I love markets, wet markets. Can spend hours walking the stalls, comparing the prices, looking at other people and what they buy. Somehow I cannot exercise same level of interest for clothes, pets, electronics or souvenirs, food will always will be my favourite.
Hong Kong served me right here, there are a few major wet markets absolutely worth visiting which I am going to tell about.
It is easy to find each and every place on google maps with the simplest search “market”, the result will be very precise unlike other countries where shit is not where it is supposed to be according to maps 😅
cooked food centres are packed with many small restaurants each cooking from what you can buy in the market and each having their own menu
Every wet market takes up its own building, where on the first floors and basement you will find meat, fish, produce, household goods and stuff and on the last floor will be a cooked food centre – it’s like a food court, but without mcdonalds. Cooked food centres are packed with many small restaurants each cooking from what you can buy in the market and each having their own menu. Pics are not popular there, and your best bet is to tour the floor and see what others got on their plates and choose from that (either this or learn Chinese). Lunch hours are the busiest and in the evening (at 7pm mostly) the small places close and whole floor is taken up by one restaurant (that’s how they do it in Bowrington market for example). While officially the market itself is the building, the area nearby is also full of produce stalls, shops, street food and cafes.
All markets are municipal and all are very closely monitored by sanitary and health officials (there is a whole sanitary inspection office right on the third floor of Kowloon market, for example), which does not mean that these places will ever meet European standards of “clean” and “nice”. They are crowded, smell of meat, fish, veggies, hot cooking oil, roast duck and beef brisket, all with a slight whiff of detergent, which is not to say it is unpleasant, just specific and takes a bit of time to adjust to. The buildings themselves are grimy as only a very busy place serving food can be, if you come here to eat you realise you pay only for food with no service, interior or brand name to talk about, and the food is totally worth it.
mind you, you will not find too many tourists at the wet markets and it’s all up to you whether that’s an advantage or not
There are three major wet markets that every guide suggests to visit, here they are:
Bowrington Road Market and cooked food centre.
This one is supposed to be the biggest one with the best cooked food centre that you can find. The place we fell for was Wai Kee – they sell delicious curry, the price tag is cheap, a young guy who helped us to the table happened to be the son of the owner who was studying in Europe but came home for vacation to help with the restaurant that the family was running for over 70 years already. I am not the one to comment on the quality of meat and fish sold there, being a tourists i do not have use for anything that you need to cook, but I would certainly buy from there if I could – the fish and prawns looked fantastic. The fruit was good and if you wandered the stalls for a while you could really get yourself a nice deal for papaya or ripe dragonfuit.
Kowloon City Market and cooked food centre
Come here to buy sweet thai mango and try sweet mango rice at Amporn Thaifood at the cooked food centre. The place is well known for thai cuisine and both thai and local hongkongese produce. It is not my personal favourite, as I found it somewhat more expesive than Bowrington and, let’s face it, I was not in search for Thailand experience, not yet at least.
Java Road Market and cooked food centre
This one is the most Chinese (yet I still find it a bit tricky to differentiate between different levels here 😂). This one is famous for seafood, which, while you can buy seafood everywhere is considered to be somewhat better here. The go-to place is Tung Po, but with lots of publicity this place is a bit pricey for its location and since we are talking seafood the meal will not come out cheap.
What else is out there?
The fabled Temple Street Night Market is also all about food. The whole street is turned into a foodcourt with makeshift tables filling all space except for a small pedestrian path in the middle. The specialty here is seafood thus the whole thing is quite pricey, but fully packed with locals who take out their whole families for a feast of crab, prawn and various oysters and mussels. Mind you, you do not want to see what the backs of each restaurant look like from the parallel alley. 50$ would make decent seafood dinner for two. If you are not into spending heavy cash on grilled prawns, go buy yourself an ipnone charging cable, an electric fan or a pair of brightly coloured chopsticks and a jewelled pocket mirror. The space not claimed by food vendors is occupied by stalls selling souvenir junk and cheap Chinese electronics (to be fair a 3$ ipnone charger still serves us pretty well).
By the way, if you are not into browsing sketchy electronic appliances at night you can do the same by day at Apliu street, where they have all the same and more junk (literally junk).
And if you need souvenirs, cheap linen, plastic toys and stuff like that by day, there is Ladies Market (that’s just sexist, but that’s what they call it) – nothing useful for me there, but then again I am mostly impartial to things that are not food.
For those who are into taking pictures try out Goldfish Market and Bird Market (they also have Flower Market in the same neighbourhood and you will probably walk by anyway, but there is not much to talk about – just a street where every shop sells houseplants and flowers).
The first one sells aquarium fish in plastic bags which looks kinda cute and has a few shops where you can buy really expensive grown-up specimen and the second sells (as you might have guessed) birds, has a few wacko parrots on display. Hope you are not afraid of bugs – they sell grasshoppers and live worms as birdfeed, and while worms are pretty chill, the grasshoppers would be cheerfully jumping around the market having escaped from their boxes.
my take from all this variety? go for food!
Do not concentrate on the acute asianness of the atmosphere and just try new flavors, follow the locals and take what they take – you might not like all of it, but it will help you understand the culture better than any number of souvenir chopsticks and paper fans. And yes – papaya + mango + dragonfruit are the best choice in September.