For many years, Hong Kong’s food culture has featured in quite a number of public markets but it’s a pity to see them shrink either in number or size thanks to the government’s urban planning.
I am not saying urban planning is wrong since that is an inevitable task to cope with urban migration and improve infrastructure.
It’s that I don’t think the makeover of Hong Kong has to be done at the expense of public markets, which not only connect the daily lives of Hongkongers but also mean a lot to the city’s food culture.
If one pays attention, one will find that each district in Hong Kong has its own characteristics, which are commonly reflected in their public markets.
For example, if you go to the market in North Point, you can see many shoppers of Fujian origin. In Sham Shui Po, you can find inexpensive food with good quality.
If you want to buy ingredients to make Teochew (Chiuchow) or Thai-style food, go to the Kowloon City market. For seafood, the one in Ap Lei Chau is where you will find some of the best quality.
The Yeung Uk Road Market in Tsuen Wan offers shoppers a lot of choices because of its sheer size while the wet market in Central is the best place to buy ingredients for western food. Those in Wan Chai sell specialty products.
One thing that makes these markets interesting is that you can buy different ingredients in different seasons. The kinds offered by the stalls there are way more than those you can find in supermarkets, even though some of the stalls sell the same types of goods.
I have lived in Central for more than a decade. Seeing the public markets there shrink significantly in size makes me sad.
They used to cover an area from Queen’s Road Central, Graham Street, Gage Street to Staunton Street, but now they only exist in Graham Street and Gage Street owing to the government’s urban renewal plan.
As a result, the number of shoppers have decreased and the atmosphere is no longer what it was, proving that running a public market like a shopping mall can only cause the former to wane.
In addition, there are more and more chain vegetable stalls operated by consortiums in public markets.
As they allegedly sell vegetables at prices lower than their costs, many traditional stalls have been forced out of the market, making the public market culture suffer further.
If one day supermarkets and shopping malls are the only places we Hongkongers can rely on, we will have much fewer choices. We will be left with only the memories of our precious food culture.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on April 18
Translation by Taka Liu
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