I went into a fairly lengthy discussion with a friend the other day about food scares and such in China these days. It’s nothing new that every month (or less than that!) something is wrong with a certain food grown here. I’m fairly concerned about this, and try to avoid these if I can. That said, it is hard to tell food quality regardless of the news that circulates. So what to do? How do people maintain a high quality diet here? I’ve worked and tweaked my food shopping habits over the years I’ve been here, and it’s worked fairly well for me. So I’m sharing my list here in case anyone is interested, or is trying to eat local foods without totally relying on imports.
What I avoid eating here:
-local milk (too many news articles about the melamine tainted milk scandal out there, go have a look! Plus any milk here is of the powdered variety, even if you buy it in cartons) and any food with milk ingredients, such as chocolate, yoghurt, cakes, ice cream locally produced butter,etc.
-eggs : I was allergic to them once, so I avoided that for obvious reasons. Now, its’ mostly because of the quality I’ve found: many eggs you find in local markets are fertilized. My husband and I bought many eggs so our students can dye them for Easter, but threw 2/3 away because of this issue. And this happened more than once!
-generic oil: it used to make me sooooo sick
-juice produced here: they put more sugar in it than a can of cola!
-stock: they make it out of chicken bullion and fat, and the veggie one is NOT veggie. It’s also full of other crap that you just don’t want in your body
-locally packed salted nuts: they’ve also got more sugar than salt. crazy.
-seafood: a lot of the ‘fresh’ fish you see at wet markets are defrosted fish (unless you literally see them swimming in tanks, of course!). I suspect sometimes they refreeze and re-thaw their products if they don’t sell it that day. Shellfish here has gotten my husband and I very sick, especially oysters.
-“organic” veggies/meat: labeling in China is never reliable, plus they jack up their prices and I can’t justify paying it.
Things I buy in Chinese supermarkets/local wet markets:
-veggies and fruit (I tend to avoid the melons unless husband shares with me, but we’ve stopped buying watermelons because of the scandal recently) –>better to buy in morning if you can, and buy the day you need to use them, unless your fridge is big enough. On busy days I make sure to have my veggies three days in advance of me needing to use them. When the weather is hotter, I have to be very picky about the quality, if I’m not liking what I see, I go to a large chain supermarket because I know they at least air condition the place, and the veggies are at least not subjected to the humidity/heat that much.
-tofu: I try to avoid soy as much as I can (I’m fearful they’re GMO, and I’m not too comfortable about that), but they’ve got a variety here, my personal preference is fresh tofu skins and the firm kinds.
-ground pork (ONLY if it is winter time here AND it is very early in the morning, even then I take a lot of precautions)
-I would like to try buying a whole fresh chicken here, but not sure hubby will go for it
-chilli oil (only well known brands, and after thoroughly checking the labels to make sure there aren’t any preservatives)
-dried beans (though I have to watch out, once I had ones that were really old and starting to sprout)
-cumin seeds and ground cumin (though gotta watch packaging to make sure there aren’t any ‘fillers’)
-dried chilli flakes
-raw sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and almonds
-green tea bags
-soy sauce (stick to sell known brands)
-local honey/bee pollen
Things I buy from imported shops:
-chicken breasts (hard to find in Chinese stores) and thighs
-ground beef/pork (safer)
-pickled veggies (we are quite partial to pickles and jalapenos when we get a bit homesick)
-dried beans (like chickpeas and lentils)
-spices, dried and fresh (oregano, dill, basil, rosemary, cumin, coriander, paprika)
-cereal (hubby loves for breakfast)
-rice/soy milk (still trying avoid dairy as much as I can, and it’s a decent alternative)
-some veggies (red and yellow bell peppers are a favourite)
-whole wheat pasta
-salsa (‘Wild Harvest Organics’ makes a great one with no preservatives, yum!)
-unflavoured popcorn (a good snack when I crave potato chips)
-Korean pepper paste, ok well any other Korean products, like miso and kimchi
-olive oil (would love to cook with coconut oil but it’s so damn expensive!)
-coconut milk (have yet to look around bigger local supermarkets to see if I can find it)
-green chilli paste (only the brand that doesn’t have preservatives, forgot the brand on the top of my head)
– peppermint, early grey and english breakfast tea