Friday, May 3, 2013

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Food and Eating in Beijing

I'm picky when it comes to food. I'm better than I was as a teen, and even my 20s, but I'm not the easiest going when it comes to food. When I was in middle school I wanted to be a vegetarian, it didn't last.  Fortunately, I'm older and wiser now, and a little more ambitious when it comes to trying new things and what I eat.

What Do We Eat?

Candy aisle in Jenny Wang's
Luckily, Beijing has a lot of options for Westerners. I'm not sitting here eating rice and noodles every day like some of you may imagine. I'm also not eating dog, cat, horse or any other crazy animals you can come up with for Chinese stereotypes. We eat almost as if we lived at home.  Minus chicken and eggs right now thanks to the H7N9 bird flu.  

You can buy pretty much anything you need, for a price. Dairy and meat are very expensive, compared to what I am used to in Ohio. Dairy is about 3-4 times more expensive, most meat is at least double the price I would pay in Columbus. If you want something that is imported like boxed cereal you can easily pay $10 a box. Vegetable that Chinese use, in general, are really cheap.  I bought veggies the other day to make dumplings (that is a whole other post) and everything I bought cost me $1. 

Grocery Stores in Beijing

The places I shop at for groceries are Jenny Lou's, DD's Market, and BHG.  I buy most of my meat from a butcher called Schindler's.  I prefer to cook because a lot of the places that cater to expats, while they try their best to taste authentic, just seem to be lacking.  I can't handle one more bad hamburger, or disappointing guacamole.  I have found really good sushi here though!

Oh My!

I think I'm going really well here and then I see an article like this and it makes me want to become a vegetarian. China Arrests 900 in Fake Meat Scare.  I'm hoping the places I shop are immune to these types of scandals and situations but it just freaks you out.  Beans and rice for dinner anyone?

And to make matters worse, just last week I had read about this, Arrests in 'Gutter Oil' scandal.  This is one reason why I don't eat at street vendors and you have to be careful about the restaurants where you eat.  I'd like to think we only eat at grade A restaurants, but again it just makes me a bit squeamish.  

Overall I think we eat really well here, I was expecting and hoping to lose a few pounds while I was living in China and unluckily for me, I haven't. I guess I know how to cook good comfort food.  

If you've made it this far, I'd love to hear from you in the comments. Let me know what you think of the food scares and if you're surprised by what we are eating!


  1. Hi, I found your blog last night and have read through 4 or 5 articles now. I like the honesty you post here, not wrt what you see around you that makes you uncomfortable, but the self-reflection and core values or quirks that exacerbate the differences in culture. Kudos for you, keep blogging, it's good stuff. :)

  2. Thanks Andy, I'm trying to really give people perspective and honesty. :) I appreciate the nice comments.

  3. Shanna I've often wondered about how you do the day to day things there in China...especially with children and such a busy life. I just found your blogs and they are very informational and fun to read. I'm going to definitely follow them. Hello from Ohio!!

    1. Please tell me you are a Buckeye fan Diane?? O-H!! ;)

  4. Oh no!! Heart of a Wolverine right here!!

    1. Oh no is right! What happened to MSU, Pam always had that MSU puppy dog wasn't it? Well and something that played the Wolverine fight song. :)