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Travel: What it’s like to visit China – Food in Markets

I don’t care what anyone says, some of these fresh markets are what it was like way back when, before refrigeration, food safety laws and other basic sanitary rules were enforced.

This is how many people lived for years even in European countries not so long ago!

As a result, it was not that shocking to me (Chinatowns are always a bit like this in many North American cities), but it did make me feel apprehensive about eating seeing as my stomach is not used to such things.


It’s the last remaining one in Beijing, you won’t really see this anywhere else.

The food looked quite good and in some cases more natural / tastier than the genetically modified food you get in North America. It’s just a shame that it’s so polluted in China that anything that grows in the ground, absorbs that pollution as a result.




We also found THE BEST bread in the world. BF and I couldn’t get enough of it. For 4 yuan it was a steal, and it was pretty much just fried bread with a bit of salt. We contemplated going back and begging for the recipe (half joking).

I don’t even know what it’s called, but it was GOOD.



Wet markets are also a big thing in China, actually .. in a lot of places in Asia.

They get their name because the floor is always wet from being washed – the dirt, grime, blood, guts, etc gets washed down the drain during and at the end of the day.

Everything looked extremely fresh. Some of it was still alive and they kill it to order.

A small local wet market — note the dirty floors that will be clean at the end of the day:



Amazing seafood and shellfish! They are MASSIVE. I had never seen such seafood before.


A fishmonger’s stall:


This is another large wet market in Beijing, fairly large, but not open air like the first one pictured at the start of the post:


Eggs inside the wet market.

They use the lightbulb to check for freshness which I found very practical.






Fresh, live poultry:


With these black chickens. They have white fur, but black skin, and the meat has the texture of wood when cooked, which isn’t appetizing.

They are really meant for soups and broths.



Check out the hanging ducks, right by the clothes and an outdoor restaurant!


You can also see freshly killed meat out in the open all day, with antibacterial red lamps, and a fly fan (it’s spinning too fast to see the rope in the photo) to keep the insects away from the meat.


No gloves or anything.

Clients basically come up, and handle the meat with their bare hands, or poke at it after having touched everything around them.

You may also find a little daycare happening underneath the butcher stalls.

They don’t really have money for a separate daycare, so they work while taking care of the kids. Sure beats having to pay a ton of money for one. I think in Canada the average is $1500/month.


But having kids in the store is pretty common to use it as a daycare as they have nowhere else to go and no one to take care of them while their parents work. This is quite similar in Canada too in some stores where the kids are doing homework in the store while their parents work.


They do a lot of the work on the ground on top of plastic mats, like cutting up fish entrails and leftovers for a (soup?):


This is a typical street filled with food for sale on the ground — seafood:




Some alleyways are cleaner than others, and have trucks driving in the areas to sell fruit in front of their homes which is quite enterprising!

Can you imagine a fruit stall coming to you?


However this is more common, seeing alleyways that are kind of yucky.

This is one in a particularly disgusting area, right by the sewage, food droppings, and right on the ground where people tend to pee and poo, or dump their business.

Quite gross.


Crates of eggs for sale on the street:


They have their shops just right outside of their homes, and there were even live chickens and animals in cages (again, rather unsanitary as I am sure those animals go into their homes with them at night) and I’d be concerned about diseases as a result.

I know that in Portugal they used to have animals like donkeys live underneath their homes:


The bucket at the bottom-right is filled with dead poultry, by the way:


They have to buy a lot of oil to cook that street food:



These are specific night markets with snacks, and otherwise weird things.

This one is a general stall for meat and seafood:

And here are the more of the creepier fare, insects, beetles, scorpions and starfish which is just to shock tourists.





  • debt debs

    I found the live animals, dead animals, street filth, beggars – all of it a bit disturbing. Not that we don’t have elements of that in Canada, just on a smaller scale. Great photos! You’ve really captured it like it is! Where’s the chicken feet? 😉

    • save. spend. splurge.

      Haha true 🙂

      Well the chicken feet was definitely not something I put on my list to eat. It makes me shudder but BF has had it before in Canada… He even likes it because it’s like eating pig’s trotters (one of his favourite dishes).

  • Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life

    As a vegetarian, I struggled with some of the sights and smells I encountered in China’s markets. But it’s certainly an interesting experience. Nothing like live turtles at the supermarket.

    • save. spend. splurge.

      None of that stuff about live animals bothers me (I’d be a hypocrite, as I eat meat on occasion).. it was more of the sanitation that concerned me 🙂

  • Cindy

    Very common to see these open air markets with unrefrigerated foodstuffs across all of Asia; very often in 30C+ heat. People in NA shouldn’t be so scandalized. Millions of people live and thrive like this everyday. Love your pictures.

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