This is the original foodie network of Shanghai, either hidden down an alley or behind a set of subtle doors, these Fresh markets are dotted along almost every road in the city. Early in the morning, they are bustling with Shanghai’s older generations collecting the food they need that day, greeting shop owners by name, having a few extra freebies tossed into their bags and haggling over a couple cents.
Everyone has their go-to stands where they would swap recipes, ask the shop keeper what things are, how to cook it, what goes well with something else. Until the ’90s, few homes in Shanghai had refrigerators, so the Fresh Market is where you started every day, it really is a ‘see you tomorrow’ type of establishment, a central part of any neighbourhood.
There is an obsession with food in China, with the local TV show 风味人间 (Once Upon a Bite) hitting a sizzling 600 million views for its first episode. Many young people are passionate about exploring food as well, queueing up for the new restaurant and constantly checking their social media to see where their friends are dining. However, if you visit one of these fresh markets today, it will be clear the impact that online shopping, restaurant culture, and delivery meals have made, as very few from the younger generation have adopted the age-old market routine.
The ‘foodie culture’ in Shanghai goes back generations, but with countless new restaurants, culinary events, TV shows and Social Media Influencers whetting modern appetites in Shanghai, what will happen to these original food communities in the city?