Tag Archives: Supermarkets

Silver Valley of Mingxin

Living in Wujin is not bad. You just happened to live in one of the most boring parts of Wujin.

— A friend and a very long term Changzhou expat.

Everytime I return to Wujin, I am reminded of how it is constantly changing and is actually beginning to look profoundly different from when I moved there. After two years, I decided to pack up and move to Xinbei. So, every time I go down there, I’m reminded of the above quote. I will not mention her name, but let’s just say it rhymes with Mikki Spaff. This is especially true when I go to my old stomping grounds of College Town.

When I moved there, a lot of storefronts around my vocational college were empty and devoid of life. Now, most of those shops have filled in. However, one big thing reminded me of how the area has been changing. This was a few days ago, before I sprained some ligaments in my foot (again). Consider this…

IMG_20170826_221824

IMG_20170826_221836

I normally would not be celebrating the opening of yet another shopping center in Changzhou. Good lord, the city has enough already. Some of them have been abandoned and have laid mostly empty for years now. However, this one makes sense.

It’s at the intersection of Mingxin and Wuyi Roads in the College Town. This is where the B1 and B16 turn north and head towards down town. The name seems to be Silver Valley in English, and it had a bit of a soft opening. Besides a Pizza Hut, a supermarket, a cinema, and a few other shops, a lot of the stores here are empty. However, if the rest of the area is any indication, those shops will eventually fill in over time. Why? Think about this area for a moment.

There are six institutions of higher learning here. There’s my former employer, Changzhou University, and four others. When spring or fall semester is in swing, this place is crammed with thousands upon thousands of college students. You figure there would be more here to cater to them and their money. I have always argued that College Town has been under served in terms of development. Remember, I partly left out of boredom and needing a new challenge.

When I first moved to Changzhou, this shopping mall was a huge hole in the ground surrounded by a construction barricade. Three and a half years later, it seems to have undergone a soft opening after the construction has finished. However, there is something more particular to day to day living that this shopping mall brings to Mingxin.

It’s the supermarket. Now, anybody who has lived along Mingxin knows this sounds like a dumb statement. Before Silver Valley, the area already had four. What’s the difference of having a fifth?

IMG_20170826_221857

IMG_20170826_221926

IMG_20170826_221943

Easy answer. It carries things that the other four didn’t when I lived in the area. A bottle of western booze used to require a trip to RT Mart or Tesco. The same could be said for cheese, butter, cat food and a few other foreign items. Yeah, I know Wujin has Metro now, too. However, College Town is really the southern most part of the city before you start getting into all the industrial parks and the more rural areas of Wujin. Yeah, Metro has a lot of what somebody needs, but sometimes having the convenience of just going down the street and saving some time on some very basic items is nice comfort, too. That’s why having a shopping center here makes perfect sense.

Where Aussies Might Find Tim Tams

IMG_20170402_200042
Closed near Wujin Wanda.

What is one way to potentially piss off an Australian? Claim to be a Aussie specialty shop and do not sell Tim Tams. That actually happened in Wujin. Axmall was this little nook store next to the Wanda Realm hotel. Only, they didn’t have Tim Tams the last time I went there. Sure, they had some bottles of Australian wine and some health products, but the shelves seemed remarkably empty. Not long after that, the store shut down for good. Word is, Axmall will be moving to Xinbei.

IMG_20170331_193505
YUM!

So, what is a Tim Tam? It’s two biscuits sandwiched together with a creamy center. Those biscuits are then dipped in chocolate. There are a variety of different flavors from doubled coated (double dipped), dark chocolate, white chocolate, and more. Amazingly enough, you don’t have to go to an Australian shop to find them.

However, they were not at Metro last time I looked, and they are not on the import shelves of the major foreign grocery stores like Walmart or Tesco. I have only seen them in two different imported good shops and both are chains.

IMG_20170402_195948
All three Zhoumo stores look like this, pretty much.

Zhoumo 周茉 has consistently had them. The smallest one of these is downtown and right off of Beidajie and near the now mostly empty Parksons. The Xinbei store is on Taihu Road and can be easily walked to from Wanda Plaza. The Wujin shop is on Wuyi Road and is across the street from the Coco City shopping mall. Only, that one only had white chocolate Tim Tams the last time I was there. And ugh, to quote an Australian friend and all around Tim Tam enthusiast, “White chocolate is not real chocolate and does not deserve to be in the same category as chocolate.” For the sake of a general readership, expletives were edited out of that quote. Anyhow, that’s just our two humble opinions on the matter. The variety of flavors available seems to fluctuate, but Zhoumo usually tends to restock and reorder Tim Tims regularly, so it could just be the luck of when you go and what they have.

IMG_20170402_202346
The smaller Way To Delicious stores that don’t carry Tim Tams tend to look like this.

The other store to carry these yummy biscuits is Way To Delicious 味和氏. I have seen some of those stores either keep that English name, but the trend seems to be a switch to “Waycious.” While I have seen Tim Tams at all of Changzhou’s Zhoumo supermarkets, the same cannot be said for Way To Delicious. It seems that if the store is large, you will likely find Tim Tams. If the store is very small, they will likely not be stocked. Personally, I have seen them at three specific locations. The stores on Hanjiang Road and Taihu Road in Xinbei both had them. The Wujin location in the South Town area near Jagerwirt also had them.

img_20161208_134349
Way To Delicious in Wujin, near Jagerwirt, RT Mart, and The Grand Metropolis Mall. The development is called South Town in English.

Of course, you don’t have to be Australian to enjoy Tim Tams. Last I checked, my home state of New Jersey was nowhere near the Down Under. All you need to love these things is a sweet tooth. As part of “research” for this post, I also shared some with a Chinese friend, and she said, “Wow, these are quite good” after her first bite.

As is always the case when writing about shopping, I can only attest that the products were on the shelf when I looked. I can’t guarantee that they will always be there. 

Way To Delicious rebranded as "Waycious" on Taihu Road in Xinbei.
Way To Delicious rebranded as “Waycious” on Taihu Road in Xinbei.

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.

Way To Delicious in Hutang

img_20161208_134349

There are a number of small little grocery stores that specialize in imported goods throughout Changzhou. Way To Delicious is a chain of them, and Xinbei has two of locations not all that far from each other. One is on the same street as the media tower, and the other is down the road from Dinosaur Park.

Wujin used to have one across the street from Tesco on Heping / Changwu Road. Burger King is in the same complex. The 2 and 302 buses used to pass by. And then, it disappeared. I thought it went out of business, but as it turned out, it didn’t. It just simply relocated to another part of Hutang — specifically, the South Town neighborhood. This is a pair of streets that runs between large housing communities that has everything from small restaurants to a tiny museum dedicated to Hutang’s history. These streets connect Huayuan and to Wuyi Road and is not that far from the shopping complex Jagerwirt calls home. The B11 passes it on Huayuan and the B1 passes it on Wuyi.

img_20161208_134515

Way To Delicious, as a chain, can be unpredicable at times. For example, one of the Xinbei stores carried Polish plum juice when the others didn’t. It seems that the Hutang location is similar. There, I saw Russian wheat bread that I haven’t seen elsewhere. There was also Ben and Jerry’s ice cream — which I have only seen in Xinbei’s Metro — and a range of gluten-free snacks. These stores are only worth the trip if you live near them. Plus, there also doesn’t seem to be a guarantee that specialty items will be restocked once they sell out.

img_20161208_134559

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.

 

Allegedly Metro

IMG_20160711_175113[1]

Oh, and you can do all your shopping at Metro! They have a lot of western items!

— An enthusiastic, but misinformed Xinbei expat to a Wujin newbie.

As I have pointed out before, nothing can be more infuriating than living in Wujin and being told that Xinbei is the center of Changzhou. Most of the time, this advice is well meaning, but it doesn’t keep it from being factually wrong. This is so much the case with Metro. When you live in Wujin — especially College Town — Metro is just a far off wonderland that just isn’t practical. Why? Given rain and traffic, it can take up to an hour to get there on the B1 — one way.

Then, there are the rumors that Wujin will eventually get its own Metro. These whispers have been going on for years now, and when I lived down in the College Town, I depressingly chalked up to wishful thinking more than anything else. However, there has been real progress, as of late, towards Wujin expats finally getting something they really want. Now, there is a real location for the new Metro.

The B1 BRT bus route passes it. Its in a new and unfinished shopping development called CoCo City. This is about one stop after / before Wujin’s Injoy mall, depending on whether you are going north or south. The last time I rode by on my eBike, the location was empty and undeveloped. All you could see was the blue and yellow METRO store marquee. I snapped a picture of it and sent it to a friend with lots of Changzhou experience. Even she didn’t know about it.

Later, a separate friend of mine passed it more recently. She currently lives in College Town and was headed north on other business. She, too, was tired of having to take the bus for an hour just to get something simple like bagged salad mix. She told me that she asked around and couldn’t find an answer to when it a grand opening was planned. She even tasked a Chinese friend to call Xinbei’s Metro for further information. Even they didn’t know anything.

So, as of this writing, Wujin is still getting a Metro. You can actually visit and see where it will be, but there seems to be no hard evidence as to when a grand opening will actually come to pass. For a Wujin expat, this is both tantalizing and extremely frustrating. It’s like dangling something nice in front of somebody, but still keeping agonizingly out of easy reach.

Way To Delicious 味和氏

The store near Changzhou’s Dinosaur Park

“If you can’t find it at Metro, you probably will not find it in Changzhou.”

I used to say these words all the time, but lately I realized how fundamentally I was wrong. On the surface, it seems logical and plausible. Some supermarkets carry items that others do not. For example, I routinely can’t find German pickled red cabbage at Metro, but it’s on the import shelf at the Xinbei Wanda Walmart. Metro basically has most of what a westerner may want an need, but often items show up in other places all the time. Yet, that superstore is only convenient if you live in Xinbei or near the nothern end of Changzhou. Wujin is set to get its own sometime this year, and that will be in the Coco City shopping center near Injoy Mall. Coco City is still under construction.

Snapple!

I recently discovered this at a small import shop / supermarket called Way To Delicious 味和氏. This is likely a chain, as Baidu maps lists several locations when you search using the Chinese name. I have only been to three. There used to be a small one in Hutang, right across the street from Tesco. However, it closed. The two others I have visited were in Xinbei. One is near Changfa Plaza and the Xinbei TV Tower and media center.  The other was closer to Indian Kitchen and Dinosaur Park.

The one thing, however, is that they don’t seem to carry the same products. For example, I found Polish plum juice at one, but no Snapple. The other had Snapple, but none of the Polish beverages. The unpredictable nature of the stocking means, well, you don’t make special trips to them. You just go there because you live or work near one, and its convenient. So, what am I judging Metro on, here? The Polish plum juice.  I know because I check the last time I went to Metro. And by the way, Way To Delicious may be out of plum juice. I bought all five last time I was there.

Tarczyn. The Polish equivalent of Snapple?