a trip to the wet market

written by jun

there’s no shortage of grocery stores in hong kong. in my neighborhood, there are 4 wellcomes (chain grocery stores) all within a 5-minute walk from each other. despite the obvious local dominance, i always prefer walking a little further to the wet market (aka farmers market). if you’re squeamish about weird smells and dirty floors, then may i suggest you shop at the chain stores. but for those with an iron stomach or a stuffy nose, this is where you want to shop.

preserved meats and dried fish

preserved meats and dried fish

prices are obviously cheaper compared to the grocery stores. but that’s not the main reason why i come here. it’s for the freshness and variety. as i pass through each stall, i can tell that the veggies were just pulled from the soil this morning, the seafood is alive and kicking, and the meat is so freshly butchered that it needs no refrigeration (more on that later).

fresh veggies

live seafood

live seafood

fruits

noodles and tofu products

fish

fish

still clucking

today i felt like making stir-fry pork neck and beans for dinner. i like long beans over the regular string beans because the texture is chewier and the flavor is sweeter. pork neck meat is highly marbled with fat so it’s super moist… it’s the new pork chop! technically, pork neck meat is pork cheek. why they call it pork neck, i have no idea.

as i pass by each stand, the vendor (typically a middle aged lady) will loudly ask me “what do you want?” it’s not as rude as it sounds. it’s their way of saying “what would you like to buy”, especially if you show the slightest interest or slowly gaze at their produce. usually, these ladies will follow that question with “leng jai” which literally means “handsome man”. before you jump to any conclusions, realize that it is very common for elderly ladies to call young men “leng jai”, even if the person is far from the truth.

now, here’s a little secret you may or may not know about the bonus of buying at the wet market. they give you free green onions! when i bought groceries for the first time, this lady put a small bundle of green onions in my bag along with my purchase. i thought “wow” she is extremely nice and generous. or maybe it was because i gave her a warm smile and that brightened up her day. but no, it turns out she passes it out to every customer. and i thought i was special…

now, about the meat. to a person from a western society, meat should be refrigerated at all times. it’s been drilled into our heads that if we leave meat out at room temperature, bacteria will multiply like rabbits on viagra. so you can imagine my surprise when i saw numerous pieces of raw pork dangling on a steel rod, in the middle of summer, no less. back in the States, this would be a big no no!

how can people consume meat that’s been sitting out in the open for hours and not get sick? well, i had to gutsy up and find out for myself. the worst that can happen is i get food poisoning; which i don’t mind because it’s a quick way to lose weight (though not the healthiest). i took home a piece of pork and cooked the hell out of it. after a few days, nothing happened, i felt fine. to this day, i continue to buy my proteins this way and have yet fallen victim to the unrefrigerated meat.

hanging pork

hanging pork

after a brisk 30-minute trip to the wet market, this is what i came home with… a piece of pork neck (hkd 11), a small bundle of long beans (hkd 4), and a couple of stalks of green onions (free!!). total cost was hkd 15, which converts to roughly usd 2 . now that’s a deal.

wet market

p.s. for those health-conscious food-lovers who were startled by the hanging meat: i am still perfectly healthy and alive after eating those for more than 25 years. have fun shopping! by priscilla

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