As far as places I’ve lived, it has always been my opinion that Spain held the #1 spot for the best quality fruits and vegetables. When spring turned to summer and the markets were busting with every variety of fruit imaginable, life was wonderful! Then the fall brought mushroom season and the grape varietals! It was a great place to eat healthy with an awesome quality to value ratio.
And then along came China!
As soon as I moved out of the Beijing Hilton and into my new flat I jammed over to the local Chinese (not import) supermarket because it is just around the corner. My expectation of the quality levels for the meat and produce were low for no other reason than it seemed like a low- to mid-range chain. I bought the fixings for a simple salad, some oranges, pears and some hot pink spikey fruit I’d never seen before just for fun.
The first thing I made was the salad and, well, iceberg lettuce is pretty much the same anywhere so no big surprise there. The tomatoes however were a whole different ball game! I bought the smaller ‘cherry’ variety but these were larger than what I’ve seen in any other country. They were firm and ripe and turned out to be the BEST tomatoes I’ve ever eaten in my entire life. The first one I bit into has been just as amazing as any of them in the last 3 packs I’ve purchased. They are so sweet and perfectly ripe, they are juicy and the taste is so good I could almost imagine eating them as a snack – something I’ve never imagined in my life! All for the fabulous price of RMB 13 / USD $2.10!
Then the oranges turned out to be some of the best I remember ever eating as well, it’s crazy! I thought I had lucked out with the first bag but the last 2 batches I’ve bought are the exact sweet, succulent, juicy goodness as those first ones. Work mates bring them in to share at the office and I have to say that I have yet to meet an orange or little tangerine that wasn’t simply delicious. One kilo sells for around RMB 15 / USD $2.50 if I’m not mistaken.
Now, what has me smiling more than anything is the sh-sh-sh-shrooooms! I have been eating more varieties of mushrooms than I have in years – mostly because they are so damn cheap I can’t stop myself but also because they just don’t sell them in India and I’ve missed cooking with them. In fact, I’m expecting to sprout a mushroom from my head any day now I’m eating so many! They are wonderfully fresh, they are so tasty and they seem to go with every stir fry combo I bring home from the market! Here in China, an entire blister pack of shitake mushrooms (see the photos of the mushrooms on the cutting board, those are each one pack) sells for RMB 5 / just over USD 80 cents.
So…the reality is this: I’ve been surprised and delighted to such a level that I have officially changed my #1 ranking from Spain to China after just three weeks living here. Sadly, India never had a shot during any of my 2.5 years there because the variety of fruit is almost non-existent and the quality of vegetables not so great and it took me months to find decent lettuce. But China ROCKS! I still buy the baby tomatoes in that same supermarket because they are so freakin’ yummy I don’t see a reason to risk it and switch just now but I’ve found a lovely market a block away called Sanyuanli Market with dozens of independent vendors in stalls and I’ve started to buy most things there. Will blog about that place soon because they sell everything from the best Russian vodka to live fish and seafood to blue cheese and fresh tofu.
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Isn’t shopping at a new market in a new country fun???? Especially when the food turns out to be deliciously yummy.+