Wet markets: the place where the smells of tofu and pigs’ feet fill ones’ nostrils as the seemingly-innocent Chinese lady with her mini trolley jostles and pushes past to get to the fresh tomatoes. To the right, veggies are heaped on trays, bins, and carts for sale. To the left, there is a man hacking at a fish and throwing its guts into a big basin of guts. Delicious.
Welcome to Shanghai’s wet markets. Some are an absolute hot mess of flies, damaged goods, and not-so-ace produce, but there are some pretty great ones as well scattered around the city. This is what we found.
304 Wuyi Road, near Dingxi Road (武夷路304号, 近定西路)
This market has a strong local feel with less people. It promotes the “what you see is what you get” type of mentality with produce fresh and ready. This is not the place to go for a wide variety of meat, but it has enough for a choosing for those who might not want to go from market to market for their shopping. They also sell pretty dirt cheap tupperware that is sturdy and doesn’t break too easily – great for those hoping to bring wet market purchases as lunch to work. The market itself is divided into two parts with veggies in one open area and then the fruits sold on the other side through a doorway. The market doesn’t open too early, so for those looking to get their wet market purchases done by 7am, this is not the place to go. However, the crowds are very minimal so if the thought of stumbling past everyone in Fuxing’s wet market seems almost as bad as having to eat a whole durian, than stick to the Wuyi Market. It is also super convenient to get to as it is only a ten minute walk from the line 2 subway entrance – great for those based a little bit more west in Puxi.
604 Julu Road, near Xiangyang Road (巨鹿路604号, 近襄阳路)
Contained in a smaller space, this wet market has a bit more of an intimate feel than some of the other grandiose markets with massive interiors. Although there was a bit of fly action going on near the fruit sections and a bit of trash on the floor from what seemed to be paper protecting the fruit on the way to the markets, this market had quite a bit of buzz around it early in the morning. There were also a collection of stool and wooden table on the street type restaurants across the street producing fresh produce foods for the local customers. The meat here appeared to be edible for the most part, and while their red meat selection might not be as plentiful as the offerings at Zhaozhou Road, there was a surplus of chicken. Chicken galore, in fact. To the point where they were simply being piled on top of each other to save space. This is a good option for those who want to just get the basics and get out and on with the rest of their day. Another option is to get the basics and then stroll down Xiangyang Road to the massive beast that is the Fuxing Middle Road market to poke around the peculiarities there.
1239 Fuxing Middle Road, near Xiangyang Road (复兴中路1239号，
This market is not for the weak, those scared of crowds, or those who want to just have a few options. However, if you like to pick between 7,000 tomatoes when you just need one for that egg and tomato dish, then this will be like Christmas coming to this market. To get into the market, there is a massive walkway leading up that is surrounded by bikes. Right at the front is a duck counter that has a surprisingly orderly line leading up to the cashier who doles out the goods. On the first floor is a surplus of chicken, red meat, and ridiculous amounts of seafood. For those that like to watch eels moving from bucket to bucket in a wet market stand, this is the place to go to watch them try to get from point A to point B without their owner noticing. On the second floor is a wide variety of fresh veggies and fruits. From the typical greens to the more peculiar roots, there is really any and every vegetable. While it can be an overwhelming experience because literally everyone and their mom will be with you while you purchase some broccoli, it is most likely the most efficient market experience.
219 Taiyuan Road, near Zhaojiabang Road (太原路219路, 近肇嘉浜路)
Unlike the more spruced up Fuxing Middle Road market, the Taiyuan Road one feels like a market from twenty years ago. A simpler time where fish heads were left in piles on top of the seafood tables and the crabs were poked and prodded with chopsticks by the sellers. And cigarettes being smoked everywhere. Literally everywhere. So for those that like their meat with a nice glaze of nicotine, this is the place to go. While it is not as posh of a market compared to some of the others on the list, Taiyuan is quite a fun market for sightseeing purposes. The market spills out onto the street a bit with a live chicken seller and a massive melon seller on each corner of the mart. The market goes for a minimalist vibe, and the people here are by far the friendliest, offering up excited “Hallooo”s and waves to the laowai walking by
149 Zhaozhou Road, near Hefei Road (肇周路149路, 近合肥路)
By far the most cultured and fun market to walk through, this street is easily one of the most entertaining places to explore on a Sunday morning. And for those who love to take pictures of true local culture, this is the place to go as life happens on the streets each and every day. From the old grandmother having her grandchild help sell the cilantro to the twenty-something boys sitting with their shirts raised up to their chests, leaning against their motorbikes, while selling eggs, this place is rich with Instagram worthy picture opportunities. There are also so many delicious looking snacks. Unlike the other markets that are contained in a space inside that bathes all the produce in a rather un-natural fluorescent light, this place is out in the open. Stay away if the weather is bad as the indoor part of the market is quite small, but there isn’t much of a better way to spend a lazy morning than wandering the length of this street and purchasing a few meatballs, looking at fish being brutally slaughtered right in front of your eyes as children play in the street, and men barter over the cost of a lotus root.
1018 Renmin Road, near Fangbang Middle Road (人民路1018号, 近方浜中路)
It is fitting that this market is on the “People’s Road” as it is by far one of the most people-friendly spots. While there were very few bikes and pedestrians pouring in and out of the market here as it is on a rather large road and hidden behind some big vans, this place is a great find for those looking for some baked goods, back to basics spices, or meat. The produce here looked like the freshest out of all of the markets and while there might not have been a surplus of options, it seemed to be regularly replenished, which is comforting to know that the bok choy has not been sitting there for a while. Also, this place seemed to be a cute baby mecca so for those with a slight obsession with Chinese babies, this is the place to go.
By Charlotte Evans