I had visited the market once before and left empty handed, too intimidated and unsure of the correct etiquette to buy anything. Were you meant to pick out the fruit and vegetables you wanted or were you served? How were you even meant to know what type of animal, let alone what cut of meat was on display? Did you choose a live fish and did they then kill and gut it for you? Were you meant to haggle over the price? So I just wandered around open-mouthed gazing at the polystyrene boxes full of fish gasping for breath, cages crammed full of live frogs, jars of unrecognisable dried stuff, containers of unfamiliar vegetables and the animal tails hanging from the butchers' stalls.
This time, I decided I would ease myself into the wet market experience gently by just buying my fruit and veg from the stalls. This proved to be remarkable easy and I went from stall to stall buying the various items I needed. Business was conducted without the stall owners speaking a word of English besides 'hello' and without me speaking a single-word of Cantonese - except for 'Tai-Tai' and it wasn't really the right situation for me to use my one and only phrase!
Sheung Wan Wet Market
Although I was only purchasing the easy stuff today, I did take a quick peek into the fish and meat section which I swiftly regretted. In front of me was a stall filled with live chickens in cages with two domestic helpers choosing the chickens they wanted. The chickens were then killed, plucked and gutted in full view of anyone unfortunate enough to be looking. Now, I know I am only too happy to eat meat - and chicken is my favourite - so it is a bit hypocritical to complain, but there was something rather heart-breaking about chicken death-row. It didn't stop me from dropping by the supermarket on the way home and buying chicken breasts though.
Weighed down with my purchases and feeling like an ever so slightly smug 'Tai-Tai' I headed home. I was in the process of washing my vegetables when the phone rang and I was over-joyed to see that it was my husband. I picked up the phone and gushed about the success I had had at the market and started enthusing about the gourmet banquet I planned to prepare for him tonight. When David finally got a word in edge ways I could tell from the tone of his voice that there was a problem. Reluctantly he announced that he wouldn't be coming home tonight as he had to fly to Beijing for a couple of days. So now I have a vat of Tom Khaa Kai soup and a fridge full of fresh fruit and veg - and no one to share it with. I simply don't think I am destined for this 'Tai-Tai' business!
Right I better go - I have some Tom Khaa Kai soup to work my way through.
My wet market purchases
My Tom Kha Kai