China Observations – iMiss Food

When I first started traveling- I kept a log of foods that I missed. Actually, 95% of my days (while traveling, or otherwise) are spent dreaming and thinking about food.


I actually travel for food (coming soon- recipes from around the world).

Weird foods that I missed:

-Brussels sprouts and spinach (greens…. don’t exist in Philippines)
-Grilled cheese and tomato soup (my comfort food)
-Whiskey, chocolate and bacon (my other comfort food)
-Bacon Cheese Burger (done rare) was a huge craving when I was in India (go fig….)

But I digress- My aunt, it seems, is going through the same thing…

The foods that I miss terribly might surprise you.   They are mostly the foods that you take completely for granted and eat often, or as often as you care to. But here most of our western staples are extremely expensive (imported) and considered delicacies.


When I’m feeling particularly blue, I crave grilled cheese sandwiches. Sandwiches, of any kind, don’t exist here in China. But –cheese — is a luxury that is not only pricy but difficult to find as well. Downtown Shanghai (an hour trip each way) is the only place we’ve been able to find ANY. The cheese we purchase originated in either England or Ireland … but it tastes like home.


Another comfort food would be pancakes served with peanut butter, maple syrup and bacon on the side. Maple syrup is liquid gold and, again, only found in up-scale tourist grocery stores. Pork, however, is sold in every way possible: chops, ground, hooves, snouts, thinly sliced, small roasts etc. But bacon? If that was (indeed) what we bought, it had no resemblance to bacon back home. I don’t know why. Another item to add to the downtown shopping list.


Item number four would be beef. In the suburbs where we live, you can only find frozen beef that has been imported from Australia or New Zealand. The cutlets are small, chewy, thin, and (downright) unacceptable. Luscious, thick, melt-in-your-mouth tenderloins can be found (downtown) – for a price.


White wine, on the other hand, cannot be found for love or money.


The school provides us with lunch each day and I was shocked to learn that they eat shrimp differently than we do. While the “shell” is still on, they pop off the head and then eat everything else. As is. No peeling necessary. It was really weird at first, but if you love shrimp, you get used to it pretty fast.


Speaking of that, the seafood here is magnificent!   The staff often goes out together for dinner on Friday nights. We particularly like a buffet restaurant that specializes in fresh seafood: king crab, mussels, clams, enormous shrimp, salmon, tuna, and other treats from the sea that I have never even heard of. Last week it was funny watching a woman dish out some tiny LIVE fish and having them flip/flop off her plate and onto someone else’s! The line to get fresh raw salmon is the longest in the restaurant. The chefs simply cannot cut it up and place it on the ice fast enough. For those less enamored with the fruits of the sea, they also serve duck (Peking style, of course), sausages, sushi, dumplings, spring rolls, soups, salad choices, hot pot, American style French fries, and a whole lot more I’ve been too skittish to try.

It’s hard to believe that this restaurant makes any profit — given the price they charge. The buffet is an “all you can eat and drink” (red wine, beer, and juices are offered) and it costs an amazingly low $22 per person. (Just in case you’re curious – starfish is delicious, but MUCH too much work for the end result!)

Last night’s comfort food was spaghetti and meatballs. The HUNTS sauce we bought (in the “imported” section of the store) was in bags versus tin cans. It is sweeter than the brand HUNTS sells in the states. It’s okay – just, unexpectedly, sweet.


Tonight Jim prepared a chicken breast smothered in cheese and then all of it was wrapped in prosciutto. He served it with broccoli and mushrooms.   It was absolutely delicious, and I told him, of course, how much I appreciated his culinary efforts.

What I didn’t tell him was, how much I cannot wait to go home. I am dying for meatloaf.


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