Food shopping Chinese style.

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I love food and, by now, have mastered the art of eating with chopsticks almost as expertly as any Chinese person… But the novelty of free school canteen food has long since worn off, and finally my first pay cheque has come through.  Shopping time!!!  After yet another trip to the local IKEA store I now am the proud owner of a wok AND a proper frying pan!  I have managed to sizzle bacon to a crisp and  rustle up French toast with fried bananas in the hollow of my wok , but believe you me, a wok and omelettes???

If getting proper utensils, cooking equipment, crockery and cutlery was half the battle, the other challenge is getting the right ingredients.  Although living in a more Westernised part of China, and in the vicinity of a branch of Wal-Mart, means I am not totally deprived of recognisable foods, they come at a price, an exorbitant price.  Cheese comes wrapped in plastic,  at about £4 for 200g.  Exotic cheeses such as Camembert are encased in protective tins, not quite authentic but the taste is not that bad…  Bacon and butter are available and a luxury I cannot do without.  And as for coffee?   Even at £9 for 1oog of instant, coffee is a must as I would struggle to start the day without it.  And when I next venture to IKEA, I will invest in a cafetière or other coffee making device and buy some real ground coffee to tickle my pampered taste buds…


On the upside, the Chinese love their greens and there is an abundance of vegetables on display in the supermarket, in the little vegetable shop around the corner or in the fruit and vegetable market.  After India, or the little hamlet of N in Kerala to be more precise (my Indian friends keep on pointing out that my view of all things Indian is pretty much warped because of living in a village rather than a town) where the scarceness of green vegetables all but dampened my excitement about food preparation, here the choice is myriad. From the familiar pak choy, spinach, leeks, broccoli and Chinese cabbage, to the more exotic such as lotus roots, all kinds of mushrooms and weird vegetables morphing into Laughing Buddhas.  It is vegetable heaven!!!  I still have to discover how to prevent each dish from having the distinct flavours of soy sauce, ginger and garlic, but I am working on that.


And then there is the meat… It takes some getting used to seeing raw chicken in a ‘free-for-all’ display and to watching Chinese shoppers delve into the delicacy of chicken feet.  In the supermarket, pork and beef are carefully sheltered behind plastic barriers and kept under a watchful eye, but in the market meat is on display on large metal or wooden tables, a rich selection.  Only, I am not so sure about buying my meat there in a few weeks time when the summer heat and humidity are bound to bring flies and other unwanted buzzy things in their wake.


In Wal-mart, barrels and barrels of dried fish in all shapes and shades of grey entice greedy hands to fill enormous bags.  Shrimps, prawns and langoustine, barely defrosted, are available at prices that make them an affordable treat. Of course, there are the live specimens where you can ‘pick your own’ with freshness guaranteed.   I have not been brave enough to try; a whole fish for one seems just a little over the top and not knowing which fish is which, I have avoided that challenge so far and, when on special offer or reduced in price,  stuck to rosy coloured salmon all neatly packed and wrapped…

And as for pigs cheeks, pig heads and other interesting meaty things getting perfumed by the fresh and polluted air…  I keep on the look-out for vegetarian protein whilst I conjure up memories of India with its mouthwatering dahls and finger-licking paneer dishes.  Tofu just doesn’t do it for me…










4 thoughts on “Food shopping Chinese style.

    1. lievelee Post author

      Thanks for reading the post… and I suppose I will have to give tofu another chance… I have tried stinky tofu, and survived!! The taste is nowhere near as bad as the smell would suggest.

      Liked by 1 person


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