Featured image courtesy of @kingymak
Navigating the wet markets of Hong Kong may seem like a daunting challenge, especially for those of us who are new to the city or don’t speak Cantonese. Even more specialised are the fruit markets in Hong Kong, open during the wee morning hours to provide us with the freshest local and imported seasonal produce.
If you share our enthusiasm for locavore dining, low prices, and the eco-friendly concept of only eating what’s in season, the fruit market is the place for you. We’ve written up this handy guide for you so you know where to go and how to make the most out of your trip to the fruit markets in Hong Kong.
Photo courtesy of @kai.kuen
Yau Ma Tei Fruit Market (果欄 Gwo Laan)
The iconic Yau Ma Tei Fruit Market has stood on the corner of Waterloo Road and Reclamation Street for more than a century. Known as Gwo Laan (gwo meaning fruit and laan meaning wholesale market), it comes alive after midnight with lorries and carts coming in and out loaded with the day’s sweet picks. The sellers at Gwo Laan have decades of experience in selling fruit, often keeping it in the family. They’re happy to help you find everything you need, and most have a decent grasp of English, though it would be good to bring a Cantonese-speaking friend for possible bartering.
Shops are open far beyond Gwo Laan’s early start time, but we recommend going in the morning for an authentic fruit shopping experience. Most shops operate retail as well as wholesale, so you can buy as much or as little as you’d like at any time of day. Just like your local butcher’s or wet market stall, shops here reserve the best selections for their regulars, so be nice and keep coming back.
How to get there: Take the MTR to Yau Ma Tei. Gwo Laan is less than 5 minutes away from Exit C or Exit B2.
Featured shop: Market Choice
Market Choice is run by Gwo Laan’s powerhouse, Auntie Kei (Kei Jeh), who, in addition to being one of the only female leaders of the market, started her career pushing a cart with her mother… She’s legit. Because of Auntie Kei’s vast connections, Market Choice often has exclusive deals on unique and exotic produce not found elsewhere, such as award-winning giant Japanese white peaches and bite-size Kiwi kiwis. Keep an eye out on their Facebook page, where Auntie Kei posts her latest finds. You can send a direct message to reserve certain items if something catches your fancy.
Market Choice, 1 Shek Lung Street, Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon | (+852) 6016 8813
Photo courtesy of @chinesewhiskers
Western Wholesale Food Market (西環果欄 Sai Wan Gwo Laan)
The Western Wholesale Food Market is only a stone’s throw away from everyone’s favourite photo spot Instagram Pier, but has remained under the radar except to those in the know. Imported produce usually goes straight from the cargo hold to wholesalers at Western Wholesale Food Market, so you’ll still find fresh harvests from all over the world, without the hassle of crossing the harbour.
The fruit section within the sprawling wholesale market takes up over 100 stalls, most carrying the same offerings as the gwo laan across the harbour. However, the biggest difference here is that you’ll have to stock up on whatever you buy, as most stalls only offer wholesale sales by the box. Don’t forget to bring your squad, as bulk purchases help keep your wallet from hurting, and come armed with shopping trolleys so you can take your haul home!
If you prefer a more low-key fruit shopping experience, the Western Wholesale Food Market is the place for you. Not only is it indoors and less haphazard, but it also requires visitors to sign in with valid identifying documents (such as HKID) in order to gain entry. The market quiets down after lunch, so be sure to make your way down there in the morning for the best deals.
How to get there: HKU MTR Station Exit B2. Walk straight along the road until you reach a blue and white building by the harbour.
Photo courtesy of @chairmansam
Shopping tips for the fruit market
- Bring cash. Come prepared with dollar, dollar bills. Gwo Laan has retailers that accept credit card, but the Western Wholesale Food Market only accepts cash.
- Go early. Self-explanatory. Arrive early if you want to get your hands on the best produce.
- Browse more than one shop or stall for price comparisons. Since most of them sell the same products, prices are competitive. One pound of the same prized cherries may be $70 at one store, and $100 at another.
- BYOB! A lot of the fruits sold at these markets are already wrapped up in layers of unnecessary packaging. This is the perfect opportunity to do your part in reducing waste.
Picking the best August fruits
Most fruits are available year-round at the fruit markets in Hong Kong, but we’ve picked out a selection of the best August-harvested fruits for you to consider on your next fruit shopping trip.
- Guava: Ripe guava fruits are light yellow with a touch of pink, with skin that gives slightly under a firm touch. You should be able to smell its aroma without holding it up to your nose.
- Pineapple: Ripe pineapples are consistently golden yellow from top to bottom. Try and find a spot where its spikes won’t prick you and feel if it’s slightly soft. Smell the base of the pineapple to tell if it’s ripe, as its sweetness will permeate through the tough skin.
- Watermelon: Ever wonder why people tap on watermelons before buying ‘em? That’s because a ripe watermelon will sound deep and hollow. The underside of the watermelon where it touched the ground, called a field spot, should be light or dark yellow as well.
- Peach: The juicy, exploding peach has often gone viral, but you actually don’t want an overly juicy peach, as it means that it’s overly ripe. Go for a peach that has a slight bit of give, just on the brink of getting soft, and if you see wrinkles around the stem, that’s a sign that it is perfectly ripe. Water evaporates from the peach once it’s been picked and the evaporation will cause a concentrated amount of flavour.
- Blueberries: Perfect in pies or on top of ice cream, ripe blueberries are soft and deep blue with a dusting of grey on the surface. Put down the package if the blueberries inside are white or green, wrinkled, wet, or mouldy. Remember to refrigerate your blueberries as soon as possible!
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