So you know your bok choi from your choi sum, but what else does a Hong Kong wet market have to offer? With the incredible produce sold at fruit ‘n’ veg stalls across the city, the opportunities to experiment with fresh, local ingredients are endless.
These simple recipes show just how versatile Hong Kong’s veggies can be. Whether you fancy putting a new twist on a traditional stir-fry, or incorporating Asian greens into a familiar, beloved Italian dish, there are so many ways to bring locally grown ingredients into your kitchen.
With that said, it’s time to step away from the carrots, put down the broccoli, and instead support local farms by reaching for something new. You’ll be sniffing out who has the best deal on ong choi, and who’s rambutans aren’t up to scratch, in no time!
Super quick. Super easy. Super delicious.
I think it’s safe to say we have probably all devoured more than our fair share of egg noodles in our time. But rather than revisiting the classic bok choi, spring onion and sesame combo, Hong Kong’s wet market greens and some cheeky kecap manis* work to freshen up this old recipe staple.
Ingredients (serves 4 as a side dish; 2 as a main)
1 catty (600g) fresh egg noodles** (substitute 300g dried noodles and 1 tbsp oil)
Handful Chinese watercress
Handful flowering chives
1 cup mixed fresh greens; such as pea leaves, edamame beans
2 tbsp kecap manis
2 tsp dark soy sauce
½ cup water or stock
Optional to garnish: chili sauce/sriracha, sesame seeds, fresh watercress leaves
- If using dried noodles, cook according to package instructions; drain and set aside in a little cool water and 1 tablespoon peanut or sesame oil to keep from over-cooking or sticking.
- Thoroughly wash your vegetables and remove any browning leaves or ends of stems. Halve the chive stems. Remove the edamame beans from the pods, which you can discard. In a small bowl, mix together the soy, kecap manis and water/stock.
- Over medium heat, place a large frying pan, skillet or wok. Add the noodles, chive stems, edamame and sauce; increase the heat and toss the noodles to ensure an even cook (about 3 minutes). Add in the pea leaves and watercress and cook through for 1 more minute.
- Serve immediately, piping hot with any extra desired toppings.
* Kecap manis is a sticky, sweet soy sauce, originally from Indonesia. It is commonly available at most Hong Kong Wet Markets and is a nice alternative to the familiar oyster or hoisin flavours found in a stir-fry.
** Fresh egg noodles are available from Wet Market vendors, generally being sold alongside a multitude of sauces and condiments. One catty of egg noodles is a bargain, costing approximately $10!
This recipe is a one-pot, quick and easy, stress-free version of the beloved Italian dish, risotto. A clean, summery dish simple enough to accomplish even after a day at the office, or to impress your next dinner guests.
This recipe uses Celtuce – a nutrient-dense, versatile vegetable, with a delicate flavour comparable to asparagus. You can spiralise the trunk into grain-free noodles, throw discs into stir-fries or soups, and use the leaves as a beautiful, fresh garnish.
To keep your meal plant-based, one option is to simply omit the chicken. Should you wish to replace it with a plant-based meat substitute, add this together with the second round of vegetables. Omit the butter and substitute with a tablespoon of white miso paste, adding in together with the stock, to maintain that creamy texture.
Ingredients (serves 4)
1 cup risotto rice
1 medium celtuce (stem and leaves)
¼ cup fresh edamame beans
10 stems flowering chives
1 lemon; juice and zest of
2 shallots (or 1 large banana shallot)
4 skinless chicken thighs (or plant-based protein)
3-4 cups stock (chicken or vegetable)
1 cup Prosecco (substitute dry white wine or vodka)
25g butter (divided into two)
1 tbsp olive oil; plus 1 tsp
Salt and pepper, to taste
- Wash your vegetables; remove the leafy part of the celtuce; keep that to one side, then peel and dice around 1 cup of the trunk into 1cm cubes, avoiding any of the tougher, woody veins. Remove the edamame beans from the pods.
- Keeping the flower buds aside, finely slice half of the chive stems, and chop the shallot into a small dice. Zest the lemon and quarter the fruit. Finally, season each side of the chicken thighs, if using, with salt and pepper. Chop into a 1-2cm dice and set aside.
- Heat a large frying pan or skillet over medium heat; add one tablespoon of olive oil, half of the butter and gently sauté the shallot until translucent. Add the rice and lightly fry until the grains are beginning to turn translucent (about 2 minutes). Keep the grains moving during this step.
- Carefully add in the Prosecco, increase the heat and simmer for another 2 minutes to cook out the alcohol, giving the pan a little jiggle every now and then to prevent any sticking.
- Add the chicken, a large pinch of salt and pepper, and just enough stock to cover the top of the rice. Return the heat to medium; occasionally stir until the stock is reduced by half (about ten minutes).
- Add in your cubed celtuce, edamame beans, chives and a pinch of lemon zest. Stirring occasionally to ensure no sticking. Cook until the remainder of the stock is almost all absorbed (approximately ten minutes). The rice should have a little resistance.
- While your risotto simmers, remove the celtuce leaves, roughly chop and toss with the teaspoon of olive oil, a pinch or two of lemon zest, a squeeze of fresh lemon, chive flowers, and a little salt and pepper.
- Stir through the remaining butter and a pinch more lemon zest for a glossy but fresh finish. Serve topped with the fresh celtuce salad and lemon wedges.
Wet market greens are chock full of nutrients. While we don’t all have the time or space to home-ferment our veggies, this recipe quickly wraps up the fresh crunch and health benefits of raw vegetables with the flavour of a pickle, all the while delivering a real punch in Vitamin C.
A versatile and genuinely easy dish, this dairy-free ‘slaw can happily sit alongside a piece of fish, atop a juicy burger, or as a delicious base for a vegan or meaty salad.
Ingredients (serves 4 to 6)
1 large head of swa tow mustard green (also known as head mustard)
1 lobak radish (also known as daikon)
1 handful Chinese watercress
3 tbsp rice vinegar (note, not rice wine vinegar)
½-1 tbsp sesame oil (to taste)
½ tsp coarse salt
Optional: sesame seeds to garnish; fresh cracked pepper or chili if you like a little kick
- Thoroughly wash all of the vegetables; remove any extra dirt on the swa tow mustard, discarding any browning or softer outer leaves.
- Slice the lobak/daikon into two se ctions of 2 inches long – there is no need to peel it first. Chop each segment into matchsticks approximately ½cm thick, although there is no need to be too precise*. Into a medium mixing bowl, add your lobak matchsticks and rice vinegar, giving it all a good toss.
- Taking the larger of the mustard leaves, slice them into long thin strips; for the smaller, inner leaves, simply roughly chop. Add all of the sliced mustard leaves into the mixing bowl together with some salt and the sesame oil. Thoroughly mix to coat all of the vegetables and set aside for 10 minutes.
- Before serving, trim about a dozen Chinese watercress just about the end of each stem. Roughly chop half. Add all the halved and full stems into the ‘slaw mix.
- Garnish with a couple of extra watercress leaves, plus any additional toppings such as sesame seeds, and serve.
*Although it is tempting to speed this up with a grater, the resulting flavour can be rather bitter.
The prices you see are usually for one “catty” in weight (about 600g). Remember:
- Vegetables: one catty serves two as a main course ingredient, or four people as a side dish.
- Noodles: one catty serves four people.
Wash your veggies before you store them in the fridge so they’re ready to hit the chopping board. If you’re not cooking the same day, wrap any leafy bits in moist kitchen towel/cloth – as long as they stay damp, they tend to keep fresh for a couple of days.
Two new weapons for your anti-plastic armoury. Both of which are generally appreciated – with my terrible Cantonese, the first can even elicit a good giggle!
- “Mm sai doi, mm goi”: “No plastic bag, please”.
- Pass your veggies over for weighing together with your fabric shopping bag.
Read more: Where to Buy Plastic-Free Essentials In Hong Kong