The personal touch is best
Many people think wet markets are filthy and smelly, but this should not be a concern if you care about eating quality food at reasonable prices.
Wet markets offer delicious, fresh ingredients that the supermarket, with its packaged or processed food, cannot provide. For example, wet markets are the only places where you can get a live chicken. The chicken is slaughtered at the market and you take it straight home to cook. Supermarkets have only unappetising frozen chickens on sale.
Price is another reason why you should not visit the supermarket. It is true that some products are cheaper when they are on special offer in supermarkets, but it is a trap. Because supermarkets offer a wide range of products from tissue paper to tomatoes all under one roof, the discounts on some items can easily fool you into buying many other "expensive" things. In the end, you save very little money, or even pay more.
At the wet market, you can go from stall to stall to compare prices and quality, and you are sure to get the best deal if you put in the effort.
Shoppers and vendors at wet markets have a special bond, and they chat with each other like neighbours. So, apart from lower prices, vendors offer you a lot of benefits that money can't buy. This relationship is non-existent between shoppers and supermarket staff.
Wet market stall-owners know a lot about different kinds of ingredients, so if you are friendly with them, they'll tell you which piece of meat is the juiciest and what is the best way to cook it. What do supermarket shop assistants know? They just get paid to work, so you can't build a personal relationship with them; they might not even be there when you visit the place the next time.
You need a one-stop shop
Supermarkets rule, Hei. We don't even need to have this conversation.
Let me tell you why. First, supermarkets sell imported stuff that wet markets don't. Let's say you want to make a fancy dinner tonight - a scrumptious steak, for example, for a family gathering. For a meal like that, you will need finely-butchered porterhouse beef imported from overseas, rather than local beef chopped up and hung on hooks in wet markets. As far as I know, it is more commonly found in supermarkets. You can try searching for the same imported steak in wet markets, but that would probably take a lifetime.
If you want to make a stir-fry, supermarkets have the same local beef you get in wet markets - minced, striped or diced, you name it. For a few bucks more, you can get the beef in a more ready-to-cook form. Tell me: why do I ever need to set foot in a wet market?
This time, let's say, you would like to have hot pot with your friends. After getting all your meat, vegetables, and fish balls from the wet market, where are you going to buy the drinks - the big, 2.5-litre bottles, not the tiny cans? Well, there is only one place that can solve your problem - and the name of that place starts with an "S" - S-U-P-E-R-M-A-R-K-E-T. And here's another thing: you can actually buy all those other ingredients there, and at a reasonable price, too.
I had a traumatic experience as a boy which I would never forget. My grandma used to take me to the wet market in Shek Kip Mei, and introduce me to everyone. She spoke Teochew, and asked me to call all her friends "Lao Sim". I wondered for years why everyone there was named Lao Sim - it turns out it meant "old lady" in my grandma's dialect.
Experts say a scar like this from childhood can affect a person forever. So no more wet markets for me, please.
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