Thursday, December 30, 2010

11-Dollar Box of Cheerios

I think we had dinosaur that night for dinner...

Some thoughts on dining options in China. 

If you come over from the Western world to live in China and continue to eat as you did in the Western world, your food bill will quickly add up.  When living and working in China, why not live and work as the Chinese do? 

The most expensive food in China is Western food.  Either in the restaurants or from the foreign-import food stores.  The stuff is pricey.  If you eat all 3 meals a day as a Chinese would, you’re not going to spend that much money on food.  It will definitely be cheaper than buying the overpriced Western dishes in the restaurants or the overpriced Western items in the import food stores.  Also, eating as a Chinese, you’ll probably spend less money than you would in your home country.

Grocery Shopping:  Typical expats who come over for extended periods of time on their “expat-packages” will shop in import food stores.   This is where Cheerios can exceed RMB75.00.   They buy their cheese, their luncheon meats, salad dressings, snacks, cooking ingredients…… all very high-priced.  In many cases the price is double or triple than what you would pay in your home country. 

Most Chinese almost daily, go to the market.  They buy the fresh food needed to cook on a daily or every 2-day basis.  My wife (who is Chinese) and I when eating Chinese food at home (which is the majority), spend about 8-10 dollars / day on all 3 meals. 

It’s not that I’m a cheapskate and therefore don’t want to pay for the Western food; it’s that I refuse to be ripped off.

Also, after living here for 100 years….I mean over 9 years…I’m pretty much adapted to the majority of the cuisines.  Unlike most expats, you won’t hear me pining away as much for Doritos, good steaks, Greek salads, or whatever else most expats lament the lack thereof. 

Eating Out:  The Western restaurants are not that much better.  At the Western restaurants you get a bit better value, but the food, just isn’t quite right.  Perhaps this is my opinion and since it’s my blog, it most likely is my opinion, but there is something about the food that is “off”.  The steaks, in comparison to what I could eat in North Carolina, seem sickly and if they are not sickly, then they’re overpriced.   Plus every kind of steak you order here, they pour some kind of black pepper sauce on top of it (you expats know what I mean). 
Chinese New Year's Eve At Home: Turtle soup, crabs, shrimp, fish
cucumbers, potatoes...won't find it this good eating out
I don’t like mayonnaise on a salad and most restaurants don’t offer Italian or Ranch.   Cheese is hard to come by or non-existent, there are no baked potatoes, the portions are small and everything lacks the hearty portion of corn syrup that is generously provided in all foods in the USA. 

It’s like how most Chinese food in the States is not real Chinese food, the same concept; most Western food in China is not real Western food.  Most Chinese think KFC and McDonald’s is typical Western food.  I type that with tears in my eyes….

The price in the Western restaurants is very high in comparison to the local restaurants.  Probably because the supply for the ingredients is limited and most likely because they know the expats will pay high-dollar for it to get a “taste of home” (or a facsimile there of). 

The Chinese restaurants, although are more reasonably priced, can have other issues such as not using fresh ingredients, loaded with MSG and cleanliness.  I know restaurant employees in the States pick their noses, but at least they don’t do it in front of you while they’re staring at you while you eat…little things like that.

The majority of Chinese eat out a lot less than folks in the Western world.  It’s considered nutritionally inferior and even the Chinese are concerned about the health hazards.    

If you’re going to be living in China for an extended period;  I recommend eating in as much as possible. 

If you’re not one for cooking or don’t have the time, you can hire an “a yi”, which is an “auntie”, who will come to your home and cook.  She’ll do the marketing if you want.  Mrs. Cai comes to my home every Mon, Wed & Fri.  Each time she’ll cook up a batch food; usually a meat, 3 fresh veggie dishes and a pot of soup.  That will last Leeds and me for about 3 meals.  The soup alone could cost USD20.00 and the portion wouldn’t be as big.

It’s healthy, you can work with the “a yi” on the style of food you want and you don’t have to deal with the high-priced, smoky restaurants.  If you work out a deal, she can also assist on the domestic duties..depends on what you want and need.  Back to the health factor;  notice you don’t see many overweight Chinese and they don’t suffer from the same cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes issues you hear about in the West… something to think about as you check your waistline post-Christmas break. 

Save the restaurant visits for the holidays; either the high-priced 5-star Western restaurants, the McDonald’s, the KFC, or the smoky, boisterous Chinese eating halls.  

And speaking of holidays, I wish a Happy 2011 to all reading this. 祝福你元旦


  1. happy new year!
    good ,good sharing.

    from Andy #jan1

  2. Hi Andy,

    Awesome brother, you're the first person to comment on my blog...humbled and appreciative.

    你说得对; 很重要找到在文化差异上的共同纽带

    Happy New Year.