The Market is holding a series of tours this summer, as part of the 2017 Southern District Tourism and Culture Festival. Jessie Yeung finds out more about the tour and this little-known Aberdeen treasure.
Hongkongers often swear by their local wet markets, where they can choose their dinner from styrofoam containers of live fish and tanks of swimming shrimp. These markets are packed with fresh seafood and a beloved part of Hong Kong culture. But how does the seafood get here and where does it come from?
In most cases – Aberdeen Fish Market.
Every day at 4am, while the city sleeps, Aberdeen Fish Market (“the Market”) comes to life with people, trucks, boats and, of course, fish. This is the biggest and longest-running wholesale fish market in Hong Kong.
At one time, it only supplied seafood to the Tai Pak Floating Restaurant and the Jumbo Floating Restaurant. But now, over 70 percent of live seafood in the city is traded here. Everything from small middleneck clams to king crabs and Napoleon fish – you name it, they have it.
Despite the Market’s pivotal role in supplying Hongkongers with their beloved seafood, many residents know little about it. But that’s about to change. As part of the 2017 Southern District Tourism and Culture Festival, people will have a chance to explore this local gem and enjoy some of Hong Kong’s best seafood.
The Market’s rich history began in the 19th century, harking back to Hong Kong’s origins as a fishing village. Aberdeen Harbour has always served as an important fishing port and is home to generations of fishermen. Over the years, the Market’s popularity grew.
The trading of live fish is one of the Market’s distinguishing features. In the predawn hours, the place is a flurry of activity. Buyers can be seen selecting fish from sellers and fishermen unloading goods. Speed is key to preserve freshness.
The fish come mainly from the Dongsha Islands, the South China Sea, Hainan and the Philippines. Upon their arrival at the Market, the first batches are immediately loaded onto trucks, fully equipped with seawater buckets and oxygenated tanks. Then, they’re ready to go to wet markets and restaurants all over Hong Kong.
Live seafood used to be transported to Jordan, Lei Yue Mun and Tai Kok Tsui by motorboat. But trucks started being used following construction of the Aberdeen Tunnel in the 1970s.
It takes only around 10 hours for fish caught in the Philippines to arrive live at wet market stalls. How’s that for fresh? “Most locals like to buy live fish in the wet market. So I ensure all the fish that arrive at my stall in Kowloon are live and active,” says Mr. Lau, a wet market fish stall owner.
As part of the 2017 Southern District Tourism and Culture Festival, the Hong Kong Tourism Board has organized a series of tours of the Market, to be held every Saturday morning from mid-August to September. The tours will be held mostly in Cantonese, with a special English session on September 9.
There are three segments to the tour. First, in “Learn More About Seafood”, market merchandisers will share their veteran knowledge with guests. Have questions about what telltale signs determine a good or bad specimen, how to best cook fish and other tricks to the trade? Ask the pros.
In the second part of the tour, “Exploring the Aberdeen Fish Market”, guests will get the chance to wander the Market and see the action first-hand. The best is saved for last: the tour ends with an optional lunch at the Aberdeen Fish Market Seafood Restaurant.
Usually, the restaurant is so busy and the catch so fresh that there is no set menu and visitors must book in advance to secure a meal. As part of the tour, the finest seafood of the day will be selected straight from the boats and served Cantonese-style. The first two segments of the tour are free of charge; visitors can join the meal at their own expense (highly recommended).
After the tour, there’s plenty left to explore in Aberdeen. It’s a curious mix of the modern and the traditional, a touch of old Hong Kong amidst the skyscraper-lined harbour. Take a sampan ride or stroll along the Aberdeen Promenade next to classic junk boats salt-processing catch of the day. One tip: wear sensible, waterproof shoes.
The English-speaking tour is scheduled for September 9. The tour is free, but the optional seafood lunch is $350-400 per head. Download the registration form at travelsouth.hk