Haiphong Road’s Halal Meat Market

The wet market on Haiphong Road comes as a bit of a surprise, tucked as it is beneath a busy flyover that shudders with the weight of passing trucks. The crowds streaming along the road towards the shops on Canton Road pass it by without much thought. If a passerby were to wander in, though, he or she would be in for another surprise. Instead of the usual row of fishmongers and butchers selling every cut of pork cut imaginable, there is a small collection of halal butchers.

I’ve been to the market on a number of occasions, and each time, the butchers seem vaguely surprised to see me. They ask me where I am from. “Canada,” I reply, to which they usually tell me about a relative in Toronto or offer some platitude about the beautiful scenery. On my last visit, I asked one of the butchers, Asif, how long he had been working there. “More than twenty years,” he said. Born in Pakistan, he came to Hong Kong as a child and started working in the market when his father opened a shop there in the 1980s. “We don’t come from a family of butchers, so we had to watch others and learn from them,” he said.

I had always assumed that the market’s customers were mainly Pakistani from the surrounding neighbourhood, but it draws a more diverse crowd than that. “Indians will come and buy goat — they don’t eat beef — and cook it for breakfast,” Asif told me. “Chinese people come here too. They say our meat tastes better.” He gestured towards cuts of beef hanging from hooks above his stall. “In our country, beef is tough and goat is softer, but here, beef is very tender and goat is tough.” I asked why, but he shrugged.

I’m not sure what’s in store for the Haiphong Road market. Curious about its origins, I poked around a bit and discovered that it was built after Kowloon Park Drive was ploughed through the area in 1978, leaving an oddly-shaped piece of land next to the flyover. The market was meant to be temporary — it is still called the Haiphong Road Temporary Market — but at 32 years it has outlasted no small number of Hong Kong buildings.

Many of the stalls in the market are vacant, which leads me to think that the government plans to do away with it, but none of the butchers I spoke to had heard anything about the market being closed. If it did shut down, the surrounding neighbourhood, Tsim Sha Tsui, would be left without a single wet market or street market — the closest one is a 15-minute walk to the north in Jordan.

This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Wednesday August 11 2010at 08:08 am , filed under Asia Pacific, Food, Public Space, Society and Culture and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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