Dried Seafood and Bird’s Nest Streets, Hong Kong

What I Say:

The Dried Seafood Street is actually called Des Voeux Road West. Imagine a big street with shophouses on both sides but all of them happen to be selling an abundance of the same things – dehydrated seafood! Expect the usual, at times expensive and at time bloody expensive, Chinese ingredients ranging from fish fillets of many kinds, shrimps, scallops, to abalones, sea cucumbers and, of course, shark’s fins. I don’t want to talk ethical here as it will make the post unethically lengthy.

On the side streets, just a few minutes’ walk away, called Ko Shing Street, Wing Lok Street and Bonham Strand West, there are many other smaller shops selling dried herbal medicines, ginsengs and bird’s nests. While Des Voeux is overwhelming, these little back streets are real charmers. I came across some unassuming shops that sell some of the world’s most expensive ingredients. Yet, I did come across some shocking medicines … Let’s have a look.

How To Get There:

These streets are in the area called Sheng Wan on Hong Kong Island. I took a taxi as I only had less than 24hr in HK on that occasion, otherwise I would be taking either the tram heading from Kennedy Town/Whitty Street from Central or the MTR to Sheng Wan station and take the A2 exit. The first thing you see when coming out will be the back “Bird’s Nest and Herbal Medicines” streets.

Best To Go:

Day time.

What To Get:

Quality-wise, everything there is ace. My pick would be bird’s nest, abalone and sea cucumber. That said, you need to be able to converse in Cantonese as many shopkeepers do not speak English. Prices are negotiable.

Dehydrated seafood …

Starting off with a lot of fish.

Many sizes of sea cucumber – my favourite!

The readiness is all as some are, literally, dried by the sun on the street!

Then, the precious abalones of many sizes!

Large and small …

Other “dried” stuff, say, mussels, scallops and fish fillets?

The taboo: shark’s fins…

I think there is an extent to which shark’s fins should or should not be allowed to be consumed. It’s part of the ancient courtly tradition that became mass consumption. Yet, as of many other endangered species – whale hunting in Japan or blue fin tuna consumed by all Japanese food lovers all over the world – the hunting of sharks, also known as “finning”, should be regulated rather than altogether banned.

Anyway, there are some even bigger ones … shocking!

Let’s move on to the herbal medicine and bird’s nest. They should be less offensive and les controversial, shouldn’t they?

First up, the bird’s nest of many kinds – pure white and red. In case you do not know, bird’s nest is actually the spit/ saliva of swallows to form their nest during migration and is very high in nutrients. The differences between the white and the red owe much to the surroundings where the nests are taken.

Dried herbs?

Another expensive medicinal fix: Ling Zhi mushrooms.

Now, the other end of medicinal spectrum and a rather shocking one!

Star fish, turtle shells and lizards – all comes dehydrated.

If you don’t think they’re shocking enough, try this one.

It’s, literally, a bunch of SNAKES!!!!!!!

Two bunches, actually. Never mind, I’m never that pedantic.

The last items are the most horrific and the most unethical, I think. They are antlers of some near-extinct deer. The ones in the window display still have the deer’s skin on … enough said!

And these…

Enough culture shocks? What Else?????

A cat ..

Not dehydrated, not edible :-p

And across the road there is this crocodile speciality restaurant …