Common food in China
The offer of food in China is so vast that you will need to live several lives in the country to try at least half of what is being offered. In your first months there, when your enthusiasm of being immersed in a new culture runs high, simple, cheap Chinese restaurants offer a great culinary experience. You can stick with some of the obvious Chinese dishes, which you may have tried in your hometown as well, at the local Chinese restaurant. A Wonton soup, with an entre of sweet and sour pork may sound bland, but you will be surprised to discover new qualities of the dish in its home country, so it is always worth experimenting with restaurants in China.
If you prefer to cook at home (although the difference in price between restaurant lunching and home cooking is not that significant), many of the international chains of hypermarkets have entered the Chinese market, as it provides sufficient opportunities and a large population with a growing purchasing power. You will find here stores ranging from Tesco to 7-Eleven and from Carrrefour to Wal-Mart, if you are aiming for a weekly grocery shopping.
Other than these, the neighborhood grocery store can always be useful for any quick shopping for the evening. Shopping in a traditional Chinese grocery store is always an interesting experience. On one hand, you will see products you don’t see in all the hypermarkets, including products for traditional Chinese medicine. On the other, Chinese shoppers are occasionally interactive, which means that they are likely to investigate your shopping cart, comment with you on it and get informed on the cost and quality of some of your choices.
Some of the smaller markets, as well as the farmers’ markets, are where you will find fresh produce, including fruit, vegetables and spices. You will find cheap products here, but they are as organic as they get: they are grown by local farmers and brought in the larger urban areas to be sold, with no extra intermediaries.
You can discuss the price, the Chinese always enjoy a good negotiation, but the products here are quite often reasonably priced and you will probably find it strange to bargain on that. The traditional market will have handheld scales to weigh your purchase, which gives it a quaint feel (although you can always wonder how well the scales have been adjusted).