Food markets in China

People like fresh produces, fresh meats, and fresh poultries. I do!

During my time in Ningbo, I shopped a few times in one of those modern supermarkets. I think I have mentioned the name Aushan (it is a French investors backed supermarkets).

You can get everything in this one stop shop, clothing, Chinese food stuff, European food stuff, daily sundries, electronic goods, liquors, sports equipments, you name it, they have it, and there are shoppers at all hours, seven days a week. You hit a niche market, you would not have to worry about traffic flow, and people will come to you.

I went there a few times, and then I grew tired of the sanitized environment, the bright lights, and the many chatty floor attendants who were more interesting in catching up gossips the night before than tend to the needs of shoppers.

So this one time I requested to go with our canteen supervisor/chief cook/driver/food purchaser to our local market during his once daily shopping. The way he did it, he would go in his electric trike (a battery assisted three wheeler with a three by four box at the back, the driver rides in front, the box out back has a small bench seat for accommodating the occasional passenger. He goes to market at 3 pm sharp every afternoon, and shop for his next day’s menu.

I was pretty excited about the short trip from the factory to the local market. Number 1, it was my first time riding in this rickety contraption as a passenger, I have seen plenty of them riding around this industrial section of the city. People haul goods in them, transported people in them, going to work, they are a bit under power on regular road ways, as drivers in regular gasoline powered vehicles view them as nuisance, and would not give them the courtesy of slowing down a bit when passing.

So understandably I was a bit nervous is this first ride, luckily my chauffer/chief cook was an experienced man, we got to the market in intact. Now parking was the next thing on my mind. This market is about half a block long and as wide – to North America sizing standard – with four entrances at four corners. There are concrete reinforced steel posts embedded on to the concrete floor to prevent two wheel electric bikes from driving right into the market space. And there are amble officious notices telling/warning people that you are not to ride your electric two wheelers into the market.

As usual, these notices are ignored; there is a market office that has two workers that supposedly looking after the smooth running of the place, but of the few times I was in the market, I don’t see any interaction between them and the vendors in the markets.

However, cleaning/floor cleaners were constantly on the move to clean up any vegetable scraps and garbage that some people carelessly threw on the floor. Floors are washed everyday at day’s end. So the floors are reasonably clean.

The items for sale in the markets were plentiful, there were plenty of seafood, fresh produces, meats of all kind, cooked or raw, sundries items, kitchen utensils, shoes, slippers, all manners of stuff and items, I especially enjoy watching the interactions between vendors and shoppers.
I was told regular shoppers tended to go to their regular vendors for supplies, because the rapport was built, and the prices they quoted you would be fair, not cheap, but fair. If you are a new face amongst the sea of people, you better check out a few places before you want to buy, because price might vary a fair bit.

As you can imagine my cook/purchaser – he speaks the language, and he has been shopping in this market for a few years, I wouldn’t be surprised he gets a better than good deal from his regular suppliers. He walked in the shops, did some small talk, pays the bill, and came out with a bunch of stuff. I was, understandably, a bit anxious to follow close to his coat tail, as I don’t speak the language so well, I know I can talk my way out of trouble if trouble ever finds me. But why bother, if you can avoid it?

He probably grew tired of me after about twenty minutes, so he said to me,” why don’t you wander around, I will meet you where we parked my electric tricycle?”
I sensed he probably didn’t want me to be around, so I bid a hasty good bye, and went on my own expedition. To buy a live chicken, have it dressed, cost about RMB 45 dollars, have a bunch of green onions cost a mere dollar. Now these are the two extreme of the shopping spectrum. People don’t buy chicken every day, and don’t buy green onions every day. So you can have an idea, shoppers can adjust their budgets to suit their needs.

A freshly killed fish on display may cost about RMB 15 to 20 dollars, depends on the species. I especially like a locally catch fish called Tofu fish. They are not expensive, the meat is white and soft, hence the name.

Local Ningbo residents also like lamb, one can buy cooked lamb in a local “cooked food” specialty vendors. A delicatessen imported from Taiwan and favored by locals is the marinated and cooked duck-neck, they are very tasty and meaty, surprisingly, and guess ducks are a fair bit bigger than chickens.

Many times, when we frequented the local market after a day’s work, we would buy five dollars worth of duck-necks, five dollars worth of a local pan fried pizza like pan cakes, grab a couple of cold beers, viola! Who need dinner? 

By and large, I like local food, Ningbo food is less oily and less salty, as compared with other food prepared by cooks from other regions, but every region has its own characteristic, and why restricts yourself to one kind of food?

Guess I wander away from my initial topic – food markets! Will do more when I think of more. Oh, like the world over, bring your own reusable shopping bags; the flimsy plastic bags they provided for your freshly dressed chicken or fish would only survive one single trip! Happy shopping!

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