Grocer and Ham Expert, Shao Xing

This kindly camo-wearing grocer operates a stall in the big wet-market in Shao Xing. While stumbling around in the rain yesterday we practically fell into the wet-market entrance, and the first stall we came across was his. A neater, tidier little shop I have never seen (one of these days I'll post some behind-the-scenes photos of the barely managed chaos that is my local grocery store in Shanghai).

These grocery shops can be found in the corner position of every wet market, and they sell dry goods of all kinds, from bottled sauces (soy, oyster, chili) to dried pulses (millet, soybeans, mungbeans), dried fruits (red dates, Xinjiang sultanas) and lastly dried meats, jellyfish, shrimp and fish. 

This fellow's specialty was clearly ham, and I have never seen so many good looking pig's legs in one place. Jinghua ham, Yunnan ham, cured pork belly, it was all here. He passed me various cuts to smell - all the different hams have different curing processes, so the aroma of each is quite different. An entire leg of cured Jinghua ham cost 150 yuan ($25) and came in its own tennis-racquet shaped plastic holder with a handle. If I hadn't already bought two heavy porcelain bottles of Shao Xing wine I would have been sorely tempted to take one back to Shangai to hang in the kitchen for the winter.  I could take it down and saw bits off as needed, all medieval-like. 

I think you can tell a lot about a town by the state of its wet markets and grocers. Shao Xing looks to be in pretty good shape - a vibrant food and wine culture, a well-maintained and very clean wet market, and little gems like this shop here there and everywhere. Just planning my next trip there now.....

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