You know you are back in China when….

There are vaccum-packed pig snouts next to the lunch meat.


Here’s a few more photos from brunch at Cristal a few weeks ago.  I think it’s  a great place to enjoy some sun!


4/F, 269 Wujiang Lu, near Maoming Bei Lu; 吴江路269号4楼, 近茂名北路

Hanging Meat

Now you see meat hanging outside all of the time.  These were on our roof.  I don’t think it’s cold enough to keep meat fresh.

Eating Vegetarian


Kelly and Ellie are both from Florida and on an around the world trip.  They work and save up money, then go traveling again!  They are both vegetarian so one night we went to Vegetarian Lifestyle, a Chinese vegetarian restaurant where the food is made to look and taste just like meat.  The “spareribs” were delicious and very real.  So real that Kelly stopped chewing and said, “I think this is meat! It has a bone!” (it was really a radish) and so delicious we ordered seconds!


The food was so good that we’ll probably go back, even though we aren’t vegetarians.  :-)

Hot Pot


Melissa and Matt are an American couple who’ve lived in Japan for the past 4 years, teaching English.  They surfed our couch for a few days and we had a great time.  They are traveling around the world on their way home, and have joined the Peace Corp and will most likely be stationed in China next year! We’re hoping to see them again.  We’ve had such great experiences with our Couch Surfers.

This was my first time going to hot pot, which is pretty unbelievable since we’ve lived here for over two years.  It was really good.

Barbie Cafe

The Barbie Flagship store just happens to be in Shanghai, so last Friday, Bonnie, Anna and I went to the Barbie Cafe.


We’d agreed to wear pink, blue eyeshadow and pink lipstick in honor of Barbie.  Bonnie went all out with a blond wig and sequined dress!





The cafe looks like a 50s diner.  It’s pretty cool.  Not totally girly.


I really wanted a thick milkshake – most of the time here, they consider it a milkshake if a tablespoon of ice cream is added to milk.  I prefer my milkshakes so thick that the sides of the straw collapse when you try to drink it.  They actually added more ice cream so it was more to my liking.  Nice.

IMG_9886_barbie_smAt least five different people asked to have their photo taken with us.  Our waitress asked if we were dressed up because it was someone’s birthday, to which Anna replied YES to right away.  So Bonnie got a cupcake for her “birthday.”  Unfortunately it was probably the worst-tasting cupcake we’d ever had.  The frosting tasted just like margarine – we all tried to eat one bite but couldn’t handle anymore.

The set lunch for 38 RMB didn’t sound too bad – a salad, soup and half a sandwich.  The salad was described as having lots of things like tomatoes and pecans in it, but we could only find half of a cherry tomato.  The rest of the food was very average.

More on the rest of the store to come tomorrow!

Address:  6/F, Barbie Shanghai, 550 Huaihai Zhong Lu,  near Chengdu Nan Lu.
淮海中路550号芭比上海6楼, 近成都南路


Cost = 50 RMB ($7.92 USD)

Cost = 439 RMB ($64.09 USD)

It is really amazing how there is such a great difference in cost for food here.

Pretty drinks

Elaborate Bacon…

For those special occasions when regular bacon just won’t do…

Disturbing Images Ahead

If you have a weak stomach or are a member of PETA, don’t look at this photo. It’s pretty gross; gross enough I made it smaller than usual so you don’t have to see many details unless you want to click on it.

Frogs are sold as food here.

One vendor apparently will gut the frogs for you, using scissors.

This is one reason why you really need to watch where you are stepping in China!

Wholesale Food Market

Bonnie has a custom baking business, and has learned where to get the supplies cheaply.  (All of the foreign stores are NOT cheap.)  We went to a market with at least 20 huge halls of vendors.  The vendors live above the stalls.  The stalls are filled with massive sacks of mushrooms, flour, rice, nuts, peppers, dried fish, cinnamon sticks, and all kinds of other things. 
We bought cream cheese, butter, almonds, pistachios, cashews, walnuts, canned peaches, flour, corn meal, evaporated milk… and maybe a few other things I’m forgetting about!
The address is 1255 Lianhua Lu.


Jon and I are members of and last week we hosted two Australian girls, Amy and Casey.  They were super nice; both of them (especially Casey) liked to cook.  We were spoiled by them cooking for us several times!  They have a cat (Michael Arthur MacMoussen) back home so really liked Boots too.
Couchsurfing is a site where travelers can offer or request a couch to crash on, or just find someone to meet up with for coffee or a drink.  It’s kind of like Facebook for travelers.  It’s also similar to eBay, in that you give others feedback so others know how they were as hosts or guests. 
We also hosted a Polish couple, Daniel and Martina, before I went to the US.  In the last couple weeks we’ve gotten requests to host people from Italy, Spain, Germany, Mongolia, and the Netherlands.  We won’t say yes to everyone (you can pick and choose as you like, no pressure) since we want to have a little time to ourselves!  We wish we had this when we were traveling through Europe – it’s such a great way to meet like-minded travelers if you host; save costs and meet people living locally where you are traveling if you surf.
Here’s another article a fellow China blogger just wrote on it. 

birthday cake

This is the cake I made dad for his 60th birthday.  It’s a retro-colored cake.
(Really, the frosting was supposed to be white, but mom didn’t have any white shortening.  So it turned out yellow.  I decided to tint it slightly blue, but the blue combined with the yellow to make green.  So I kept adding blue until it wasn’t green.  Not exactly what I had in mind!)

Nanxiang Dumplings

Yvonne invited us all to her hometown for dumplings, to wander in the park, and dinner with her parents. It was a great day!

I’ve only seen the dishes piled on top of each other a couple times. Usually there is tons of food, but not piles and piles of it!

Raw meat

This is one of the big differences in grocery stores here. The meat just sits out and everyone paws through it with their bare hands. This is pretty good – it actually has ice underneath the meat. The meat counters don’t actually have glass in them and aren’t refrigerated. A couple weeks ago, we saw a worker clipping her nails behind the meat counter. She was about half a meter away from the open case, with fingernail clippings flying everywhere.

Food Photography

My friend Bonnie started her own business here, doing custom baking for other expats. I volunteered to shoot her goodies for her brochure. I got to take home samples of each of her offerings… YUMMY!

Wine Tasting

At the grocery store today, Steve wanted to get a bottle of wine just because it had a cool bag covering it. Jon commented that he wanted to try a bunch of wines, but he was afraid he had too much against some of the Chinese wines. We noted the huge price difference in foreign wines, local wines, and the high end Chinese wines.

We decided to do a taste test.

We bought four bottles of wine, as pictured below.

We bought the lowest cost wine we could find – a bottle of Tesco “dry red wine.” It says “Imported From Spain.” Dragon Seal and Great Wall are Chinese wines – not known to be that great, but we wanted to give it a chance. Also, the Great Wall was expensive and a 1994 Cabernet Sauvignon. Lindemans is an Australian wine, a 2007 Shiraz Cabernet.

I printed out a wine tasting scoring sheet, and served, in random order, the wine to Jon and Steve for a blind taste test.

They both wanted to pour out the Dragon Seal wine with the bag Steve had liked.

Jon thought the Tesco tasted best, while Steve liked the most expensive one best (which Jon placed 3rd). Steve had placed the Tesco brand second. We agreed that for 15.5 RMB, the Tecso one was the best value and very drinkable. We were a bit surprised at that.

Final Placing – Jon
#1 Tesco
#2 Lindemans
#3 Great Wall
#4 Dragon Seal

Final Placing – Steve
#1 Great Wall
#2 Tesco
#3 Lindemans
#4 Dragon Seal

Cost of food in Shanghai

My friend Lura still gives presentations on the SDARL class visit to China. She said she gets asked a lot how much food is here. I put together a list for her, and it was quite the eye-opener!! We spend SO much more money on food here.

If we ate more local, it would be much better. Rice and vegetables are cheap. (Though the rice is bulk and you can watch hundreds of people dig their fingers though it – remember hand washing isn’t so common here – and the vegetables are probably grown either in “night soil” or with massive amounts of chemicals.) However, we like things like bread, milk, and meat.

There are 25 things on my list. 13 of those are more than twice as expensive as they are at home. Only five things are less expensive here.

One of the things we spend the most on is milk. In the US, we’d pick up a gallon of Hy-vee brand milk. After the milk contamination scare here, we began buying imported milk. Now, we have to buy 4 boxes to get a gallon. At home a gallon is $2.87; here the same amount is $11.47. That is a 300 % increase. Yes, 300%.

I guess the answer is “stop drinking milk.” However, we really like milk and it’s where we get our calcium from.

Click on the images for some more comparisons.

Swedish food

We were surprised at the amount of Scandinavian food! One night we even had meatballs with lingonberry jam. Apparently a LOT of people retire in Thailand, from all over the world. We only heard American English a couple times. The only other Americans we met lived in Hong Kong and were vacationing over Chinese New Year, just like us.

Stick Street Food

After the company Chinese New Year party and some Karaoke, Jon and Jon decided they needed a midnight snack. They bought 34 sticks of food such as chicken hearts, chicken wings, beef satay, pork, potatoes, mushrooms, and fish.

The Orphans’ Christmas

On Christmas Day, we took the day off work and went to a Christmas party held by a couple of friends I know through book club. A couple husbands are professional chefs at major hotels here, and they cooked for us!

There were actually 2 huge turkeys! Plus lamb and pork.

Rito and Rolf.

Stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy….

Alicia, Jo and Suzy making a special Australian (New Zealand, really) dessert. The crust was baked meringue!
We did a Secret Santa gift exchange and also donated money to an organization that provides disabled people with wheelchairs who can’t afford to buy one. We were able to purchase 10 wheelchairs.

It was a great time. The holidays have been hard for all of my family members; it just reminds you of what is missing.

Christmas Cookies

I made a bunch of Christmas cookies with glaze for my friends and co-workers. I think they were a hit. I used this recipe from the Reisch cookbook.

Flat Stanley – Sushi & Jing’an Temple – December 7th

We decided to take Flat Stanley out for sushi. There aren’t many places in South Dakota where he can have Japanese food.

He thought it was cool how a conveyor belt brought many kinds of sushi around in front of the customers.

Stanley also visited Jing’An Temple.

American Food

One of the best things about being home is the FOOD! Jon said, “Even the bottled water here taste’s better.” (I agree.) Things I have really enjoyed so far:

  • A thick steak grilled to medium-rare over a charcoal grill, along with corn on the cob (thanks Dave!)
  • Mussels, crab, and calamari at The Fransiscan in Fishermans Wharf
  • Blue Moon beer (enjoyed in the sun at a restaurant overlooking the harbor in San Francisco)
  • Broccoli cheese soup in a breadbowl at Quiznos
  • A turkey-swiss with ranch croissant at a local coffee shop
  • Chicken strips with ranch & BBQ sauce, a baked potato with cream cheese, and cottage cheese
  • Indian taco (that was Jon’s)
  • Wheatables (crackers)
  • Milk! (non-tainted)

the Grocery Store

These are all photos that Esther took. We stopped by our local grocery store for a peek at some differences in Western and Eastern cuisine. She has been living in Thailand for 10 months, working as a tour guide, so I didn’t think these things would surprise her but they did.

This is from a male pig. Enough said.

Chicken feet

Not the pet store…. frogs. (yep, alive.)

Soft-shelled turtles – I’ve had them before.

A fish no one will pick – they need to be alive and well. It is very important to pick out the freshest and best animal, which is why the meat counter is so interesting to me.

None of the meat counters have glass in them. You can slap, pinch and poke each piece of meat before picking one. Then the next person slaps, pinches and poke each one too. The process is repeated all day (remember most public toilets do not have soap or hot water.) This is why we don’t buy meat at the local stores. (Probably, cooking the meat would kill any germs. Our western ideas of how meat should be treated still prevents us from purchasing it though.)

Durian – the famous fruit that is supposed to be wonderful if you can get past the awful smell! Most hotels even ban it. I haven’t had it.


We took Esther to supper at Finestre her first night here. It has great food and a great view – we actually take all of our guests here.

Why Daktronics needs to be in China… check out ALL of the LED lighting! Buildings, boats, etc.

The Bund


Today, Esther flew in! She took a 2 AM flight from Bangkok to Shanghai and I met her at the Maglev station. After relaxing a bit, we met Jon for lunch and then went to Qibao, an area that is like an old water town. It was a little bit touristy, but we only saw 4 other white people in about 3 hours so it was quite local.

One of the thousands of guys who bike around, constantly ringing a bell, to remind you to bring all of your recyclables to him.

Baby birds on a stick… yum.

We’ve been following the situation in Thailand, as Esther should be flying back there Sunday. However, with the state of emergency and such, maybe she’ll be staying a bit longer! Who knows. We certainly wouldn’t mind!

Check out her blog here.


Whisk is a little cafe on Huaihui Lu that is famous for its chocolate! It is so rich! Jon and I also love their antipasto platter.

Roof-top dining over the Bund

Wednesday the weather cleared up a little so we decided we HAD to take advantage of that. Emily made reservations for Finestre, a restaurant on a roof-top terrace overlooking the Bund.

The atmosphere was the best of any place we’ve ever eaten in Shanghai. It may have been the company, the view, the food, the wine…. or most likely all of the above! We’ll definitely be going back sometime.

Pet Market & Sushi

(These are all photos Hanna took.)

We wandered down a small side street to find a pet market we’d read about. We didn’t find a real market, but the street definitely catered to locals looking for animals.

After a walk down Nanjing Lu, we were starving.

In the metro stop is a Japanese restaurant with sushi going around on the conveyor belt. You just grab whatever you want to eat off of the belt. There are also hot water spigots between every other person so you can refill your own tea whenever you like. Fast and convenient!

After eating, Jon needed to go back to do some work on bidding documents, and Emily took Hanna and Henrik to the Pearl Market. Susan is happy to see everyone that Emily brings to her and gives them all great discounts – no bargaining needed, even!

After a rest at home, we decided to go to a little cafe that Emily had book club at once. It is full of unique items and all are for sale. The food is good, atmosphere homey and prices reasonable, so Jon and I think we’ll be going back a few times.


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