In Nanning, eating out is a casual, savory affair: rice noodles, pork ribs on a stick, crisp-skinned lemon duck, the stench of black tofu and the fragrance of ginger. Restaurants make these dishes with ease. But when I try to recreate them at home, my kitchen is ill-equipped for these Chinese ingredients. Do I start with the onions, or add them later? When do I add the oil, and how much? What exactly will a wok do to my food? For a Westerner who wants to cook at home, even shopping for groceries can confound.
Recently, I was staring at the array of pickled vegetables in front of me, trying to guess which one was mustard cabbage. I had never heard of this mysterious vegetable, but the Chinese recipe I wanted to try called for it. I eventually bought something that looked like a boiled artichoke that had been soaked in chili oil and perhaps beaten with a hammer for several years. I had no idea how to prepare it.
Shopping at a Chinese grocery can be startling. Is that vacuum-wrapped chicken feet? Are those chocolate chips or red beans? Is that milk really black? Aspiring chefs may panic, not knowing where to start or how to shop for their own kitchen. While I recommend trying to cook Chinese style, sometimes olive oil just seems necessary. When you’re hit with a desire for crusty French bread, head to one of Nanning’s Western groceries. While no store exactly corners the market, each offers a few familiar items: no mustard cabbage in sight.
1) The Pantry (福林诺食品)View In Map
The joke goes that after the Apocalypse, the Pantry will still carry cereal. Set back from the street in a palm-shaded courtyard, this Western grocery has the look of a bomb shelter: a fine layer of dust, some rust around the rims of the food cans. But despite its utilitarian décor, the Pantry carries the essentials: baking supplies, olive oil, spices, and Doritos. With seasonings ranging from hot sauce to cinnamon the Pantry makes a good stop if you’re craving familiar flavors in your cooking. Canned goods, such as refried beans, run around 25 RMB; a box of cereal costs around 50 RMB. The refrigerator, stocked with cream cheese, cheddar, mozzarella, whipping cream and gouda, has been known to cause joyful weeping among dairy-starved expats. The cheeses here are cut from a large block and priced by weight, between 30-50 RMB each. Another freezer holds rashers of bacon (15 RMB). During the holidays, the Pantry carries frozen seasonal meats, such as Thanksgiving turkeys and Christmas hams. They also sell a selection of foreign liquors.
Add: 34 Minzu Dadao, Nanning, just to the left of the Guangxi Minorities Museum
Tel: 077 1281 4209
Opening Hours: 09:30-19:30
2) U-MartView In Map
This Australian chain is hidden on the sixth floor of the Dreamland (Meng zhi dao) shopping mall. Compared with the delightful grabby chaos of a Chinese grocery, the U-Mart seems shockingly orderly. Among the neat aisles of goods you’ll find boxed Australian milk, both full cream and skim (26 RMB). To make a complete breakfast, pick up a bag of muesli (25-35 RMB). Or dip a digestive biscuit in some milk since the U-Mart carries a large variety of digestives and western-style cookies. Chocolate fiends will be tempted to shell out nearly 100 RMB for an artisanal chocolate bar. The U-Mart also carries a variety of Japanese and Korean snacks, as well as standard Chinese grocery items.
Add: 49 Minzu Dadao, Nanning, inside the Dreamland Mall on the 6th floor
Tel: 077 1285 3523
Opening Hours: 09:30-22:30
3) The Babel Store (吧别塔杂货铺)View In Map
The newest grocery in town, this tiny store packs a lot of punch into its real estate. A display case of lemons and limes caught my attention (2 RMB each), as well as a rack of tempura batter, curry paste, and coconut milk for Thai-style cooking. The Babel Store has slightly different cheeses than the Pantry （usually in smaller but cheaper portions）. But its real strength is in its baked goods. The store offers daily selections of homemade sourdough baguettes, as well as French and wheat loaves which are crusty and soft in the center (10 RMB/loaf). They also bake pies and cakes to order. I tried the chocolate cake on my birthday, expecting a fluffy Chinese-style angel food; in fact, it had an almost graham-cracker crust, with a rich, dense chocolate interior. After shopping, perch at the coffee bar and chat; the store serves espresso drinks, and also sells whole-bean and ground coffee by the pound (60-120 RMB/pound).
Add: Minzu Dadao, inside the Sunshine 100 complex. It’s on the north outside rim of the building, facing away from the courtyard.
地址: 南宁市民族大道，100 阳光72栋1166号
Tel: 159 7770 2623
Opening Hours: 10:00- 23:00
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Keywords: Western groceries in Nanning Western food in Nanning Shopping for Western food in Nanning Cooking western food in Nanning
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The Pantry is no longer in operation. The U-Mart can hardly be classified as selling western food. Babel is under new owners and nobody speaks English but they still carry much of what they did: Bacon, Ham and a wide variety of cheeses along with the canned, boxed and bottled western foods. WalMart of course carries some western foods but prices are not too good. I have found several local 'baking' stores in my neighbor that each carry a different variety of western food, so much so that I now only rarely go to Babel. Babel still has the best selection of cheese. But lately I have taken to contacting my friend Ling at firstname.lastname@example.org to buy western food and have it delivered. She can get almost everything. Off topic but I also found a 'Big & Tall' clothing store today, I am 6'4" 250 and finding clothes was impossible. Also shoes to size 47, about US size 11. NW corner of Xinghu Rd and Yuanhu Rd.
Nov 01, 2016 13:55 Report Abuse
I have moved to Nanning from America. Shopping is a new experience! Essential, in America, you could get everything done at three stores...your local supermarket, Home Depot (or Lowells) and Wal Mart. Here if you want a 2x4 8 feet long it is usually in a small store in an alley but they do not carry pipes or wire. Clothing stores are right next to stores that sell industrial gears. Keep in mind these stores are about 15 to feet wide and 30 feet deep. A restaurant might be next door. Trying to use the typicall toilet...a hole in the floor you squat over was impossible for me (football injury to the knee) or there is a long trough, but fortunately after two weeks I found an apartment with two bathrooms and one had a western styled toilet (there is a God). Four bedrooms on the top floor of an 18 story apartment building that has what looks like a park outside gated and a huge swimming pool...$300 a month. Keep in mind $300 a month is about the average pay here for a citizen so don't be the Ugly American. The people are great here and try to help. Bacon is found at Wal-Mart but unlike the bacon we have in the states, it is ACTUAL sliced pork belly without flavoring. You can do it yourself here too by slicing a semi-frozen pork belly thinnly which is available everywhere. Milk is also available here but it tastes a little different but not bad. Butter is not a problem and Wal-Mart does sell cheeses but they are pre-sliced and a bit costly. Best thing to do is transistition from Western to Chinese and riding a scooter is NOT like a bycycle, Evil Kneival (spelling?) would prefer jumping 20 flaming buses to driving one in Nanning. Keep in mind traffic signals, laws, regulations, and those funny white line on the pavement are suggestions only. Night driving follows the philosophy of a stealth fighter, without lights on, nobody can see you, thus you cannot be hit!
Dec 06, 2012 06:43 Report Abuse