HK Magazine Archive

Why Are Salads I Buy From Hong Kong Supermarkets Always So Close to Spoiling?

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 July, 2016, 11:24am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 October, 2016, 5:15pm

A few reasons. The main one is that Hong Kong imports more than 90 percent of its food. When our food supply chain is so built about flying food from all over the world, it’s pretty tough to guarantee freshness. Add to that food which sits in humid Hong Kong waiting to be picked off the shelf, it’s little wonder that your sell-by date is less of an advisory and more of a red line marking when your mesclun mix goes from crisp leaf to brown soup. 

Then there’s the fact that salads just aren’t a very Chinese foodstuff. Sorry to all raw food adherents out there, but the traditional Chinese belief is that food just shouldn’t be eaten uncooked. Wisdom holds that it’s liable to cause stomach upsets and worse—a belief likely originating from an age of dirtier water and worse food preparation standards. And in many cases, cooking your veggies—as long as you don’t badly overcook them—releases nutrients by making them more digestible. 

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In recent years the government’s tried to encourage local organic farming, and while it accounts for a tiny proportion of our daily food consumption, there really are companies working to make good veggies a reality. The city’s wet markets are, of course, a better source of fresh produce than anything you’re likely to grab out of a bag at the supermarket. And these days, a rising number of stalls are selling organic grown-in-Hong-Kong produce that could happily grace any salad bowl. 

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Not that Hongkongers haven’t been on board with salad for a while, in their own special way. Exhibit A: the Pizza Hut salad bar. When Pizza Hut first introduced its salad bar concept to the city—long before it went to China—Hongkongers embraced it with open arms, and bellies. The rules said that you could eat as much salad as you could fit into a bowl. And so we became experts at salad engineering, cantilevering lettuce leaves out of the bowl so as to provide a wider surface area for what came next. In this city of implausible skyscrapers, is it any wonder that we can construct towering edifices of tomato, of cucumber, of cauliflower—of the stuff of life itself?