Wet Market - Characteristics


The markets traditionally were places that sell live animals out in the open. This includes poultry, fish, reptiles, and pigs. However, since SARS, large animals and poultry are not as commonly found in the markets in Hong Kong, though live fish, shellfish, and frogs are widely available. Some markets also sell exotic animals. Fresh fruits and vegetables are also available. Wet markets also generally include butcher shops with fresh meat. The fresh meat and fish sections are separate from the fruit and vegetable stalls. Many markets also have stalls that sell dried goods, flowers, and processed tofu as well as cooked meat.

The traditional rationale for a wet market in hot climates, before the advent of refrigeration, was that the purchase of a live animal just prior to the time that it was to be eaten was the only way to ensure food was fresh.

In Hong Kong the wet markets are most frequented by older Hong Kongers, those with lower incomes, and domestic helpers who serve approximately 10% of Hong Kong's residents. Recently they have become sites of interest to tourists as places to see the "real Hong Kong",.

Many of the wet market buildings are owned by property investment firms and as a result the price of food can vary from market to market. In general, the owner of the wet market building is responsible for maintaining the building infrastructure. Stalls are rented out to retailers, who purchase and sell their goods independently. This is in contrast to a supermarket which is operated by a single company.

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