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15 Weird Things You Only See in Chinese Supermarkets

2017-01-09 15:40:35 Natasha Edwards

Chinese supermarkets are a marvel to tourists and expats when they first arrive in China. There are salesmen everywhere trying to encourage you to buy products, and ladies selling you face-whitening creams. The supermarkets sell a variety of teas, snacks, and beauty products you wouldn't see anywhere else.

Buddha Shaped Pears

In 2009, Xianzhang Hao, a farmer from Hebei Province came up with an unconventional way of growing pears. He created Buddha shaped plastic mould that the fruit would grow inside of until it was ready to eat. Usually, the Buddha has a “福” on its belly, meaning good fortune, happiness, and luck. The fruits are sold for $8 in China and can be shipped worldwide.

Vacuum-sealed Chicken Feet

Chicken feet are one of Chinese people’s favourite snacks. These small feet, which have more skin than meat on them, are munched by Chinese in all occasions and seem to creep out most Westerners. Supermarkets stock vacuum-sealed chicken feet for those who are in a rush. Not only do they sell chicken feet, but you can also find vacuum-packed quail eggs, anchovies, and mushrooms. These not very appealing snacks are only for the bravest of tourists to try.

Eggs sold in bags

In China, eggs are a big deal. You can find close to a dozen types of eggs in every supermarket. They vary in price, animal, and size. Eggs are sold by a salesperson who bags them directly for you rather than buying them in a cardboard egg tray. If you don’t want to wait in the long lines to buy eggs, you may buy them already pre-packaged in plastic trays. Not very ecological if we say so ourselves.

Sweet Mayonnaise

Chinese are very big on using this Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise as a condiment with their European dishes. It is often a replacement for salad dressing, giving a sweet and creamy taste to salad. They also use it as a topping for fruit salads, and on bread. Be warned if you are ordering a salad in China, it might be very sweet!

Durian fruit

The durian fruit originates from Southeast Asia and is known for its large size, smelly odour, and thorn-covered husk. Most people consider this fruit to have an unbearable smell which can linger for up to a week. Because of this, it has been banned from many public areas in Southeast Asia. It is widely available in most Chinese supermarkets for those willing to try to unpopular fruit.

A whole range of sanitary towels

Unlike women in Europe, Chinese and Asian women prefer to use sanitary towels over tampons. There is a large market for sanitary towel companies in China, resulting in aisles packed full of sanitary towels in most shops. They range from small to extremely large sizes, sometimes longer than a 30cm.

Toilet paper mannequins

In Europe, stores dress their mannequins in the latest fashions. In China, supermarkets battle to have the best-dressed mannequin wearing a gown made of toilet paper. Toilet paper companies promote their product by creating toilet paper dresses and exhibiting them in shops. Be sure to take a photo of these mannequins as you won't see them anywhere else!

Dried Meat Floss

Dried meat floss, or “rousong” in Chinese, is dried pork meat shredded to give a coarse cotton-like texture. It is used to garnish tofu, in pastry fillings, and even sometimes on donuts instead of sugar glazing. The flavour is salty and quite moreish.

Meat on ice beds

In supermarkets, instead of choosing your meat and fish already pre-packaged and sealed, in China, customers consult a salesperson selling meat and fish on ice beds with no glass to shield the meat from flies and dirt. The salesperson then bags up your meat and weighs it. This ecological way of selling meat prevents wasting plastic packaging on meat that will not be sold.

Every flavour crisp

Chinese are very big on potato crisps. As their taste buds and cuisines are different to ours, so are their crisps. Some of the oddest crisp flavours found in China include hot-pot, honey, cucumber, and sweet lime. The classic ready-salted flavour is called “American classic flavour”.

Sweet chewing-gum

On top of the classic mint flavoured chewing-gum you find around the world, Chinese also sell much sweeter, fruit flavoured chewing gum. Flavours include lime, cucumber, lemon, melon, green grape, and rose.

Face whitening creams and masks

Women and men in China consider white skin to be the sign of wealth. Farmers and workers in China often spend all day outside in the sun. Their skin ages faster and is darker than those who work in the cities. Thus, white skin is wanted by all young people in the country. For this, the beauty industry sells whitening creams, face masks, serums, and cleansers. If you have tanned skin and dare to stop by the toiletries section in a supermarket, be warned that the saleswomen might try to sell you a whitening cream. Don’t take it personally, they are just trying to do their job and assume everybody wishes to be white.

Instant coffee

Coffee is only starting to become popular in China. Whilst elderly people still prefer to drink tea, and young citizens stick to hot water, coffee is expensive and only for the elite. Coffee shops sell a cup for around the same price we would pay for coffee in Starbucks in the UK, making this beverage out of the reach of many Chinese people. Instead, Nescafe sells instant coffee sachets for around £2 for fifteen sachets. Instant coffee is very popular and sachets can be found in all corner shops, restaurants, and cafeterias.

Tofu

Stinky tofu

Tofu skin

Tofu is one of China’s most popular substitutes for protein. With its very plain taste, it is perfect for adding into spicy and fragrant dishes. It is found in many regional specialties in Sichuan, as well as in street markets all over China. There are many types of tofu including tofu skin and smelly tofu, a tofu with a smell so pungent it repulses many tourists.

Face masks

Just like in South Korea, face masks are huge in China. They sell for approximately £1 per mask and can be bought in multipacks of up to ten. Supermarkets and beauty stores stock sheet masks for all different skin types. Face masks are made from many different ingredients, including red wine, lipstick, snail essence, snake oil, aloe vera, rosewater, and honey. Try these if you go to China, as the results are amazing.

Tell us your favourite find in a Chinese supermarket or if we left out any important items.

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