbery, even. 4 bucks for six small flatbreads. Or, you can get eight pounds of winter melon. Your call.

Before we left we hit the tamale stand on Washington just below 10th. The tamales are $2 each (or $18 the dozen) and they are pretty big as tamales go, in my experience. They have pork, chicken, green chile/cheese and some others. Holly and I tried the pork and the greenchile/cheese. They are very simple, just a big roll of steamed masa around the filling...I'm familiar with pork en adobo in tamales, but here they just seem to steam the pork and present it un-spiced. Most of the spicing, which i'm guessing is a little lime and some salt, goes into the masa. It's a delicate, simple taste that I really enjoyed, especially for breakfast, but I'll be interested to see what more dedicated tamale fans will have to say. The tamale stand is run by All Star Tamales and Deli, based in Pittsburg, 925-252-1097. They're there every week.

thanks for reading, and happy eating


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  1. Thanks for the update, Patrick. Isn't it nice when there's hot, immediately consumable food available too?

    Here's link to the recent chowhound outing to the Oakland farmers market.


    5 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      I'm curious, how are the prices at the Oakland's farmer market? I live in the city and the Ferry Terminal market has such high prices. I don't know it's because they are selling organic stuff or because they figure it's San Francisco so they can stick it to the yuppies more? Fruits and vegetables that I regularly see in Chinatown's vegetable stands for 79 cents a pound are sold for $2 dollar a pound! When I use to live in the central valley, the farmer's market there sold excellent food at a fractional cost of supermarkets. In San Francisco, it's the opposite. At those prices, I just can't afford to buy at the Ferry Terminal markets.

      1. re: Wendy Lai
        Rochelle McCune

        You might want to try the Alemany or Civic Center Farmer's Market both of which have cheaper prices than the Ferry Terminal Market. They don't have as much organic produce and they aren't as upscale, but they have good, fresh produce and I prefer the democratic atmosphere, if that makes sense.

        1. re: Rochelle McCune

          It's been noted here before that prices are lower at the Old Oakland FM -- it's a more "downscale" atmosphere -- the emphasis is less on pristine organic and heirloom produce and more on ethnic specialties. Because it is immediately adjacent to Oakland Chinatown, the prices have to be more competitive. It's also less like a fair than some and more for "serious" shopping.

          I actually like the Jack Londo Square Farmer's Market for a happy medium: they have a wide selection of both fancy, high-priced produce and less expensive stuff, a full range of prepared foods, and usually music and a festive atmosphere.

        2. re: Wendy Lai

          I havent been to the ferry terminal market (or, really, any farmers market other than the Old Oakland) but I can echo everyone's responses and say that the Old Oakland market is definitely a bargain. Daikons and wintermelon go for .50/lb, the most expensive non-organic item i found was tiny red thai chiles, at one to three bucks a pound, depending on where you get them.

          There are a few organic stands at Old Oakland, but they are clearly a specialty. One of them had some tiny delicate organic long beans that I hope to try someday.

          There is also a smattering of stands selling pricier stuff like handmade soap, jewellery, etc, but the main reason to go to the Old Oakland is to stock up on very fresh, very cheap, very non-organic produce.

          1. re: Wendy Lai

            The customers at the two Saturday markets I frequent in Sonoma County - Santa Rosa Veteran's Memorial and principally the one in Healdsburg - grumble that the local vendors are sending the majority of their stuff down to Ferry Plaza. Can't say I blame them though, as they get twice as much for their produce.