Hunting Spices: International Grocery Shopping in Hangzhou

Hunting Spices: International Grocery Shopping in Hangzhou
By Kevin Sundeen ,

Expats can say what they like about Chinese food: it is sometimes mysterious, and even risky – but nevertheless it’s generally delicious and inexpensive. It’s also intimidating to cook, especially for those of us who haven’t been properly initiated. I know this because my attempts have never seemed half as good as the same thing available at some hole-in-the-wall shop right down the street.

This makes it especially nice to occasionally cook something up from back home in the familiar Western style – but for that you’ll have to avoid cheap substitutes and splurge on good imported ingredients. When this is the case, you can’t go to just any grocery store, because you can’t be sure you’ll find that special imported ingredient, like nutmeg, for example. Best to be prepared. As part of your grocery list, you should know which stores regularly carry imported items. That way you won’t waste time searching all over Hangzhou looking for that one essential part of your recipe.

1) Carrefour家乐福
When I first moved to Hangzhou, the French chain Carrefour on Yan’an Road downtown was the first place I looked for international food items. While it’s about the same as all the other underground grocery stores in Hangzhou – hideously lit, hot and crowded – the imported food aisle makes it all worthwhile. Here you’ll find a good selection of European items like Swiss muesli, German and French cereals, and American baking mixes (for those blessed with an oven). The bakery section also always has baguettes. But the real prize of this piece of France in Hangzhou is in the cooler, where you’ll find one of the city’s best selections of cheeses, ranging from processed slices to gourmet blocks and wheels.

Carrefour View In Map
Add: 135-139 Yan'an Lu, Hangzhou
地址 :杭州市西湖区延安路135-139号
Tel: 0571 8713 1463
Opening Hours: Mon-Sun, 08:00-22:00
Getting there: buses K900, 514/K514, K504, K315, K274, K216, 208, K206, K188, 68, 8/K8, K4 all stop on Yan’an Lu across from Carrefour

2) Century Mart
Even bigger than Carrefour is the Century Mart on Wen Er Xi Lu. There are smaller branches all over the city but the Huasheng Branch on Wen Er Lu is absolutely massive. The smaller branches often have imported sections usually limited to about a meter of an aisle, and are filled mostly with Danish butter cookies and imported chocolate. The Huasheng branch’s import section is a whole corner of the second floor, not easily missed due to its wood floor paneling and two aisles of imported wine, liquor and beer. Watch out for the small army of employees camping out by the wines, though. They will try to push all sorts of stuff on you, even if just want to browse (when you actually need help they will simply point to the most expensive bottle within arm’s reach). In addition to the alcohol, the import section carries a decent range of spices, foreign snacks and coffee. Be sure to look carefully all over the store for imported items, however – I’ve found imported Silk brand soymilk above the frozen dumplings, for example, as well as granola mixed in with the oatmeal.

CenturyMart, Huashang Branch 世纪联华华商店View In Map
Add: 2 West Wen'er Road, Hangzhou
地址 : 杭州市西湖区文二西路2号
Tel: 0571 8893 3905, 0571 8893 3910
Opening Hours: 8:00-22:00, Mon-Sun
Getting There: Buses K63, K74, K77, K86/86, 130, K199, K209, K221, K820/820 to Wen Er Xi Lu Dong Kou

3) Metro麦德龙
Metro is worth setting aside an afternoon for, since it’s a bit out of the way and, once you arrive, there is a lot of ground to cover. Metro specializes in bulk foods, although both branches sell other household goods (of special mention is the tableware that is flower-pattern-free, functional, and reasonably-priced). Going to Metro is a bit like going to a warehouse that holds all of Hangzhou’s foreign goods, which means you might have to dodge the occasional palette jack or forklift. Metro’s frozen pastry section has premade pies, puff pastry and pita pockets, and is the only place in Hangzhou I’ve found that has tortillas. They also have a decent cheese and cured meat selection. A word of caution: because it’s really a bulk store, it will usually be cheaper than buying from a grocery store, but you might end up having to buy two cans of tomato paste or beans taped together. I once had to buy 500 grams of capers when I only needed about 15 grams.

Metro, Genshan Branch View In Map
Add: 355 East Genshan Lu, Hangzhou
地址 : 杭州市艮山东路355号
Tel: 0571 8649 8888
Opening Hours: Mon-Sun, 07: 00-21:00
Getting There: Buses 320 or K508 to Xinglong Cun

Metro, Yuhang BranchView In Map
Add: 1459 Moganshan Road, Hangzhou
地址 : 杭州市莫干山路1459号(莫干山路与金家渡路交界处)
Tel: 0571 8899 8888
Opening Hours: Mon-Sun, 07:00-21:00
Getting There: Buses K67/67, K313/313, K372, K632 to Yanjiapo

4) City Shop
City Shop is actually a set of grocery stores located in Shanghai. So why has it made this list? Simple: Cheap Sunday deliveries of imported groceries to Hangzhou every week. City Shop stocks a myriad of imported goods, from fresh banana bread from their own bakery to deli meats. Owing to Shanghai’s huge expat crowd, City Shop really has just about everything imported you could need for reasonable prices. Delivery to Hangzhou runs 20 RMB for orders less than 300 RMB, and is free for orders over that; the delivery order cut-off time is 17:00 Saturday. If you’re worried about having ice cream delivered but only receiving a melted mess, fret not, for they pack everything that needs to be cold on ice. If there is something you can’t find on the website, try calling or emailing them – the customer service is very good and most of the time they will have what you want in the store when it isn’t on the website. You can’t beat that kind of convenience.

City Shop
Tel: 400 811 1797

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Keywords: western supermarkets hangzhou imported food hangzhou western groceries hangzhou western food hangzhou bread cheese wine hangzhou


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