A vibrant market, Hong Kong.

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!

 

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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”.

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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.

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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!

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These are the largest ginger roots we have ever seen!

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Not sure what these are called, but they seem to be mini-versions of bok choi ~ typically steamed and dipped in fish sauce… yum!

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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.

 

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This big  circular white cucumber looking veggie is actually in the melon family ~ “bitter melon”…

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Interspersed amongst the food stalls are medicine stalls.These dried mushrooms are both food and medicine.

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Soft tofu, firm tofu, spicy tofu, silken tofu… Tofu anyone?

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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.

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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!

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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.)

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One variety of mangoes ~ super sweet and fragrant and fuchsia bright dragon fruit.

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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.).

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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!)

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Dried scallops. No idea how you one uses these… Are they added to a dish for flavor? Aphrodisiac perhaps? Medicine?

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Cute kitty alert… Time for a short feline encounter.

 

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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.

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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…

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A seller arranging the seafood in an attractive display, for his potential customers.

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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.

 










16 thoughts on “A vibrant market, Hong Kong.

  1. carolinehelbig

    I’m with you. I absolutely love checking out markets wherever we go. Your photos of the Hong Kong market are great. Just last week I wrote a newspaper article about the local Whistler Farmers’ Market. Very different than Hong Kong of course but you are so right about how markets give you a great sense of the local scene.
    Aren’t mangosteens the most wonderful fruit!!! I had the pleasure of tasting them years back in Indonesia.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks Caroline for your comments. Markets are the first thing we hope to find in a new place… And it is always exciting when we do. The buzz of activity and the fresh produce are an irresistable combination!

      Mangosteens are incredible. So great that they are in season right now.

      Peta

  2. badfish

    For some reason, I am not getting notified when you post??? I love markets, also (this type, not the money type!). Especially in Europe, where they have Saturday (or one-day-a-week) markets…with cheese, pears, pastry. In SE Asia, it’s always a coconut and rambutans for me.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Badfish that’s very strange. You signed up as a reader, right? Can you try again? Meantime, I will add you to my email list.

      European markets are fabulous. Totally agree! Some incredible ones in France, Spain, Italy….. We have written about a bunch of these in past GGT posts.

      I love supporting local farmers in addition to having the priviledge and pleasure of eating their fresh produce.

      Mmm I like rambutans too, but even more so lychees which are way juicier! Nothing quite as refreshing or hydrating as fresh coconut juice.

      Peta

  3. Gilda Baxter

    I love food markets and my favourites were in Thailand. I did not try the Durian fruit though since the smell puts me off, but I will try it next time, since as a Dietitian I tell my patients to try something at least 5 times before deciding if they like it or not..lol. You described the Hong Kong food markets beautifully with great photos and I am now feeling very hungry. I dream of visiting Hong Kong one day.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Yes agreed! There were some very interesting markets in Thailand, in particular for us, on the island of Lanta. ( Koh Lanta.)

      http://www.greenglobaltrek.com/2014/05/southern-thailand-beaches-a-new-culture-and-martial-law.html

      The smell of durian is quite intense. It IS apparently VERY good for you from a nutritional point of view though.

      “Durian is naturally rich in potassium, dietary fibre, iron, vitamin C, and vitamin B complex. The king of fruits is thus excellent for improving muscle strength and blood pressure, bowel movements and skin health. It also supports the nervous and immune systems, and enhances red blood cell formation.”

      It was fun to visit Hong Kong for a few days, although we did find it less “friendly” than many other countries we have spent time in, in ASEAN region.

      Peta

  4. lexklein

    I love markets, too, with one of my own favorites being the San Pedro market in Cusco, Peru. I hope you’ve found a few markets in Chicago – there are a bunch in the summer both downtown and in the surrounding area. Nothing quite so exotic as in the Asian ones, but still some fun stuff at some of them!

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Yes! The market in Cusco Peru was a favorite of ours too!

      In Chicago we live the market in Logan Square, which continues indoors throughout the winter. The Lincoln Park market is terrific as well!

      Nothing quite like fresh, organic produce!! Also great to support local farmers.

      Peta

  5. joannesisco

    hahaha – your photos are like a trip to my local grocery store. In my predominantly Chinese neighbourhood, I’m a visible minority, but once I got over my initial discomfort at shopping among SO much produce I didn’t recognize, I started to have fun with it.

    I make a point of trying something new on a semi-regular basis. There have been wonderful surprises and some not so cool (Durian, I’m talking to you).
    Alas, I’ve yet to find a mangosteen. I’ve heard such wonderful things about them, but finding one in Toronto is still eluding me.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Ahhh Joanne, you live in the Chinese neighborhood of Toronto. Cool! Yup, we have had dim sum there too. It is fun finding so much new produce we know so little about and trying it.

      Maybe mangosteen don’t transport well…? I do hope you get to try one, they are so divine!

      Peta

  6. Lolo

    Thank you for sharing your amazing earth food related activities. Lively, lovely photos… keep on educating us!!

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks Kirt. If you are interested in markets in other places, check out the Green Global Trek “archives.” Pretty much wherever we go, the market is our first stop!

      Peta

  7. Gili

    The yum berries look yummy indeed! We’ll have to look out for those, have never seen anything quite like it. Mangosteen is of course a long time favourite!

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      We were super excited to find the yum berries and even more so when we tasted them. Super juicy super YUM. We both love mangosteens ~ happily they are in season right now.

      Peta

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