If you’re in Hong Kong for the long-haul – and maybe even searching for that elusive creature, the “real Hong Kong” – you probably already know that the supermarket isn’t your only option. Hong Kong still has plenty of accessible wet markets, where you’ll save money while encountering some of the freshest meat and produce the region has to offer.
Wet markets are known as such because the frequency with which they undergo hosing down. The ground has to be constantly cleaned, because of the “run off” of organic matter. These wet markets have long been apart of life in Hong Kong. These days, practically every Hong Kong neighborhood has their own government-operated market building, well-stocked with vendors selling fruit, veggies, seafood, meat and dry goods, almost by virtue of necessity. But not all wet markets were created equal. We chose five, based on their quality, affordability, and atmosphere.
A couple things to keep in mind: meat and vegetables are typically sold by catty (斤, gan in Cantonese) which is half a kilo or about 1.1 pounds. Vendors restock their goods twice a day, typically, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. If a good deal matters more to you than freshness, head over in the evening, when vendors are looking over what they didn’t sell rather than what they could.
Hong Kong’s oldest continuously operating street market, this Graham Street operation has been around for more than a century and a half. And you should go while you can: over the next few years, there are plans to redevelop, and move all existing stalls indoors.
Until then, this remains one of the most atmospheric markets in Hong Kong, with dozens of vendors lining the narrow street just above Central– a regular antidote to international CBD vibes.
There are also many dry goods stores located behind the market stalls, including the excellent Kowloon Soy Company (9 Graham St.), which makes its own cooking sauces. Yiu Fat Seafoods (13 Gage St.) is considered to sell some of the best seafood in Central.
If you struggle with Cantonese, Graham Street is by far the most English-friendly of the wet market operations in Hong Kong, with many English signs and vendors who are willing to engage in English.
Add: between Queen’s Road Central and Hollywood Road, Central
Clean, spacious and buzzing with activity, this is the place to hit up for your milk, honey, locally grown produce, etc. Start with the Organic Grocery stall at W23, then explore until you have what you need.
On the off chance that doesn’t cut it, and you can’t find something specific – or if the air con renders this experience a little in authentic – pay a visit to Fu Shin Street nearby. Fu Shin has its own churning street market where vendors are hard at work screaming to inform you of various deals.
Add: 8 Heung Sze Wui St., Tai Po District, New Territories
With 581 stalls, this is one of the largest wet markets in Hong Kong. Regular customers include celebrities like food critic Chua Lam and movie star Chow Yun-fat, who regularly attest to the quality of vendors like Lee Fai Kee (stall M14), which sells high-grade American beef.
The markets reputation have made it crowded, and there’s now an abundance of great restaurants in the neighborhood using the market’s ingredients. You should also check out King’s (65 Hau Wong) while you’re in the neighborhood. They have all kinds of great Taiwanese imports you’d have a hard time finding elsewhere. You also have access to a community of Thai importers in this area if you’re curious.
Add: 100 Nga Tsin Wai Road, Kowloon City
Conveniently located a few blocks from Causeway Bay’s still-proliferating cache of retail outlets, Bowrington Road means you could conceivably pick up designer shoes and raw seafood on the same errand. The market itself consists of both a variety of outdoor stalls and an indoor market hall.
Between the two, you can find pretty much anything here. But the draw is, as mentioned, seafood.
Bowrington Road is also one of the few wet markets whose food stalls stay open until late. That means if you forgot, this is your spot.
Add: 21 Bowrington Road, Wan Chai
That’s how it is that here, in one of Hong Kong’s most unusual wet markets (the tram runs through it) you can broaden your culinary horizons with sacha sauce (soybean oil, chili peppers, brill fish, shrimp, garlic and shallots), mi soa wheat noodles, and stuffed fish balls. Several different Fujianese grocery stores can also be found on Chun Yeung.
If you leave the area without what you’re looking for, you’ll probably have a few things you weren’t looking for. And that’s all for the better. But you also have another shot at the considerable market on Java Road, one block north. Pass that, and you’ll encounter an excellent seafood market in the North Point ferry terminal.
Add: Chun Yeung Street, North Point, Hong Kong Island