Category Archives: Three Things

Polish Nut Wafers and Few Other Things

 

IMG_20170202_202917

As previously noted, the Import shop on Xinbei’s Chaohu Road is currently the home of Russian chocolate, Polish green apple yogurt, and American Spam in Korean packaging. On a return visit, I found three more unique things on the shelves there. Let’s start with the Polish item that had me excited.

IMG_20170305_202258

No, not the granola. As it turns out, Emall on Beidajie Road downtown has that, as it does with more flavors of the Polish yogurt Import stocks. The item next to is type of wafle orzechowe, a Polish person told me after I showed them this picture. Basically, it’s a nut wafer. However, it doesn’t seem to be a brand in Poland itself. However, since the packaging itself is in English and not Polish, this friend and I agreed that it’s likely something made specifically to export — much like Australia and Fosters beer. I couldn’t resist and bought a bag. So, you can say I’ve now eaten my first Polish nut wafer in Changzhou.

IMG_20170305_200056 IMG_20170305_200113

Unlike some other Polish wafer snacks, this has the wafer acting as a chocolate coated shell. The interior is a hazelnut creme. So far, I have only eaten about three of this. I have been a good boy. I didn’t shove all of them into my face all at once. There were only two bags, so the store may only have one left. And, as it goes with these types of blog posts, I can guarantee that products such as these were on the shelf when I visited. If they go out of stock, there is no assurance that the import store in question will reorder them. So, besides this. What are two other things at Import that I missed last time?

IMG_20170305_200223

There are multiple flavors of Bulgarian fruit juice. I saw two separate brands, but after looking closely at the packaging, I realized that both came from the same company headquartered in Sofia. The third thing I found wasn’t from Eastern Europe at all, but rather from Vietnam.

IMG_20170305_200300

Unlike the Polish nut wafers, I was not as enthused to try these and actually didn’t buy any. Durian has a complex flavor. Some absolutely love it, and others detest the fruit, its taste, and it’s smell. I am somewhere in the middle. I don’t hate it, but I’m not willing to put forth the effort to acquire a taste for it. Bahn pia is a Vietnamese specialty pastry that can be compared to a moon cake.  So, this could be summed up as “Durian flavored Vietnamese moon cake.”

Import is located, as stated earlier, on Chaohu Road in Xinbei. That’s the street on the north side of Wanda. The store itself is a quick walk west from Wanda.

 

 

Three American Comforts at Chinese Convenience Stores

I used to think that “if you couldn’t find it at Metro, you can’t find it in Changzhou.” The longer I live here, the more I am discovering that is wrong. Unique items may pop in the most unexpected places. Sure, there are other western supermarket chains, and there are smaller import shops all over the city. However, the most surprising thing, recently, were some things that have been popping up in 24 quickie mart convenience shops like Kedi.

IMG_20170211_210634

Monster, a very popular American energy drink, has been popping up all over Changzhou as of late. The only other place to carry this so far has been OK Koala in Xinbei, but that is only occasional and with other energy drinks like Red Bull and some lesser known brands. Metro doesn’t carry it, but it does carry something that tries to rip off Monster’s logo.

IMG_20170211_210732

At the convenience stores, however, it’s only been the green Monster, not the sugarfree blue one. In a way, that’s not surprising. If you exclude Coke Zero, Pepsi Max, Coke Lite, and Pepsi Lite, diet sodas haven’t fared well. Well, the next thing is a promising thing if you like zero calorie soft drinks.

IMG_20170211_210648

Sprite Zero has shown up. This one is easy to miss because the cans and bottles seem to lack the English name. I have never seen this anywhere until recently — not even at Metro. The third thing I found recently at convenience stores has not been drinks.

IMG_20170211_210714

Yoplait is a very common brand of yogurt in America, but Kedi is the only place that I have seen it. Monster and Sprite Zero I have seen in some convenience stores besides Kedi. One thing to keep in mind when it comes western food and drink items is that they may not always be there. I can only guarantee that I saw it at the time I took pictures or bought them. For example, I once bought a Polish brand of plum juice at Way Too Delicious in Xinbei, and it never got restocked.

More Vegetarian Things at Istanbul Restaurant

When I was a vegetarian, Turkish and Greek places were usually a staple of eating out. It was for one simple reason: falafel. This involves ground chickpeas formed into balls and fried. My experience eating this usually involved having a few of them shoved into split pita bread with lettuce, tomato, and tzatziki sauce.  Sometimes, hummus would be used as a condiment instead if tzatziki. Both options suited me just fine. Honestly, it really was the veggie alternative to a gyro or a doner for me. So, you can imagine the excitement I felt recently when I walked into Istanbul Restaurant for lunch recently and saw that they added falafel to their menu.

IMG_20170205_192505

I really enjoyed the falafel — it was crispy on the outside and moist on the inside, and it wasn’t too spicy. Falafel usually fails for me when it tastes gritty, and this had a very smooth texture.  However, I have to say I didn’t enjoy having thousand island salad dressing as a dipping sauce. But, that’s easily fixed. I ordered a delicious “usual.” Whenever I go to Istanbul Restaurant, I have to have …

IMG_20170205_192550

Hummus. I found myself dipping my falafel into my hummus and ignoring the thousand island altogether. And let me be honest. I like thousand island sometimes on a salad, but not with Turkish food. Not at all. The two just don’t go together in my head at all. Istanbul does so many other good and saucy appetizers that it would be a good idea to pair their falafel with any of those while ordering. A few other new menu also things surprised me.

IMG_20170205_192526

The place now has a Turkish version of cheese sticks. This particular item has a very soft cheese mixed with parsley. Then, it’s wrapped into thin pastry dough and fried. This is a stark reminder, though, that just because something is “vegetarian friendly” doesn’t make it quite “health food.” I noticed one or two more veggie friendly things on the new menu, but I didn’t have the time or money to try them all.

One things I love about Istanbul Restaurant is that they always seem to be willing to try new things while keeping the items their patrons love, like the pide, or Turkish pizza as it might be more commonly called. That bit of yumminess is always a reason for a return visit.

A Bit of Russia, Poland, Korea, and America in Changzhou

IMG_20170202_202917

 

In America, Spam is a bargain basement canned hog meat that only extremely poor people eat. The thought of eating it is so unpalatable the word got borrowed by computer programmers for junk email, pointless texts, and useless forum messages posts. Why? Both those and the real Spam were essentially unwanted items.

Think of it this way. If you gave a girl a bouquet of roses and a gift basket of Spam on Valentines Day, she would sniff the flowers and blush. Then, she would look at the Spam tins and become confused. Then, she would like become angry at start throwing the metal cans at your face and head — all while screaming “I hate you! Please die!” She would have rather had gourmet Belgian chocolates and not American mystery meat.

However, opinions about Spam are not the same outside the USA. If you such a gift to a South Korean, they would be touched and honored. They would not try to bludgeon you to death with said Spam tins. Why? Spam is a common holiday gift South Korea. South Koreans love this pork product more passionately than Americans. This mystery meat has a special history in this country. Quick synopsis: it has everything to do with the Korean War. The American military supported the south. As part of that cultural exchange, the US was introduced to taekwondo. South Korea was introduced to Spam. So much so, local housekeepers on American military installations would try to steal it when sneaking around pantries.

Two paragraphs into this blog post, and somebody might say, “Interesting. Really. But what does this have to do with Changzhou?” I found a place that actually sells Spam.

 

IMG_20170202_202836

 

This is obviously being imported with a Korean sense of mind, not an American one. The fonts on the labels are in both English and Korean. This was not one of the only “Scarce in Changzhou” thing I saw here. There was also …

 

IMG_20170202_202849

 

Green apple flavored yogurt from Poland. This is only the second place I have seen this brand. The other location wasn’t that far away, and it was in a small shop part of Xinbei Wanda Plaza.  And honestly, this shop was the only place I have ever seen…

 

IMG_20170202_202811

 

Russian chocolate. A very famous brand, I was told. And that was by an Eastern European who was not Russian.

So, where is this place? Please allow me to be circular and repost the first photo, again.

 

IMG_20170202_202917

 

This is in Xinbei. Behind Wanda Plaza, and to the west. There is Chaohu Road that separates Wanda from the other shopping center across the street. If you follow that for like two minutes, you will see this shop. It has no English name. But, at least, you see the word “Import” in English.

Three Comfort Foods at G-Super

Being a vegetarian or a vegan is challenging in Changzhou, but so is being a diabetic. Starch is huge part of Chinese cuisine and as easy to find as the bowl of rice that comes with a meal. Sugar free soft drinks are practically non-existent other than the two types of Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi. I never really thought about this until my father came to visit two years ago. Now that he’s pondering a return to Changzhou next year, I have gone back to wondering what is or is not diabetic friendly in this city. Sometimes, this means wandering into a imported goods grocery like G-Super and just wandering around.  Usually, whenever I do that, I tend to find unexpected things. Here are three of them…

img_20161212_132936

As somebody related to a diabetic, I know sugar-free junk food is still junk food and not the most healthy thing to be eating all that often. However, in moderation, a snack is still a nice comfort to have, and things like the above mocha wafers were something easily taken for granted in the USA. Oddly enough, the Reese’s peanut butter wafers above them are just as rare. I have seen Reese’s cups in places like Tesco before, but this is the first I have seen their chocolate covered wafers in Changzhou. Unlike the Voortmans candy, Reese’s is definitely NOT sugar free.The other two things I saw recently at G-Super have nothing to do with diabetes. Actually, both can be classed as unhealthy junk food.

img_20161212_133601

Chorizo is easier to find than what one might think. Metro has sold the Hormel version of it in the frozen food section. Auchan has something similar as a prepackaged lunch meat. G-Super has the above pictured one, but it’s the first and only time I have seen this particular brand of Mexican sausage.

img_20161212_133627

String cheese is also not that rare a find. In Changzhou, you used to be able to find the Bega brand variety at Carrefour, but all three of those French grocery stores packed up and left. This is the first time I have seen anybody carry Wisconsin Premium mozzarella sticks. These actually taste better than the Bega ones. Wisconsin Premium is pretty common in Changzhou. Metro carries their blocks of cheddar and other types, and Walmart sells their bricks of mozzarella. G-Super also has the largest variety of individually wrapped, snack portions of cheeses that I have not seen elsewhere.

G-Super can be found in the basement of Zhonglou’s Injoy Plaza.

Western Beer Beef Steak

img_20160927_214458

Western Beer Beef Steak is a chain of restaurants with several locations throughout Changzhou and other cities. Some are more schmaltzy than others. Male staff wear cowboy hats, and the walls are adorned with pictures of rugged American cowboys — with thick mustaches. It’s weird to just go into these places to laugh at the strange ambiance.

img_20160927_214605

As for the food, it’s passable. It’s your standard set of cliched western food: steaks, pork chops, and more. Still, it’s still just “not quite.” For example, last time I ate there, I was served lamb chops on sizzling metal plate. Those lamb chops came with a sunny-side-up egg on the side with a few potatoes. The sides I got were also not so impressive. I had mashed potatoes with meat in them, and not to mention potato wedges with chili, sausage, and cheese on them.

img_20160927_214622

Loaded mashed potatoes is something I haven’t seen in Changzhou all that often with the exception of the now-dead Belahaus, but messy french fries are. Daniel’s, for one, serves what is called “Chilli Cheese Chips” in Xinbei; it’s very good. I dare say it’s currently the best in Changzhou when it comes to that particular dish. Chocolate’s German Bar, down in Wujin, also has something similar. At one point, Burger King had them. Belahaus, when they were in business, had them, too.

img_20160927_214522

There are two selling points to this restaurant. First, it’s relatively cheap. While the steaks are not the type you will not find in a high end restaurant, you have to realize that you are not paying high end prices. Also, Western Beer Beef Steak falls into a category like Pizza Hut. While it’s not a great restaurant, it’s an easy to find chain, and it’s a decent place to eat if you are in a place you do not know, and therefore do not have a lot of dining options.

Where the Ukraine Meets Scotland and Latvia

img_20160918_202723

G-Super is a new high-end supermarket in the Zhonglou’s Injoy Mall. It’s in the basement, and they offer a variety of internationally imported items. While there are a variety of unique things in this store, three things stood out the last time I went there.

First, a friend pointed me to something curiously branded as “haggis flavored” potato chips. Haggis is a Scottish delicacy where spices, ground organ meat, and other ingredients are encased into a sheep’s stomach before boiling it. To some, it sounds revolting, and I used to swear I would never even try haggis. However, truth be told, I have eaten much weirder things in China, now. The Mackie’s of Scotland chips I had really didn’t have that strong of a flavor to them. The chips themselves were lightly dusted with the haggis-flavored seasoning.

img_20160918_202043

These chips were just a side to the main course of the dinner I just ate. G-Super also sells Amberfish, a Latvian brand of canned and jarred fish. Essentially, I had a tin of smoked sprats. These are tiny fish that are larger than anchovies but smaller than most sardines. Obviously, the heads were removed before the fish were packed into the can. However, the tails were still on. That’s fine, because the tails are edible. I started eating these straight from the can with crackers. Eventually, I switched to a fork, and before I knew it, they were all gone. Quite delicious. They were much more tasty than the haggis chips. While Amberfish is a unique find, this product is not exclusive to G-Super. At least one other, smaller import shop carries their products.

img_20160918_214006

To wash this all down, I had a carton of Galicia — a Ukrainian brand of fruit juice. My selection blended strawberry and apple juice together. I picked this up not only because I was thirsty, but out of linguistic curiosity. At first, I thought Galicia was a Russian brand. Besides the name, all the lettering looked like Cyrillic. However, when you have friends and acquaintances from Eastern Europe, you learn pretty quickly that many of your assumptions about parts of the world are actually wrong. The Ukraine also uses Cyrillic, but their alphabet includes the letter “i” and Russian does not. Recently, I also learned that Belorussian also has a letter “i.”

img_20160918_202119

Language issues aside, these are not the only three unique things G-Super has to offer. Since this is in downtown Changzhou and an imported goods store, you can expect the prices to be a little high. The best way to get to this super market is to go through the Injoy entrance next to Haagen Dazs, take a right, and find the escalator going down.

 

Three Things at Emall Worldwide

IMG_20160829_190115

Emall Worldwide is an imported goods shop near the old Parksons complex on Beidajie Road. Honestly, it carries a lot of the same goods other import shops carry, but here are three products that make the place unique.

It carries cans of chickpeas and jars of beet root. Chickpeas are not always on the foreign goods shelves in many of the large, international supermarkets in Changzhou. If you are a vegan or a vegetarian, it can be a staple food. I know it was for me during the many years I didn’t eat meat. Carrefour used to carry them, but all three of their locations shut down over the last year. I do see them at Auchan at times. The jarred beets are more of a unique find. The only other place in Changzhou — that I know of — is Metro.

IMG_20160829_190105

As for the third thing, I’m not sure having it in Changzhou is a good thing. Four Loko is one of the nastiest alcoholic drinks America has ever produced. It’s an alcopop — well, sort of. For those who have never heard this word before, it’s a recent coinage for a soft drink or soda that has alcohol in it. For example, Jack Daniel’s makes a premixed whiskey and cola. As for Four Loko, it’s like somebody noticed how many people like to mix Red Bull or Monster with vodka. So? They created a highly caffeinated energy drink that punches you in the face with 12% alcohol. It tastes absolutely disgusting. Even worse, it has actually killed a few people, and it became highly controversial in America. There were even lawmakers and protesters trying to get Four Loko banned. It faced a few lawsuits as well. Eventually, Phusion, the company producing the drink, agreed to stop making it. So, I don’t know what is sitting on Emall’s shelves. Is it leftovers from 2014? Is it being produced only for export to countries that don’t know any better? Is it a new beverage concocted under a different, less dangerous recipe? Honestly, I don’t know and I don’t care. I’m never going to buy it. I’m writing this more as a buyer beware.

America produces so many good beers and hard drinks. It’s a shame that Samuel Adams and other craft beers are not widely imported here. It reminds me of when I moved to Changzhou and went grocery shopping for the first time. I saw retail endcaps celebrating cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon and started laughing hysterically. Many Americans hate that cheap, bargain-basement swill, but in China its exotic. Go figure.

IMG_20160829_190043