Sunday, 4 September 2011

Chinese supermarkets

english breakfast tea by hallucygenia
english breakfast tea, a photo by hallucygenia on Flickr.

Chinese supermarkets

We visit our local supermarket, handily situated at the end of our road, most days. As we don’t have a fridge, shopping every day is essential in hot weather, as many things won’t keep until the next day. Most of the supermarket would be fairly familiar for anyone familiar with those in the UK. There are sections for cleaning products, toiletries, bottled water, alcohol, fruit and vegetables, and a meat counter. I was surprised to find a lot of dairy products on sale, as I had thought the Chinese didn’t care for them. Milk and yoghurt are extremely popular, but cheese and butter aren’t, judging by the space allocated to them.

There are some differences, though. The fish section also includes frogs and turtles, and the fish really are fresh – you can tell by the way they are still swimming. The tea department occupies a lot of space, and has a large display of very expensive types of tea packed in nice boxes ready to give as gifts. Coffee is relegated to a different section, and mostly comes in little sachets with powdered milk and sugar already added. All the coffee the supermarket sells is instant; ground coffee is sold in imported food shops and is horrendously expensive.

There are some goods sold in the UK that are not found here in China. For example, I have not seen tinned food since I came here. Ready meals are unknown – the nearest equivalent is little trays of chopped meat or vegetables ready to be dumped into the wok. The selection of spices is limited, and is mostly different sorts of chilli.

Handily for us, there is an aisle of imported food. This contains such delights as pasta (imported from Spain), cornflakes (from Malaysia) and Danish Butter Cookies (Malaysia, again). There is a very small selection from Britain. One might think this would be something that could not otherwise be found in China, such as shortbread, or tinned haggis, or laverbread, or chicken tikka masala. No, none of these. It’s tea. Camomile, peppermint, English Breakfast and Earl Grey. Yes, China, home of tea, home to more tea-drinkers than anywhere else, is importing the stuff from the UK. Since I don’t quite believe it myself, I took a photograph as evidence.

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