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Marché international de Rungis – the new belly of Paris Peter Jones makes an early morning visit to the world's biggest fresh food market It was Emile Zola who named the huge food market of Paris called Les Halles, “the belly of Paris”. The wonderful Parisian photographer Robert Doisneau captured its vibrant life in photos for nearly 50 years before it was closed in 1969 after more than 800 years of trading, a piece of Paris history gone forever… Well, not quite. Peter Jones visits the International Market of Rungis, the replacement market on the outskirts of inner Paris. A few mind blowing figures first: Rungis International Market is the world’s largest wholesale fresh food market, in fact it’s larger than Monaco More than 8 billion euros a year are spent here every year More than 12,000 people work there
A guided tour of Rungis It’s not your usual tourist destination in Paris, but a tour of this incredible market makes for a fascinating visit. If you want to go to this market you need to get up very early in the morning, guided tours start at 5am. Fortunately it’s a quick trip from the centre of Paris. When you arrive here it feels like a bustling city within the city. Hundreds of lorries and vans of all types fill the streets - there are 26,000 vehicles delivering every day. It’s a mind blowing sight. Rungis is strictly wholesale, only holders of a purchasing card can buy and whilst the card is free, its issue is very strictly controlled and only available to professionals. Rungis operates when most of us are asleep with the main action taking place much earlier than the organised tour allows for. Take the Marée pavilion dedicated to shellfish and seafood. It’s one of the stars of Rungis opening for business at 2 am. Their proud boast is that they sell the freshest fish in France – it takes less than 24 hours from port to plate. Before the days of rapid transport, by the time fish arrived in the capital from the coast it was starting to go off. A skilful fishmonger would remove all the bad bits with a sharp knife leaving two “fillets“ of eatable fish - hence the term “fish fillets”. These days the port to plate process is speedy, hygienic and slick. The Triperie Pavilion is not for the squeamish or faint hearted. Looking like a scene from a horror film, there are bins full of entrails, kidneys, pigs trotters and bits you probably won't recognise. Particularly gruesome is a demonstration of the preparation of the great French classic Tete de Veau. A giant of a worker clad like a medieval knight in protective chain mail takes hold of the boiled head of a cow.
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