Although Hong Kong is filled with an ample amount of restaurants, local food culture still starts at the source – at home with family. While dining out is easy and convenient, traditional family life still revolves around having dinner together, which is normally cooked with ingredients purchased the day of. Housewives and helpers usually spend their mornings shopping for fresh ingredients to be used for dinner that night, and the routine begins again the next day. There are a handful of chain grocery stores throughout the city, but the wet markets reign supreme in terms of choice, price, and freshness.
Wet markets are a staple in Hong Kong and each district has at least one. Besides being a place to shop for fresh food items, wet markets also sell lifestyle goods and often house small, hole-in-the-wall restaurants that serve everything from classic Cantonese to Italian cuisine. Fresh fruit and vegetables are at peak freshness in the morning and fishmongers display swimming fish, shrimp, and clams throughout the day. There are also stations for butchers that can provide various cuts of pork on the spot. Some stalls even have live chickens that are butchered on site.
While wet markets offer insight into the culture and eating habits of HK locals, they also provide an opportunity for them to run small businesses. Rent is usually more affordable because of the shared location and lack of amenities such as air conditioning and tablecloth service; however, grocery store chains have somewhat usurped the need for wet markets. These chains have become one-stop shops with buying power, allowing them to price their goods lower than wet markets can afford. But even though the convenience of grocery stores is alluring, it’s important to appreciate and understand the significance of wet markets. They not only build communities, but consistently provide high quality, seasonal ingredients at their most fresh and, usually, straight from the source.