Today was a good day to visit the wet market because my change purse was full. I love this kind of market for two reasons—it’s cheap and fresh. I can buy bananas for about ten cents each and an onion or a head of lettuce for about 25 cents each. I don’t remember what U.S. prices are for these things, but I doubt it could be cheaper.
Chinese people covet fresh produce, meat, and seafood which keeps the wet market a bustling place. The best time to go is early in the morning to get the pick of the fruit and veggies, although it always looks good to me. I like to go early because I know the food hasn’t been sitting in the heat all day. People here buy their food everyday because either their refrigerator is small (ours is about the size of a college dorm fridge) or nonexistent. This means the turnover rate is good. The wet market I visit is small and because I buy food frequently from the same vendors, they know me and have a good idea of what I’m going to buy. They all try to get me to stop and take a look, but instead of an aggressive solicitation, it’s very friendly and it’s more coaxing than anything. I like that most vendors will throw in some chives or cilantro or something extra they think will go with whatever else I’m buying.
Not only does the wet market sell produce, but vendors also sell live fish, shrimp, eel, various other seafood, chickens, and ducks. This is where the market gets its name. A market without live animals is simply a market. There is usually an egg stall, a few stalls selling nuts and other dried goods, a fresh pasta stall, and a tofu stall. One area I don’t touch with a ten foot pole is the pork and beef area. It’s funny how the Chinese are so particular about fresh food, but seem oblivious to the need for refrigeration or other sanitary precautions. What’s the point of fresh food if you don’t sanitize the counters first or wash your hands? The smell of meat sitting out is enough to keep me away. Some of the butchers do have refrigerators, but I have still come away with beef that tasted too old or pork with a funny smell. The shrimp, on the other hand, are fantastic. You can get half a pound of beautiful live prawns for $2.50. Mei, our nanny extraordinaire, brings them home, throws them in the freezer for half an hour, boils them up and peels them ready to eat. We are so spoiled!