Best wet markets in Hong Kong

Best wet markets in Hong Kong

It's stinky, fishy and often bloody, but a wet market is also the best place to get to know regular Hong Kongers

Want to get a good dose of grassroots Hong Kong character? Skip the supermarket and hit up the wet market. You'll save money on food while getting the best quality meat and produce.

Wet markets are known as such because they sell meat and fish, which require frequent floor washing. They have long been a feature of Hong Kong life.

Before the British arrived in the 19th century, markets took place once or twice a week in towns like Tai Po. After colonization, daily street markets began to emerge. Later, permanent market halls were built in Sheung Wan, Central and Wanchai.

These days, every Hong Kong neighborhood has a government-operated market building, well-stocked with traders selling fruit, vegetables, seafood, meat and dry goods.

But not all markets are equal. We’ve chosen five of the best for their quality, affordability, variety and atmosphere.

Before you go: Vegetables and meat are typically sold by the catty (斤, gan in Cantonese), a traditional unit of measurement that is equivalent to half a kilo or 1.1 pounds. Traders typically restock their goods twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon, but if you’re looking for a good deal, head to the market in the early evening, when traders cut prices to clear their stock before heading home.
Best wet markets in Hong Kong

Graham Street, Central

Hong Kong’s oldest continuously-operating street market, Graham Street has been around for nearly 160 years, but its days are numbered. After the surrounding area is redeveloped over the next few years, most of the street stalls will be relocated indoors.

Until then, you can still enjoy the most atmospheric market in Hong Kong, with dozens of vendors lining the narrow streets just uphill from the Central office district.

Keep your eye out for the many dry goods stores 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 renowned for having the best seafood in Central.

As a bonus for those who struggle with Cantonese, Graham Street is by far the most English-friendly of all the traditional street markets, with many English signs and bilingual vendors.

Graham Street market is between Queen’s Road Central and Hollywood Road

Best wet markets in Hong Kong

Tai Po Hui

Built in 2004, the Tai Po Hui Market is housed in an impressive, cantilevered structure that towers over the surrounding streets.

Clean, spacious and buzzing with activity, this is the place to go for honey, milk and locally grown produce. Start at the Organic Grocery (stall W23) and work your way around the market’s many similar stalls.

If you can’t find what you’re looking for -- or if the air conditioning just isn’t authentic enough for you -- pay a visit to nearby Fu Shin Street, a boisterous street market where competing traders bellow the day’s specials at the top of their lungs.

8 Heung Sze Wui St.

Best wet markets in Hong Kong

Kowloon City

It’s hard to miss Kowloon City’s public market, which looks a bit like a deconstructed cruise liner that somehow found its way into the middle of this fast-gentrifying district.

With 581 stalls, it’s one of the largest markets in Hong Kong, and regular customers like celebrity food critic Chua Lam and film star Chow Yun-fat swear by the quality of traders like Lee Fai Kee (stall M14) which sells high-grade cuts of American beef.

Thanks in part to the market’s reputation, along with its preponderance of restaurants, Kowloon City has become a foodie destination.

High-end specialty grocery stores are popping up all over the neighborhood. One of the best is King of Kings (65 Hau Wong Road), where you can find all kinds of Taiwanese products, from sausages to sarsaparilla. Don’t forget the many small grocery stores in the nearby Thai enclave, too.

100 Nga Tsin Wai Road

Best wet markets in Hong Kong

Bowrington Road, Wanchai

Conveniently located a few blocks west of Causeway Bay’s shopping mecca, so you can pick up groceries after browsing through Louis Vuitton, Bowrington Road is home to both a jam-packed street market and a large market hall.

Though you can find pretty much anything you’re looking for here, the main attraction is the seafood.

Bowrington Road is also one of the few street markets whose food stalls stay open until late in the evening, which makes it a good destination for anyone who works a lot of overtime.

Best wet markets in Hong Kong

Chun Yeung Street, North Point

North Point was once known as "Little Shanghai", but it is now home to a much larger community of immigrants from Fujian, who shop for dinner at the Chun Yeung Street market.

Here, in one of Hong Kong’s most unusual markets -- the tram line runs straight through it -- you can expand your culinary horizons with sacha sauce (made from soybean oil, chili peppers, garlic, shallots, brill fish and shrimp), mi soa wheat noodles and fish balls stuffed with minced meat.

Several different Fujianese grocery stores can be found on Chun Yeung Street. 

If you leave Chun Yeung Street without having found what you’re looking for, the large Java Road Market is one block north. One block beyond that is an excellent seafood market inside the North Point ferry terminal.

Between North Point Road and Tong Shui Road

Christopher DeWolf is a writer, photographer and self-styled flâneur.
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