How fresh is the seafood at Hong Kong’s Ap Lei Chau Market?
Well, most of it is still swimming in small tanks and portable containers.
And what isn’t swimming is literally just off the boat.
Because the fish at the Ap Lei Chau Market is so fresh, it hasn’t had time to develop that fishy odor you expect at the seafood counter at home. This Hong Kong wet-market looks and smells like a super-clean grocery store.
But while the Ap Lei Chau Market is easy on the nose, it can be a challenge for the rest of the senses. At peak hours, the noisy aisles are bustling with bargaining locals. The crowds circulate quickly around the staggering variety of seafood, and the atmosphere is both impressive and intimidating.
So how does a traveler get a taste of the fresh seafood at the Ap Lei Chau Market?
It helps if you know a guy.
In my book, hiring a local guide for a market tour is always money well spent. A guide opens the door to food experiences I might miss because I don’t speak the language or know the local customs. If I’m visiting a region for the first time, I’ll hire a guide early in my trip so I can learn the ropes and practice my market skills later when I’m on my own.
In Hong Kong, I found expert guide Melanie Ko through Tours By Locals.
Melanie and I communicated online before I arrived, so she knew that I was interested in getting off the beaten path in search of great local food.
From my hotel in Kowloon, Melanie helped me navigate a ferry to Hong Kong Island, a tram through Hong Kong Central, a bus to Aberdeen Promenade and a sampan boat across the waterfront to the Ap Lei Chau Market.
Could I have figured out the way to the Ap Lei Chau Market on my own? Probably. But it would have taken me all day, and I would have missed lunch!
Melanie and I roamed the wet market stalls in search of the perfect fresh seafood for our midday meal.
We chose a variety of clams and prawns, and Melanie negotiated the quantity and price with the vendors.
When our seafood was bought and bagged, Melanie showed me how Hong Kong locals enjoy the freshest catch from the Ap Lei Chau Market. They simply take it upstairs to be cooked!
The Ap Lei Chau Cooked Food Centre is a thrumming hall on the second floor above the market. Dai pai dong (food stalls) line one wall, and portable tables, stools and chairs are scattered throughout the space.
We decided to have our clams steamed with rice noodles and soy sauce, and our prawns stir fried with onions. Melanie chose a dai pai dong and requested the simple preparations. Then we went in search of a table.
Seating in the Ap Lei Chau Cooked Food Centre is open. You simply choose an empty spot, and the dai pai dong servers will cover your table with disposable plastic.
As other diners left, we watched servers clear glasses, dishes and chopsticks from tables before wrapping discarded shells and trash in the plastic and quickly whisking it away.
Melanie and I ordered Tsingtao beer, a Chinese lager-type brew that seemed perfect on a hot and humid Hong Kong day.
Our server also delivered a large plastic pitcher of steaming tea and a small bucket of hot water. Melanie taught me that it’s traditional to rinse your bowl in the hot water before eating.
Before long, our server delivered steaming dishes of clams and prawns to our table.
Hands down, the simply prepared fare in the Ap Lei Chau Cooked Food Centre was the freshest and most delicious seafood I ate in Hong Kong!
If You Go
The Ap Lei Chau Market and Cooked Food Centre is located at 8 Hung Shing Street on Ap Lei Chau Island in Aberdeen Harbour. The Market is open daily from 6am until 8pm, and the Cooked Food Centre is open from 6am until 2am.
You can hire a local Hong Kong guide online through Tours by Locals.