Grocery shopping and meal preparation have been my biggest challenges since arriving in China. So far, with the exception of breakfasts, we’ve eaten most of our meals out but that becomes old fast especially when very few places have English menus and it’s always a guess what we’re going to end up with!
The university cafeteria is just around the corner from our apartment building and an easy place to pick up a quick lunch or supper but the meals there, though incredibly cheap, are heavy on rice or noodles and light on meat and vegetables. The same is true of many of the tiny restaurants in the neighbourhood. In order to ensure that we’re getting a healthy, balanced diet we’ve decided that we need to start doing more of our own cooking.
Grocery shopping here is a whole new experience. There’s a giant supermarket within walking distance or there’s the street just outside our window! Every morning before 7 o’clock, vendors spread out their wares and the street becomes a beehive of shoppers purchasing everything from fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and seafood to clothing, shoes and household goods. It appears that on some days you can even have a comforter made right there on the street! By noon, everything is packed up and carted away until the following morning.
It was fairly easy to find some breakfast basics at the supermarket. Though we can’t read any labels, bread, yogurt and orange juice were easy to identify. With the exception of oatmeal, cereal doesn’t seem to exist though and fresh milk is nowhere to be found. We’ve bought eggs at both the supermarket and on the street.
Buying meat is clearly going to be my biggest difficulty. I could manage quite nicely as a near vegetarian especially considering some of the things we’ve seen for sale so far! Chicken feet are common as are pig feet! At least those we’re able to identify! We have no idea what some of the things we’ve seen are.
Nevertheless, we headed down to the street market this morning determined to find enough to make at least a couple of meals here at home. After much gesturing to indicate what we wanted and some moments of frustration as we tried to figure out how much we were supposed to pay for each item, we came back with fresh shrimp and a good looking chunk of meat that I’m pretty sure is pork. It could be beef though! We also purchased a variety of vegetables as well as oranges, rice, peanuts and a pair of knit gloves because mine were wearing out! Supper tonight was a shrimp stir-fry and rice.