We’ve been living in Chicago for over a year, amongst people for whom the words “market” and “Hong Kong” would typically correlate with stocks and bonds and financial instruments.
Our interest, however, is in a very different kind of Hong Kong “market”. The neighborhood outdoor fruit and vegetable market is what we’re about. Every country has its variant. Every country has its own market culture.
What can one hope to get out of a visit to a local market?
For travelers to distant shores, it is usually a chance to dip one’s toes into the daily rituals of feeding oneself and family. It is also about the often boisterous interactions between buyers and sellers…
We appreciate being able to quickly get a read on the local diet, the vibrancy of the fresh food supply chain, the personality of locals, the prices for foods we are familiar with…
And for the foodies among us, it is primordially about the delightful treat of bumping into something totally unknown. And this of course, happens EVERY TIME we stroll through a market in Asia.
Going to market is not just one of the activities we look for when traveling to new lands, it is THE first activity that provides us with a bearing on our local hosts and environment.
So take a walk with us, and let’s see what a Hong Kong fruit and vegetable market has to offer up!
Bam! First fruit seller we bump into the night we arrive ~ What the hell is THAT? Frankly, we are not sure. Maybe a distant cousin of a lychee ? Wrong! It is a YUMBERRY (and it certainly lives up to its name.) A reddish fruit with a juicy, slightly acidic flavor is eaten fresh, dried or canned. We have it fresh and it is fabulous. Imagine a cross between a strawberry and a cherry with a slight sour note. Awesome! (and cool looking too.) Have any of you come across a yumberry before?
Jet lag working in our favor, we are up super early and eager to take our first steps in Hong Kong (Kowloon, actually). Our first fruit encounter comes at a wholesaler’s market. Cornucopia is the only word that comes to mind. Imagine floor to ceiling boxes of gorgeous exotic fruit! The problem is we can’t buy any of these, because they only sell their fruit in large quantities to retailers. (That is, by the ten kg box!)This does not stop us however, from “sampling the goods”.
Cherries ~ delicious and sweet. Tempting, but buying a 10 kg box is a bit much for 2 days in Hong Kong. Happy to see cherries are in season.
Peta making her way through the fruit stall owners and work crews ~ she is in fruit heaven.
We are eager to come across our first street market so we can buy some of the local fruits and veggies to take “home’ and fill our fridge. Sure enough after walking for a few blocks, we turn a corner, and there it is. Our first market in Kowloon. Oh what a market!
These are the largest ginger roots we have ever seen!
Not sure what these are called, but they seem to be mini-versions of bok choi ~ typically steamed and dipped in fish sauce… yum!
And for a variant ~ these have tiny yellow flowers growing out of them… Wish we had a steamer in our room, so we could make them. No doubt they will find their way onto our plate in the next few days.
This big circular white cucumber looking veggie is actually in the melon family ~ “bitter melon”…
Interspersed amongst the food stalls are medicine stalls.These dried mushrooms are both food and medicine.
Soft tofu, firm tofu, spicy tofu, silken tofu… Tofu anyone?
Is that? Is that mangosteen we see yonder? Mangosteen is nectar of the gods and it is not always in season. One of our favorite Asian fruits for sure.
Mangosteen indeed. OK, if ANY of you reading this have never had Mangosteen ~ and if you ever happen to see this marvelous gift of a fruit, make sure you try it. The hard-shell makes the mangosteen seem like an impregnable fortress. The treasure within is well protected. One only needs to remove the green stem, and then its easy to open this fruit ~ revealing white fleshy segment shapes (much like an orange has), except smaller and with large black pits. Amazing fruit!
Most who have eaten Lychee outside of the “Southern hemisphere”, only really know the fruit through its canned incarnation. (Imagine only knowing a cherry for its canned equivalent!) Lychee is another delicious, sweet pop of a fruit that can occasionally be found in this region. While it was available and loved by Peta in South Africa, as a child growing up, in France, it was very much a luxury item. Here, and in most of the ASEAN region, when it is lychee season, it is remarkably affordable. ($1.50 per kg.)
One variety of mangoes ~ super sweet and fragrant and fuchsia bright dragon fruit.
To counter the sweet and delicious exotic fruit like mangosteen or lychee, there is… well, the evil twin. Now, I don’t mean to disparage the Durian. I recognize that over 1 billion people on the planet find this awfully smelling fruit a delicacy. I have tried durian several times, and I don’t get the enthusiasm for the taste. (My son Ezra howeve falls in the durian-friendly camp.).
Another unusual find ~ a stall with nothing but chestnuts.. Some are peeled, some are in the shell. How fun would it be to cook with these? ~ (thinking of you right now, Adam!)
Dried scallops. No idea how you one uses these… Are they added to a dish for flavor? Aphrodisiac perhaps? Medicine?
Cute kitty alert… Time for a short feline encounter.
One of the many stalls where we pretty much have no idea what exactly is being sold. Seems to be in the root family, but beyond that we are not sure. Only recognizable item ~ the sugar cane sticks.
A covered fish market ends our first journey into Hong Kong markets. Fish and seafood are a real bounty around these parts and the fish stand is the most animated we’ve passed…
A seller arranging the seafood in an attractive display, for his potential customers.
Beautiful striped cousins of the shrimp family swim in a nearby red plastic bucket ~ awaiting their culinary fate.
Hope you enjoyed this stroll through one of Hong Kong’s markets.
Overall, our first impressions were: Beautiful produce, great prices and a new discovery around every corner.