May I introduce you to the Chinese wet market. The speedy surface introduction is polite and suitable to use under all circumstances: It’s an open-air produce market which usually is under some sort of roof. See? That was easy. (Where’s my little red easy button when I need it? I’m too lazy to find it right now.)
Haha. Stay tuned for the unvarnished introduction. A wet market is an open-air market that sells chickens, “You pick it, we pluck it”, beef, (if you arrive early enough in the day and will fight the crowds), pork, “Which part did you want? We save the best fatty part for you!”, something else unidentifiable, snakes, eels, fish swimming in their aquariums (that’s fresh!), turtles, big frogs, every variety of eggs, tofu any-way-you-like-it, and other things I haven’t looked closely enough at to identify. Aside from the cow, the pigs, and the unidentifiable, everything else that is small enough is living and waiting for your favored selection.
They also sell fresh and dried mushrooms, and a large variety of vegetables including more varieties of greens than you will ever see at any American supermarket. If you try to find out the names of the greens, you will get one answer, “Chinese vegetable”. I did a little research and sampling, and so far we have figured out cabbage (duh), nappa cabbage, bok choi, baby bok choi, amaranth, spinach, mustard, and about 4 others I don’t know. There are also some interesting root vegetables I haven’t completely identified. The “vegetables” are kept separate from the fruits and sold by different people.
I have kind of a personal rule, I won’t buy veggies from a vendor who’s stall is immediately next to a butcher’s stall. Nope. Until I put them together in a pot, I don’t even want them close to each other.
The fruit vendors always seem more aggressive to me and more willing to “overcharge”. There are some I refuse to go to because I always get the feeling they are mocking me or ripping me off. Depending on the season you can buy grapes, apples, bananas, Asian pears (many varieties), oranges of every kind, lemons, kumquats, pomellos, grapefruit, many varieties of melon, mangosteens, persimmons, plums, peaches, papaya, mango, and durian. I know I’ve left some out. Oh well.
The most remarkable thing you will notice about the wet market is, ugh, the smell. The open-air butchering business is messy and the later in the day you go (the warmer the weather temperatures), the more powerful the aroma. It’s worse during durian season, because this fruit has a similar bouquet to that raw chicken you forgot you put in the fridge last week.
Oh! I almost forgot! Sometimes there is a flower vendor near the fruit. If not, look around a little, there’s probably a flower shop somewhere nearby. It’s a good place to go bury your nose for a minute after you buy your pork (or just hide out from the durian).
Done shopping? Good for you! Now be careful with those four reusable shopping bags that you have filled up. You don’t want to break your eggs or smash the bananas or tomatoes on your way home on the bus. Especially the eggs, since they aren’t in a carton just a thin, little plastic bag to hold them all together…
winner-winner, chicken dinner 🙂