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This is What Shanghai's Massive Wholesale Food Market Looks Like

Ever wonder where your food is coming from?
Sep 27, 2020 | 12:00 Sun
Photos: Brandon McGhee
In Focus: A picture-driven look at what's new, cool, special and weird about Shanghai. This is the view from the ground, through the lens of our photographers.

Going to the Seafood Market used to be a thing in Shanghai, when the Tongchuan Lu Seafood Market still existed in Putuo district. It was rough, it was dirty, it was slippery, it stunk in summer and the vendors had switches on their scales to cheat you. It was no Tsukiji. But it still had some charm.

You could browse, bargain, buy enough crabs to feed an apartment complex, and then have dinner. I once saw an alligator there hidden under a bench; I saw my first snake being butchered at the market, its gallbladder dropped into a plastic water bottle of baijiu, and its skin turned into a snappy cold salad. Going to the seafood market was never boring.

Eventually it was shut down and the vendors relocated to the far side of the city.

I was reminded of it again recently as a major market has been popping up on my Moments, from chefs making late-night trips to harass and purchase seafood for their restaurants.

So the other day, SmSh photographer Brandon McGhee and I made the 45-minute trip up the North-South Highway to outer Baoshan district. That’s where the vendors from the old Tongchuan Lu market have congregated, at the Jiangyang Market.

There are two Jiangyang markets, to be precise: the little Jiangyang Market (小江阳) and the big Jiangyang Market (大江杨), with different names in Chinese.

Seafood is concentrated in the little Jiangyang Market, so that’s where we spent an hour before going across the street, past the massive wholesale fruit hangars, and eventually dipping into the vegetable area, which is so massive that entire rows are given to a single vegetable or two. We browsed Eggplant. We toured Winter Melon and Potato. We saw signs for Burdock and Jiaobai towns but our feet hurt, so we called it an afternoon.

If you’re at all interested in how Shanghai gets, trades, handles or ships its food, and how the logistics of feeding a city of 25 million work, it’s a fascinating tour through our food supply. If Baoshan is just too far (even if the markets are just off the highway), then here’s a peek of what they look like during a random hour of a random day.

The entrance to the market. Scooters to the right, container trucks to the left. Pedestrians? Who would walk in here? (Us.)

The covered world where it all happens. Vendors line both sides with dozens of tanks each bubbling away.

Spiny lobsters are apparently becoming popular in Shanghai — the kind with no claws. These ones made the trip from southern Australia but the vendor advertised lobsters from as far away as Cuba.

Big, craggy oysters from Dalian, 12rmb each.

A Canadian Dungeness crab looking out from the tank.

Swimmer crabs, the kinds with the set of swimming fins at the back of their legs, are immensely popular.

UFO — unidentified fish object. How come we never seen this stuff on menus in downtown?

Baby shark doo doo do doo doo do.

More swimmer crabs.

Where crabs go when they die.

The blue trike is basically the emblem of the seafood market, with people racing around on them constantly, moving seafood from one part of the market to the other. Interestingly, the trikes from the vegetable market are painted green, so you know who's who.

One of the more varied and eye-catching set of tanks.

Crabs with their fists tied up like prize fighters before the fight.

Out of the ocean and into the hairy crab section, which was just coming to life when we visited. The season, they say, is a little late this year.

Bags of crustacean gold.


This guy is a crab sexer. He flips over the crabs and determines the gender (round flap, it's female; pointed flap, it's male) before sorting them.

This woman, in the yellow glove, is a crab sizer. Her partner tosses the crabs into the bowls in front of her, which are set on digital scales. She reflexively tosses the crabs into various metal chutes by size before they get sexed.


This was a cabbage truck over in the vegetable side of the market, and the first non-seafood vendor we stopped to talk to. Based on our conversations, at least, a large amount of the city's vegetables are grown in Yancheng in Jiangsu province.

Emoji alley.

Just one of several storehouses for winter melons. Two kinds are available: these, with the glossy green skin, and the ones in the background of the photo below, with a powdery white skin. All the vendors agreed the variety with powdery white skin tastes better.

Food guts.

The end!

The Jiangyang Seafood Market (江阳水产市场) is located a million billion miles away at 1700 Taihe Lu, near Tieyang Lu / 泰和路1700号, 近铁杨路. It's basically open 24/7.


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