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Shopping at the wet market

After eliminating milk (and grapes, his favorite fruit) 100% from his diet, giving him another pack of Smecta and spoon-feeding him 1/2 pack of ORS, his diarrhea eased.

Also, he got much much better when I put him back on his Rhinathiol and ventolin syrup.

Although he irritated the hell out of me when he resumed his perky, bouncy, destructive drive-his-toy-car over anything on the floor, CHATTY old self, I’m really glad that he turned around. Phew…

After dropping him off at preschool, I tried to get back into my housewife-y routine of shopping for fresh foods, which is REALLY REALLY HARD especially after spending a wonderful month back home 😛

For one, I’ve got to face the loud and noisy market with Chinese vendors calling, calling, calling me to look at this, try this or buy this. Having a fuzzy head of flu doesn’t help either! Also, I’ve got to mentally calculate the cost of stuff in China yuan.

A mathematically-challenged Mum, my head spins when I buy items that need to be weighed since they charge per 500g (yi jin), not per 1 kg here.


What’s more, I have to be on the look-out for genetically-modified or artificial eggs, corn, sweet potatoes and whatever not! (although I’d NOT believe all I read in the forwarded emails about suspicious items in China). Why does there seem to be more anti-China emails than anything else?

The salmonella-contaminated Famous Amos peanut butter cookies from the US didn’t get as much airtime in the newspapers, radio or TV!!!

Did you know that in the US,

food makers and state safety inspectors are allowed to keep tests results secret. That keeps federal health officials in the dark even when products have been contaminated by salmonella or other dangerous bacteria.

(Source: Associated Press)

If China, a developing country, is given so much pressure over the melamine-contaminated milk, then US, a developed country, should be given double the pressure, don’t you think? Especially as at least 40% of our food consumed is made in the US.

Since I get most of my fresh foods from the wet market straight from the local grocers, it’s quite a stressful shopping spree esp as I’ve got a fuzzy head of flu and a blocked nose.

Anyway, here’s my shopping pattern for various foods:

FRESH VEGETABLES

This food group is the easiest to buy from the wet market although I’m suspicious of GIANT-sized carrots, turnips, sweet potatoes, lettuce etc as I wonder if they were genetically-modified or given some super-sized fertilizer!

Although some Chinese attack them with gusto, I’d smile and say they are too big for our little family. Can I have regular-sized veggies please?

Local vegetable seller ChinaHere’s my favourite vegetable seller – she always smiles. Isn’t she nice?

She guaranteed me that I’d come back for her sweet potatoes and true enough I did.

Since I always buy the SAME vegetables from her, she once gave me some tau geh (bean sprouts), flattish green vege (scallions?) and something else to try.

Although I INSISTED very, very nicely that I have no idea how to cook them, she thought I was hesitating the Chinese way – boy, did we put on a drama that day!

I was protesting they’d be wasted (I’m NOT a good cook and neither am I an adventurous person) while she insisted I try them as they were really delicious.

Later, she sensed that I WAS serious and reduced the amounts, phew! She still tries her luck hahaha

FRESH CUTS / MEATS

– Pork and beef can only be bought from the established supermarket because they would have gone through a health & safety inspection.

I bought some at the wet market once (to save time) but my super-sensitive nose picked up a whiff of “chemicals” while slicing it. After giving it to Hubby for a second opinion, we ditched the slab of meat and had fried eggs for dinner.

I made friends with a local Chinese woman from his preschool who showed me around the wet market and inconspicuously pointed out her favorite “organic” butchers (I forget the name). She also advised me to get the thigh meat, which are leaner and tastier.

I hope to find an “organic” butcher at my wet market so I can get all my fresh foods at ONE place!

FRESH FISH

My little boy LOVES fish and I am blessed beyond words that the wet market nearby has rows of fish mongers but the only fish I recognize is the white pomfret.

I’ve tried other species but their meat is either tough or contains many, many little bones. Also, the fish on sale differ according to season. Today, white pomfret costs 16 yuan for 2 medium-sized ones.

Update: Check out the various fishes available in China.

I also need to be wary of sea or freshwater fish – the freshwater ones may have a muddy smell. Before I get any prawns, I’ll always ask, “Zhe ge shi hai xia?” (Are these prawns from the sea?).

After I pay for the fish, I’ll get them to “sa” (clean and gut) the fish for me and patiently endure their dubious looks and questions when I want the fins, tail, guts including the roe removed.

I’m trying to cook a fish soup, which is popular here but HOW do you make a fish soup exactly??? I’ve tried it with celery, carrots and tomatoes but the fish either turn out tough or stinky 😛

POULTRY – Chicken, duck and pigeon?

Shopping for chicken is another tough task esp when I have nightmarish visions of BIRD FLU each time I pass by the abbatoir.

Bits and pieces of feather float here and there as the chicken sellers choose one to show the prospective customer.

The Chinese customer would look at the chicken’s claws and look under the feathers before agreeing to its death sentence.

I’m no chicken expert so my rule of thumb is what my 2nd auntie tells me – mu ji (a hen) for soups! A very friendly chicken seller (who does home delivery) at another wet market told me that chickens with golden-colored fat are “organic” chickens, which are grain fed and ideal dun ji (chickens for soup).

As I’m also shown the chicken for inspection, I just give the poor chicken an overall evaluation – bright eyes, healthy look and firm claws??? Then, I take a few steps back from the abattoir and wait for them to slaughter, drown and pluck the chicken.

I have to remind and emphasize that NO, I do not want the head, neck, butt (bishop’s nose), feet, innards or skin. The usual comment I get is, “Zhen me lang fei! Bu hua le ni mai ji…” (What a waste! You’re not getting your money’s worth of chicken…)

All I say is, “Wo men bu gan chi…” (We don’t dare eat them…)

To make them happy, I sometimes keep the liver to cook into a congee for the boy and me.

FRESH FRUITS

– I can easily get fruits from the wet market especially as I’ve found a favorite stall manned by 2 sisters. My standard question is always, “Tian ma?” (Is it sweet?) since the little fussy pot spits out anything sour.

The sisters will give me a taste of new fruits – an interesting combo is eating mini mandarins with the skins on (kim keat in Hokkien?) with peanuts! If I shake my head, they’ll urge me to try, saying, “Hen hau ci de! Si si kan…” (It’s delicious! Give it a try…)

Hubby and I have tried wan mei (perfect fruit?), mini mandarins and fresh olives but the little fussy pot sticks to his EXPENSIVE imported fruits i.e.
– grapes,
– papaya (imported from somewhere),
– banana (imported from the Philippines),
– apples (imported from the US; no Fuji apples for him) and
– dragon fruit (locally available or imported from Viet Nam).

Here’s an overview of local and imported fruits in China.

BREAKFAST / SNACKS

Since most Chinese eat congee or rice for breakfast, hardly anyone sells breakfast here other than KFC’s or McD’s. I love a hot breakfast but have not been able to find a decent noodle shop which does not overload on the oil, salt or MSG.

I thought I found THE best beef noodle soup until I saw the man preparing him – he must have put in 2 Chinese spoonfuls of MSG into my one bowl! When I told him I didn’t want any, the beef noodle soup tasted flat 😛

Thus, I can only find the dry stuff like:

  • Chinese pancakes with chives,
  • ban jian kui (peanut pancakes?),
  • you tiau (crullers) – HUGE ones at only RMB1 each,
  • mung bean cakes
  • zong zi (bak chang)
  • cai or rou bao (vegetable or meat bao) at RMB0.50-RMB1 each,
  • sweet rice cakes (triangle shaped – made with either white or brown sugar) and
  • the evergreen, nutritionally-deficient plain man tou (dumpling) in either plain, corn (yu mi) or brown sugar (hong tang) flavours.

I grab either a bean cake, the greasy ‘sticky, short you tiau’ (cruller or dough stick) or a man tou (dumpling, popular among Northerners) and munch my way through the market, while sipping on boiling HOT dou jiang (soya milk) plastic, throwaway cup (leeching BPA with each sip)…

The cai bao (vegetable dumpling) is OK as well but I don’t dare to try the rou baos yet especially as I tend to get diarrhea each time I’m adventurous (or bored with the regulars really)!

Hubby thinks I should just stick to the straight and narrow since my sensitive stomach can’t take it 😛

Sigh…how I do miss the tosai, nasi lemak, koay teow thing, roti canai, roti telur, capati, yam kuih, wantan mee, pasembur back home!!!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Josette February 11, 2009, 12:46 am

    Ah, don’t worry too much about US food now. There are some efforts over here who’re trying to boycott US products!

    I hope he is feeling all right.

  • JJ February 11, 2009, 2:06 pm

    Madam, “yi jin” is 600g la .. Anyway, happy wet market shopping .. I love going into the mwet market .. kepoh kepoh abit .. you be friend with them , they will sell you the good ones .. I bought apple and orange got free vegetable .. alot .. of fresh vegetables (husbnad sells fruits, wife sells vegetables)

  • Paik Ling February 11, 2009, 6:46 pm

    Good to hear that he is recovering. Perhaps his tummy is not used to all the unhealthy Malaysian food! Actually I love going to the wet market but probably not in China. What more, I don’t speak a word of Mandarin! I’m definitely more banana than you are!!

  • a-moms-diary February 11, 2009, 7:17 pm

    Your trips to the market sounds really daunting!

  • allthingspurple February 14, 2009, 6:27 pm

    it sounds exhausting tackling the Chinese wet market. A lot of food sounds dubious over there. In fact, recently too, I found chemical smells in one batch of pears bought from the hypermarket here. I now go to the more reputable fruit and vege grocer down the road instead. But you poor dear..your limited food is now even made more limited by the probablility of genetically altered food made by unscrupulous manufacturers. I can just imagine how hard it it to plan a simple daily meal.

  • vivianz February 15, 2009, 1:01 am

    Oh Naomi has got the same diarrhea problem at the same time but we were in MY. I have to stop all dairy products and I realized giving her grape will cause loose poo again. Hmmm…

  • Kit February 23, 2009, 10:30 am

    JJ – Xiao jie, yi jin is 600 g (or 1 kati) in Malaysia only. Here, it’s 500 g. Wah, so clever to get free stuff at the market eh? I’ve been getting NEW types of veggies and fruits to try LOL If I bring the boy, he gets more stuff and “hao ker ai”s!!!

    Paik Ling, A Mom’s Diary, Allthingspurple – Shopping at the wet market is both fun and frustrating esp when I’m sick, sleepy or having my period. I’m too lazy to arm myself with the Chinese words before I go, you see 😛 If I’m relaxed and the weather’s cool, it’s OK lor.

    VivianZ – Do be careful as he lost so much weight from 1 week of diarrhea 🙁 Got to fatten up my poor baby again!

  • Angeleyes February 24, 2009, 8:10 am

    I think that is a really good experience just like when I first started to shop in Penang knowing the little Hokkien back then.

    Talking about the extreme ‘big’ vege… I do sometime wonder if they are GM stuff or not but they look so good and just can’t help but buy and try… 😛

    Hope you guys will have a good spring.

  • Kit February 28, 2009, 11:00 pm

    Angeleyes – You must speak really good Hokkien by now 🙂 You’d actually buy the giant veges? I’m afraid of them! The weather’s getting less cool now that I dread the hot, hot, hot summer. And of course, packing and unpacking AGAIN 😛

  • Julie March 1, 2009, 12:46 am

    The snacks there looks good and tasty.

  • whoisbaby March 6, 2009, 1:10 am

    here we can find fast food for breakfast unless if we want to drive to chinatown to get dimsum. so what i do is eat at home, peanute butter jam sandwich with hot chocolate milk (in this cold weather). Summer time, cereal and milk. I also buy frozen waffles, which i make if i run out of bread. yes, i too very miss the malaysian varities of breakfast. can have different choices every morning. missing the kuih, nasi lemak, roti canai with dahl or the ikan curry, soup noodles, char koey teow, just plain friend soy sauce beehoon and mee, oh ya … so much, no wonder i put on 6 pounds when i was there for one month. LOL!

  • Kit March 9, 2009, 1:04 pm

    Julie – Ya, they’re quite tasty actually. But NOTHING beats the variety we get in Malaysia, you know?

    Whoisbaby – Hahaha we all put on weight too when we’re home since it’s eat, eat, eat every day LOL.

    He and I like ‘moist’ foods so sandwiches are out. We have cereal & milk, steamed frozen man tou, hard boiled / coddled / scrambled eggs or red bean buns etc.

    I’m gonna try to make some dhall curry one day esp as I’ve got 2 Indian friends here 😉

  • Lil' Monsters, Inc March 11, 2009, 12:59 pm

    Looks daunting but exciting. Wud love the experience. Whenever i’m overseas for hols with galpals, we wud try go visit wet market, supermarket, hypermarket. The atmosphere & food on display is so different…sieh! sieh!

  • Kit March 13, 2009, 2:02 pm

    Lil Monsters – That’s the way to go! I do that when I travel too. Take the bus too, if you can. You get to see so much more 🙂