Finding Ingredients in Shanghai

Vegetables you can get from the wet market (My Aiyi goes for me and I order veggies using the Chinese/English Grocery List you can find in links): 

  • Carrots
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Cabbage (both white and purple)
  • Cauliflower
  • Pumpkin
  • Edamame
  • Green zucchini
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Ginger
  • Red Onion
  • Button Mushrooms
  • Shallot

Vegetables that you have to get at an import store (such as Times, Pines or City Shop): 

  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Yellow zucchini
  • Frisee
  • Arugula

Fruit (I get all my fruit from local fruit stands): 

  • Bananas –  You can get these all year round easily.  Just ask if you don’t want the size of bunch that is available and they can cut it smaller for you.  
  • Avocado- I think these are expensive no matter where you live in the world.  However, if you live in Puxi the Avocado Lady who works by the US Embassy is by far the cheapest.  


  • Sausage – If you buy it, it tends to be expensive and to get a good flavor you need to get it from an import store.   You can use a local taiwanese sweet sausage and it tastes good in some dishes or you can make your own pork sausage (see the recipe for breakfast sausage) 
  • Chicken Thighs and Pork Chops – Not the cheapest option but I think that you get the best quality of meat for the best price from City Shop and if you order a decent amount at a time they will deliver for free.  Fields, Kate and Kimi and other online stores also have good cuts. 
  • Salmon – the best and cheapest in Shanghai is actually at IKEA in the food section.  You can also get filets from any of the import stores but you will pay quite a bit more.  

Spices that can be bought at a local grocery store (such as EMart, Carrefore or Metro): 

  • Chili Powder
  • Garlic Powder
  • Thyme
  • White Pepper
  • Bay Leaves
  • Sage
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • Cloves (You have to get them whole and crush them yourself)
  • Ground cumin
  • Curry powder

Spices that need to be bought in the US or at an import store: 

  • Onion Powder
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Oregano
  • Nutmeg
  • Paprika
  • Dill

Canned Goods: 

  • Canned Crushed Tomatoes – Most canned goods are imported.  You can get them reasonably priced from Metro.  
  • Canned Cream Corn – I get most of my canned stuff at Metro.  When I first moved here I spent a long time pricing things out and they seemed to be the cheapest there.  However, since then Pines has gone slightly down in price and Pic Fresh opened so it may be about equal now.
  • Jalapeño Peppers – You can get these pretty consistently at Pic Fresh.  However Times sells cans of chopped green chiles now for a reasonable price.  You can also buy a jar of green chiles and they will substitute well in most recipes.  The cheapest by far is to get fresh chiles from the market.  
  • Canned Chickpeas – I get mine from Metro, but Pines and Pic Fresh also have reasonably priced ones. 

Baking Goods: 

  • Flour, Sugar, Salt – I suggest getting these locally.  However, if you get your flour from one of the large bins in a grocery store be aware that you will often end up with weevils.  In general the vacuum sealed packages or those with thicker plastic tend go get bugs less.  
  • Cornmeal – I’m dorky and I get 2 different types of cornmeal and mix them.  I get the fine ground and rough ground bags of cornmeal at metro and then mix them because I think it gives the best texture.  However, if you just want cornmeal I suggest getting the fine ground stuff at Metro.  Carrefour sells it but it tends to be the rough ground stuff and that makes what you are making feel crunchy.  If that’s all you can get I would suggest cutting back on the cornmeal in the recipe and adding a little extra flour instead.  
  • Baking powder – You have to get this imported.  You can, however, get baking soda locally and in a pinch you can substitute baking soda for baking powder.  Just use 1T baking soda and use 1/2 C honey instead of the sugar in the Jiffy Corn Mix.  If you want to learn the secrets of how to substitute baking powder and baking soda see HERE.    
  • Brown Sugar – you can get this at most grocery stores, but if you can’t find it or are out you can also substitute with either a sweet soy sauce (Kekap Manis works great) or molasses and extra white sugar (but in baked goods, it won’t taste as chewy). If you get the very local kind it tends to have a stronger molasses taste and doesn’t pack together as well.  Unless you are making something that is very fussy it shouldn’t make too much of a difference.  
  • Chocolate Chips – These are generally expensive to get in Shanghai.  You can get US brands at Pic Fresh for about 50RMB, european brands from Times for 30RMB and Pines packaged mini ones for 14RMB (but they taste more waxy).  You can also get regular chocolate bars at the store and chop them up.  
  • Buttermilk – you can make your own fill 1 C with milk so that its a little less than a full cup.  Add 1T of vinegar or lemon juice and let it sit for 5min.  
  • Vanilla – This is expensive in shanghai.  They seem to sell it at Pic Fresh consistently but you only get tiny bottles. I bring a big bottle from Costco.  

Other :

  • Chicken Broth – You can get chicken broth powder from local stores and just use 1 C water to 1/2 T powder (this makes a strong broth so if you like it weaker reduce the powder)
  • Jiffy Muffin Mix – sometimes, but very rarely this is sold at Pic Fresh for a really reasonable price.  But they haven’t been stocking it for awhile now, so don’t hold your breath.  
  • Eggs – It is by far the cheapest to get them from the wet market however if you do I would suggest cracking them into a bowl before adding them to the batter because you don’t get an expiration date on the package and sometimes you get a bad egg.  
  • Cheese – The only way to get cheap cheese is to buy in bulk.  I use it so little that I don’t go that route anymore but I used to get a huge block from metro and then split it into 6 with friends.  
  • Chunky peanut butter – any local store has this.  I get mine from Metro, but that’s just cause I tend to shop in bulk.  
  • Indonesian Concentrated Satay Sauce – The only place I’ve found this is in Indonesia or at an Indonesian supermarket.  SO, if you find it in Shanghai, please let me know.  🙂 
  • olives and Sundried Tomatoes – expensive no matter where you get them.
  • Capers – These are expensive and generally found only at import stores or in the import section of local stores. A small jar costs about 30 rmb at Pines.  If you use them a lot you can get a very large jar at Metro for much cheaper.  
  • Bulgur Wheat – This is an import item.  They sometimes have boxes of it at Metro or Carrefour but it’s not consistent.  If you get a box it is generally 30-40rmb no matter where you get it.  

Sauces that are available at local stores: 

  •  sesame oil
  • soy sauce
  • white vinegar
  • Olive Oil
  • Honey –  this is expensive, even at local stores. Sometimes you can also get a large bottle for around 50RMB at Pines.  You can get a HUGE tub from Metro which is by far the best deal, however you may want to plan on sharing with friends.  🙂 
  • lemon juice  – you can use fresh or you can buy large bottles of pre-squeezed stuff at Abundance for 13RMB

Sauces that you have to import or get at import stores: 

  • Red Wine Vinegar
  • Tahini – I make my own cause it costs a lot and is hard to find here.  To make, blend 1C sesame seeds with 1/3 C olive oil.

Nuts and Dried Beans:

  • Sesame Seeds and Pine Nuts – cheap at Metro
  • Lentils – You can get these in a can but I really don’t like the way canned ones hold up in a soup.  I feel like they tend to fall apart.  I get mine in bags from an import stores which cost about 30-40rmb a bag.  

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