St. Regis Butcher’s Block: It’s nice to meat you!

Living abroad often presents situations, which back in your home country are simple mundane tasks.  We have recently been challenged by: grocery shopping!  It is not to say that in China we can’t find a grocery store, it is just that it is a bit harder to find your way around one when most things are written in a language you can’t read and many of the products are things you have never seen before.

Locally we have a few options; the most convenient would be E Mart.  It is walking distance and sells all the basics.  However the quality of the fruit and veg has proven to be less than reliable there is very little in English.  When shopping for something like meat being able to read the labels is very important.  We tend to rely on E Mart for the simple basics like toilet paper, cleaning products and beer.

Also locally we have Metro.  This is a Costco-like store that sells local ingredients as well as many of the familiar English and American brands.  We usually do a big shop here once or twice a month to stock up on things like Kerrygold Irish butter and Organic Valley Milk.  We have even been known to pick up a bottle of HP Brown Sauce there.

Besides these two options we have used an order and delivery service called Aaron’s Kitchen.  It is a great company that provided quality western products that may be hard to find elsewhere as well as good quality meats.  They require a week in advance for your order and that is where we have been getting our meats.

We recently found ourselves with an empty freezer and as we could not place an Aaron’s Kitchen order (due to the Chinese New Year Holiday) we turned to Metro to get some chicken.  The butchery was bare of any meat so a frozen whole chicken was the best we could come up with.  We were a bit surprised when we opened the packaging to find THE WHOLE CHICKEN, head, neck, feet and bum.

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For two teachers raised in suburban families this was something that was a bit out of both of our comfort zones.  I enlisted in the help of my TA.  She laughed at my fright as she gracefully chopped off the head with blood gushing everywhere.

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Though the chicken was ready to roast the thought of his little eyes looking up at me over the beak was a too much to forget.  In the end the chicken served its purpose as I made a big pot of stock.

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At this point we were quite desperate to get some good quality meat so we could do some home cooking.  Some of our co-workers had been using a service from the St. Regis Hotel – The Butchers Block, so we gave it a try.  The order form was easy to read and use.  We emailed our order on Wednesday and it was ready to collect on Saturday.  The service at the hotel was fantastic, we were even given complimentary drinks whist we waited for our products.  We couldn’t have been more pleased to see 7 chicken breasts, 7 English pork sausages, 1 kg of minced beef, beef brisket and a mixed grill of lamb, tenderloin, bacon, sausage and chicken.

For 435 rmb (£43 or $71), it was expensive by Chinese standards but well worth it for the peace of mind it gave us.

Mrs T

The Butcher’s Block order form

The Fruit and Veg Market

After battling through coughs, colds and hangovers we decided to head down to our favourite fruit and veg market.

The pollution level was below 80 so this made the journey down a lot more desirable!

The previous day we plucked up the courage to buy a metro card. This basically saves you from queuing up at the ticket machines and also reducing the cost of the journey from 2RMB to 1.6RMB (20p to 16p or 35c to 25c). This is an absolute bargain compared to prices of public transport in the UK and US. To obtain the card all I had to do was wave, smile and make a square shape with my fingers! I then just said 50RMB (with 5 fingers displayed) and voila, the card was loaded and in my hands.

After a 10 minute tube ride from Xi Bei Jiao to Dong Nan Jiao we got a 5 minute tuk tuk to the fruit and veg market where we bought a huge bag of goodies for a grand total of 32 RMB (£3.20 or $4.80).

It is a great place to go to work on your Chinese numbers and the quality of the produce is excellent. Now all we need to do is figure out which recipes to follow this week.

Mr. T

Tabletop Treats

Something that has been quite foreign to us was that we have no oven in our apartment.  This is very normal for Chinese accommodations but definitely something new for us.  I would say it has had an affect on our culinary adventures as we have felt quite limited by our two hobs.  We decided to treat ourselves today with the purchase of a tabletop oven.  There was a fair selection at Metro (warehouse type shopping that requires a membership) and our first choice was out of stock.  Saying that though we weren’t sure what to base our choice on.  There were no brands we recognised and just a few differences between models.  We decided on one at the lower end of the spectrum, just to see how we liked it and if we would actually make use of it regularly.

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Day 1 and so far so good.  We baked off some frozen baguettes for a lovely bacon and egg sandwich and I have just attempted my first apple crumble.  It looks and smells lovely, Mr T will have to give a verdict on it later.

-Mrs. T