A Visit to a Hong Kong Wet Market
For those of us in Hong Kong, wet markets are a familiar fixture on many streets. Do you embrace or avoid them? Mehroo Turel, who has a fascinating blog From Miss India to Motherhood, gives us her insights into one of Hong Kong’s institutions.
I visited the wet market today and was struck by the variety of fresh fruits, flowers, vegetables, poultry, seafood and meat all under one roof. They hark back to the old Hold Kong before the reign of the supermarkets and are still very popular places to shop. It is certainly an assault on the senses as you walk in. My favourite section is the flower, fruit or the vegetable one which is rather more pleasant than the meat of fish section and the row upon row of green leafy vegetables gives you an indication of why the Chinese have ever-youthful skin. All the vegetables and fruits are stacked nicely and look absolutely fresh, almost as if picked a couple of hours ago. In fact this ‘freshness’ is the key to the success of the wet markets.
As I move across the market, I come to the seafood section where I hover around looking at the different kinds of fish trying to figure out which ones looked remotely close to the ones I was used to seeing in Mumbai. But I guess fish look very different when they are alive! Most of them are kept in big buckets of water or small aquariums, crowded together, with barely any moving or breathing space not that it matters much as within a few minutes a hand goes down to pick up one, which gives a bit of a lifeless struggle before it is plopped down. Fresh till its last breath! In Mumbai, the lady of the house loves to give a hard time to the local fish monger who has to walk up three or four stories to deliver his produce, arguing that his fish is not fresh or that it is too expensive. So is this the freshness we are looking for? Well I prefer not to be labelled murderer so I just point out to the already dead (maybe 30 minutes ago) fish on be the table, quickly dish out the money and walk away.
Now moving to the meat section. Thankfully out here I don’t have to worry about watching anything die, as the pigs are already slaughtered and are hanging by hooks neatly in a row, sorted according to their body parts. So for example you have legs, followed by knuckles, ribs, necks, shoulders, then heads and in some places I have also seen tails! The smell of fresh blood and flesh is unbearable for me though so I quickly move on ahead to pass the poultry section which again has nothing alive but dead chicken hanging de-feathered from their thin necks. You can also get black and yellow colour chicken out here which I have never tried. But the main delicacy of Hong Kong is chicken feet which are loved by kids and adults alike!
So far, so good. But what caught me off guard the first time I visited a wet market is the sight of hundreds of frogs, all ALIVE and all just put together in a big plastic container with a net on top of their heads, to obviously prevent them from jumping out. My sons were quite fascinated by this sight and every time we passed the wet market, they would want to go inside and touch the frogs! There were crabs too trying to crawl out of their tightly bound ropes, and turtles – ALIVE again! I wonder how human beings can get away with eating all these creatures! I mean I know I am a preferred vegetarian so I will obviously frown at all these sights. I am not against people eating any of these, it’s their choice, it’s their culture, their tradition, but my point is can’t they just sell them dead? Will it be so ‘stale’ to do that?
Now to top it all and this is recent finding in a local market that I visited, I think I saw snakes! All ALIVE! Swimming in a bucket of water! I made a wild dash for the nearest exit!
Wet markets may not be to everyone’s taste, but the fruit, vegetables and flowers are so well priced, fresh and appealing that next time you walk past one, pay a visit and enjoy a different way to shop.
From Miss India to Motherhood creator Mehroo describes herself as the home maker, the mother, the wife….a long way from the model, the “almost” Ms. India 1994. Somewhere in between riding horses, bikes and struggling to save street dogs, she did her masters in business management and landed with a marketing job at one of India’s most reputed business houses. From climbing the corporate ladder to becoming a mother, life has taken a completely different route. Moving from Mumbai, India where she was born and brought up, to Hong Kong, then to London and then back to Hong Kong, she is living her life to the fullest!