Dried Seafood Street is part of an entire neighbourhood devoted to things dried, medicinal and edible. If you are visiting here, take the MTR to Sheung Wan and one of the exits will take you out onto Birds Nest and Ginseng Street, which will lead you to Herbal Medicine Street and Dried Seafood Street. They are signposted for tourists, and their actual names are Wing Lok Street, Ko Shing Street and Des Voeux Road.
Because of our business earlier in the day we did this neighbourhood in reverse, starting with Dried Seafood Street.
It is fair to say that I am not known for having a cast-iron constitution with regards to food. For a substantial part of my adult life I have been either a vegetarian or a low grade omnivore. I have no moral issue with others eating as they see fit. I don’t want people telling me what I should or shouldn’t be doing, so have no intent on belligerently berating others regarding their tastes. But I have to say that visiting Dried Seafood Street makes that a very difficult philosophical position to maintain.
We walked down Dried Seafood Street in alternate states of awe and horror. Far be it for me to say what is “too much”, but I really don’t know where they could possibly have purchased so many scallops. Shop after shop displayed multiple jars of different sized dried scallops. I kid you not when I say that each jar must have held a thousand scallops. Some were the size of a small fat button, up to what must have been large fleshy scallops before drying. There were dried shrimps by the ton, and things that looked like jellyfish in boxes. Many items I just couldn’t identify, and some that I didn’t really want to know what they were.
Sea slugs dried in large jars, or in boxes along the street front of shops; and in a couple of cases, laid out to display on the roadside.
Sharks fins could be seen displayed in a few of the shops and I took a photograph of a huge fin on display at the door of one shop. I could only imagine what it used to be attached to.
It’s hard to be dispassionate about the amount of produce on sale here. You can feel a little overwhelmed by the sheer quantity, and wonder where on earth it could all come from, and where it all actually goes.
After we had wandered both sides of the road, we headed up Herbal Medicine Street and back along Birds Nest and Ginseng Street to the MTR station. Along the way we saw many families sitting in shops dividing up produce for sale in smaller bags; we saw beautifully presented shop fronts; we saw the beautiful traditional herbal medicine dispensaries; and we saw the ubiquitous handcarts being pushed by fit looking young men and little old ladies.
If you are planning a visit to Hong Kong, take some time to visit this area. Even though the streets have been nicknamed for tourist consumption, this does not take away the local cultural aspects of the produce for sale and the shop’s customers. You probably won’t see too many tourists down Des Voeux Road West, we certainly didn’t. Don’t be one of those who stop short; go the distance; take the extra time. You will not regret the walk, even though it may pose philosophical questions for you to answer and may even push your judgemental buttons. You came to see a different culture – don’t miss it.