following the river down the highway

25 Feb

This afternoon, I made my second trip to Chinese Walmart.

I avoid Walmart in the states, and I suspect that, once I get settled, I won’t be visiting Walmart here too often either. For one thing, it’s about a 40 minute bus ride through downtown and out the other side. For another thing, it’s definitely more expensive than neighborhood shops.

It has two big benefits, though. The first is that I know what types of products Walmart is likely to carry. I don’t know where to buy trouser socks in my neighborhood yet, but I know that Walmart probably sells them. The second benefit of Walmart is that, when I have a varied list of needs, I can fill them all in one place. Most of the shops here in China are tiny by American standards. Often, they have a very narrow range of products…sometimes, it’s actually sort of inexplicably narrow. There’s a shop between my apartment and school, for example, that carries bedding and mops. And that’s it. Hello Kitty comforters, and mops. The end. You never see that in America. In Shanghai, we found a store that carried used remote controls. Thousands of them, every brand of every type of electronic item you could imagine. But that was it…they didn’t carry the corresponding electronics, or anything else. Just used remote controls.

So. This past week, I’ve been keeping a growing list of stuff that I need. Hangers and room freshener and tupperware and socks. And so I keep going back to Walmart.

The food section of Walmart is pretty mind-blowing. They have a huge selection of live seafood-type items, and they have another section where racks of dried meats hang, unpackaged. Just…rows of loose meats. Like, you can actually put your fingers on the salted pork and then not buy it. You could lick it. I don’t know why I find this so bizarre…when you think about it, in America, anyone could be licking those apples you buy at the grocery store. But somehow it’s different when it’s meat.

My favorite thing about buying groceries in China, though, is the potato chips. I’m not sure I can explain why I find them so endlessly amusing, but I’ll give it a try.

First of all, Chinese people must like potato chips, because they have a lot of them. And they have a lot of familiar brands, like Pringles, and Lays. But the flavors are totally different. They have so many flavors! And the American brands (like Pringles and Lays) always have English translations on the packaging. This is what cracks me up.

First of all, some of them are just strange. Last night, I tried cucumber flavored Lays. Lays also makes blueberry and lemon tea flavors. The cucumber chips were very strange–disturbingly sweet for something that was still, basically, savory. I didn’t care for them. But they really taste like cucumber. Bizarre. I’m assuming that lemon tea and blueberry would have a similar sweet/salty/crunchy thing going on.

I also bought Lays Mexican Tomato Chicken flavored chips, but I haven’t tried them yet. Mexican tomato chicken kind of makes sense in my head…I can imagine what that flavor profile might be like. But they also make New French Chicken…and I have no idea what that is. I also saw Italian Red Meat potato chips and Little Tomato potato chips.

Today at Walmart, I found the Pringles. They had Sour Cream & Chive, which I bought. I also bought Indonesia Satay flavored Pringles. I did not buy Seaweed, Shrimp, or Crab flavored Pringles.

Winning the day, though, was my personal favorite flavor, Hong Kong Fish Ball. I only wish I’d gotten a picture of the can. I will let you know how they taste. I have especially high hopes for Indonesia Satay.

And, since I’ve haven’t posted many photos, here’s a picture of a portion of the Jiujiang skyline, taken from across Gantang Lake.

If it’s sunny this weekend, I’m going to go back into the city and try to take some better pictures. Downtown runs along the Yangtze, and there’s a beautiful river walk.

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4 Responses to “following the river down the highway”

  1. Betsy February 26, 2011 at 8:40 pm #

    I wonder how many fish balls it takes to make one canister.

  2. Betsy February 26, 2011 at 8:42 pm #

    Is there a high neuter demand for fish in Hong King?

  3. Jessica March 2, 2011 at 6:28 am #

    The image of someone licking an apple at our neighborhood grocery store still has me giggling at the end of your post. I’m pretty sure I’m not cool enough for Hong Kong fish ball chips. I’m impressed by you!

    This reminds me of when I moved to NYC and I ended up having to go to a KMart because for the life of me I couldn’t figure out where else to buy certain things like hangers. It was a pretty shabby affair, but at least I could buy all those random items you need when you move to a new place.

    • Erin March 3, 2011 at 4:16 pm #

      Sometimes you just need a Kmart or Target or Walmart! And I’ve been to the markets here (and in Mexico) where all the food and meat is out in the open…and that seems normal to me. But naked meat at Walmart? Just hanging in the aisles? It seems so wrong!

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