A wet market is an open marketplace with stalls of vegetables and other food items presented for sale. Many wet markets are found in China and the Philippines. The name is based on the fact that these informal market environments usually have wet floors. Shoppers tolerate sloppy floors and items piled on mats or boards as the foods sold at wet markets are known for their fresh quality and low price. The moisture is created by market workers regularly spraying the produce and floors with water.
The best time to go to a wet market is usually early in the morning when the foods being sold are at their freshest and the selection is wide. China has many modern supermarkets, but wet markets have the freshest foods. The foods sold at these markets are purchased each day from local farms. Each vendor sets his or her own price and shoppers look for the nicest produce at the best price. Typically, vendors at wet markets don’t like to make change, so rather than large bills shoppers tend to bring smaller denominations of paper money or coins.
Although fresh produce is the mainstay of a wet market, other food items may be sold in the open marketplace depending on the region. For instance, in some parts of the Philippines, live animals such as pigs, poultry and fish as well as reptiles are offered for sale along with vegetables and fruits. Butcher shops are often close by so the animals can be killed and prepared for eating. The practice is controversial, as some people protest against the marketplace killing of animals that are often kept in tiny cages until they are sold. Shoppers of wet market live animals tend to respond that they want to be sure their meat is of high quality and free from disease.
Yet, disease can be likely at wet markets as the open space allows insects to reach the food more easily than in walled supermarkets. Having live animals near produce and people may spread viruses. In some regions and countries, a wet market must have a license to operate as well as follow sanitation standards.
Spices are available for sale at many wet markets. For example, a wet market in Malaysia may feature vendors selling spices from bowls each containing a different spice. Some vendors at Malaysian wet markets may sell cooked produce such as sweet curried peppers.