How to eat fresh and safe in Shanghai is on the list of my top concerns since I moved here, so I decided to organize a Shanghai grocery shopping guide. Especially since China doesn’t have a good reputation when it comes to food safety. Shanghai has great – not just great, but tons of amazingly delicious, excellent restaurants. It could be expensive eating at quality restaurants, though – Like NYC prices except tips are already included in meals. Of course, there are other affordable choices at small eateries, but I still prefer cooking at home over eating out most of the time. Not only because it’s cheaper to cook at home, but also because I feel it’s safer than eating out. You never know what ingredients and additive they use out there.
So, please allow me to present you my very own Shanghai grocery shopping guide!
This guide is suitable for :
- Fresh off the boat expats
- Foreign exchange students who don’t have lots of money
- Backpackers / couch surfers who are looking for cheap and healthy ways to eat.
Now let’s go through your first Shanghai grocery shopping guide!
I don’t recommend drinking water straight from the faucet because this is China. You are not in some states of the U.S. or some countries in Europe, well, obviously. Just don’t do it. Boiling the water doesn’t even do the trick. You need to filter the water first and then boil it. Either buy bottled water from supermarkets and convenient stores or Buy a BRITA.
FRUITS & VEGETABLES
Unlike the farmers’ markets in the states or in Europe in which are usually more expensive, Shanghai has it the other way around. It’s cheaper to buy it from local street vendors. I buy my fruits and vegetables at the street stands instead of supermarkets. It’s way cheaper and more ideal if you are only preparing food for yourself or for two people. The street vendors charge by weights. Buying from them also helps to support local farmers. You can tell their vegetables are so fresh because you can still see dirt on it. Plus, if the vendors like you, you might get some extra spring onion or an extra apple! Just make sure you wash the vegetables and fruits well because they might use pesticide. They most likely use pesticide.
Eggs, milk, butter, and cheese are relatively more expensive in Shanghai but not unaffordable. It’s just more expensive in comparison to other types of groceries here. I usually go to the local supermarket Lian-Hua 联华 to fulfill my dairy needs. You can handpick your eggs from the carton instead of buying it by boxes. The hens probably laid the eggs in the same morning because you can still see feathers on the eggs sometimes! Make sure you pick the ones with a more pointed head on one side of the egg. This is how you make sure the eggs are real because believe it or not, Chinese makes fake eggs, too. (How do you even fake an egg?) Also, the darker color the egg, the tastier it is because it’s laid by older hens 😉 Remember to wash them gently with warm water before you cook them.
Again, I would recommend getting your meat from local butchers if you have one nearby. I don’t, so I’ve been going to the more expensive supermarkets to buy my meat. For some reasons, I just don’t trust the meat Lian-Hua sells because I don’t like the smell around where their butchery is. Japanese department store Takashimaya’s supermarket has it the most expensive, follow by City Super at IMPM. City Shop has the most reasonable price.
Getting lazy to cook or just need to grab a quick meal? One of the best things about Shanghai is, there’s an excessive amount of convenient stores everywhere. The major chains are FamilyMart（全家）, Lawson（罗森）, All Days（好德）, and Xi-Shi-Duo（喜士多）. They are all open for 24 hours, too. They sell sandwiches, microwave meals, and cooked food on site. FamilyMart and Lawson are both owned by Japanese companies, and I preferred Lawson over FamilyMart because Lawson just tastes better. I have a delicate taste bud, and I believe Lawson uses less additive in their microwave meals. Their meals also come in good portions with more vegetables. I like the cooked food on site at Xi-Shi-Duo, especially the big fried chicken patty!
Miss food from home? There are several grocery stores that sell foreign goods. Most of them are on Central Wulumuqi Road. Around Hongmei Road should have a couple, too. One of my personal favorites is a small shop called the Avocado Lady. Avocado Lady also sells fresh meat and vegetable at a reasonable price. (And wine – Llots and lots of wine.) You can find more extensive selections of müsli at City Super and City Shop, but it’s usually double the original price here. (Frankly, any import goods are quite expensive here.) I just buy plain Quaker oats from Lian-Hua to satisfy my müsli craving.
There’s a Taiwanese supermarket on Gubei Road. It’s right next to Britannica (the British School in Shanghai.) You can get Taiwanese local products there. (People worship and love Taiwanese products, food or anything here for some reasons.) If you are craving for Japanese snacks, the supermarket at Takashimaya has it all. I am pretty sure there’s a Korean supermarket somewhere if you need to get some kimchi. Shanghai is a fairly international city after all!
I hope you find my Shanghai grocery shopping guide handy. Please share if you think it’s useful! If you are also an expat in Shanghai and would like to pitch in some thoughts to add to the guide, please feel free to comment!
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Also published on Medium.