Sunday, April 4, 2010

China 2010: Carrefour

My parents and I took a trip to China throughout late March and most of April in celebration of my release from undergrad (they always get so frustrated because my school schedule has prevented almost any chance of a family vacation for the past 4 years). We met my mom (who got there earlier) at Shanghai Pudong Airport after 13 hours (and about 4 movies) on the plane. Although it was dinner-time, the jetlag and bad airplane food was enough to kill our appetites, so we just went to the local Carrefour outside our apartment to buy some food for the next day's meals.

Carrefour is a culinary phenomenon that is unfortunately absent from the U.S. HQ-ed in France and known as an hypermarche, it's spread around the world and is pretty much what it sounds like - a supermarket on steroids. It's pretty fun in there if you're a foodie, and if you're not careful, you can even get lost.

First stop: the dried goods area:
1. The rice section. This is actually a set of bins containing free-flowing rice that you can fill up, weigh, and take home. It's much more efficient than getting pre-packed bags (in my opinion) because you can take home just as much as you need and not worry about it going bad. Or you can even be adventurous and mix different grains together!
2. An interesting assortment of rice, dried fruits, and grains. I could see oats and dried plums dotted among the grains. At first, I thought this was babaofan or "8-treasure rice", which is sticky rice cooked with eight kinds of ingrediants and is eaten as a dessert. But I don't think this is the same thing...

3. A cute rice package. Oh Asians...4. There's another section nearby with all kinds of weird and exotic dried goods. If I didn't grow up eating these things, some of them would actually be downright scary. On the bottom row, from nearest to farthest, you have dried shrimp (shami), dried scallops, dried clams, and I don't even know what else. On the top, you have...well I don't even know what the first two are, but behind them are sardines, dried sea cucumbers, seaweed, and much more. There's another section behind them with mushrooms too. You can't really eat them by themselves, but they give an amazing aroma with a distinctive Asian umami flavor to any dish you add them to.

5. More dried shrimp...6. Dried rice stick noodles. I've only seen them packed in plastic in the U.S...they give the impression of being fresher tied haphazardly like this, but that's probably an illusion, seeing as they're both dried anyway.

7. A mountain of dried Chinese sausage (la cheong), all arranged like Jenga pieces. All I could think of was that if this monstrosity fell, I'd need an avalanche team to dig me out.

8. A cow's tongue! In the meat department, of course. Even Mom thought this was a noteworthy find. She held up the meat for me to photograph, but it came out blurry.

9. This...was weird. I don't even know what to write...although I think the picture says enough.

10. Some of the many produce items...

11. An interesting find in the seafood section...although I have eaten frog before and it is surprisingly tasty.

12. This was from the food court outside of Carrefour. The idea is pretty ingenious...they have a stand with a little section containing two compartments, each with a different flavor of boiling soup. Next to them is laid out rows of assorted hotpot ingredients, with each row set at different prices. You get a tray, pick out what you want in your soup, and give it to them to cook. They also add cellophane noodles and optional flavoring on the side. Then after they cook it, you pay and add green onions or pickled vegetables to the bowl. It's cheap and convenient...not to mention tastier than the average hot dog in America.

Check out the baked/hot food section in my next post...

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