Tag Archives: Avocado Lady

The Avocado Lady

30 Mar

In more than one post I have referred to the Avocado Lady. Far from being an elusive character, she is nothing short of a celebrity for the foreigners’ community of Shanghai who regularly go fill up their fridge and pantry at her very unassuming shop in the former French Concession. There you can find all sorts of Western food products as well as fabulous vegetables at really reasonable prices. I think she sometimes has more on offer than expat supermarkets. I never went there to shop and not found what I was looking for! Polenta, couscous, fresh basil, fresh mint, fresh rosemary, parmeggiano, parsnips, San Pelegrino, very good dried fruits, red and green lentils and other pulses, tehini, De Cecco pasta, etc.

The shop is held by two Chinese ladies, but the one with short hair is the one in charge. Just Google: Avocado Lady Shanghai and you’ll see what she looks like. She speaks English or at least knows the English name of all her products and so you can ask her for whatever you want and she’ll find it somewhere in her tiny shop. She’s very friendly and will never hesitate to round down what you owe her which, amongst other things, makes her a great trader. I was told three years or so ago, her shop was half its current size but due to her success and being able to win the loyalty of many foreigners, she’s expanded into the next unit.

She’s been dubbed the Avocado Lady because avocadoes used to be a very rare commodity in Shanghai and she was one of the first to sell them. Now you can find them in many places but the nickname stuck, which comes in handy because her shop, like most fruits and vegetable shops of the city, has no name.

So next time you’re despairing over the expat supermarkets’ prices and complaining about not finding this or that, head to the intersection of Wulumuqi Lu and Wukang Lu and walk southwards on Wulumuqi Lu on the right hand side of the street. Just watch for the many laowai holding blue plastic bags and you’ll spot the place!

The Avocado Lady's shop

The Avocado Lady’s shop

Nopes, no way, can’t do it!

12 Dec

I recently got overly excited about an online “premier” “safe, high quality” grocer called Fields. Their website is very well done and they’ve got quite a large variety of fruits, vegetables, meat and pantry products, which they deliver to your home. This is primarily why I was so interested. As a foreigner, you probably find 90 to 95% of what you need here to cook the dishes you are used to. The trouble is you have to go to a few places to get them. I get my meat from Yasmine’s, an Australian butchery or from some specific supermarkets renowned for their good products (mainly Metro). For pantry and dairy products (and anything else really), you could go of course to City Shop but it costs an arm every single time. So I usually go to the Avocado Lady (on whom I still need to dedicate a full post), on Wulumuqi Lu/Wuyuan Lu, who just has everything you can think of at very reasonable prices. But, it sometimes feels like a mission to get all you need, hop on a cab, get to the other place and hop on a cab again to go home.

This is why Fields sounded brilliant. And it is! I had my first delivery last Saturday. The vegetables, most of them organic, look fabulous. I had ordered, amongst other things, their value pack which is filled with all sorts of vegetables (including green and purple kohlrabis, which I need to experiment with), as well as 10 organic eggs and a free-range chicken. When I received the package, the chicken was frozen in its bag. It looked small and I tried to figure out if it was a whole chicken or two legs or… I couldn’t so I simply put it in the freezer and only got it out yesterday to be defrosted for today’s dinner.

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So here I was just a few minutes ago, enthusiastically getting some spices out and opening the bag to start marinating the beast before putting it in the oven. I get it out and find out that a) it is a whole but really small chicken and b) it still has its full head and two feet!* I got a squeamish “eeewww” out and put it in a dish. I froze for a while, took a deep breath and thought: come on, this is your dinner, man up and just chop the neck and feet. With two fingers I grabbed a leg and, as the neck and head unfolded from under the body, the full head appeared and a black eye, mostly pushed into the head but still able to peak out through translucent skin, gave me a horrible deadly look. That’s when I thought, ok no way, can’t do it… I froze again, wondering if I should throw the animal or what, then decided better let the āyi (cleaning lady) do it for me tomorrow. I’ll give her the feet to munch on** and have pasta tonight.

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* That’s how chicken are sold here – see the post Chop the head yourself!

** Chicken feet are a big delicacy in China.

Supermarkets

6 Nov

Anything I do these days, anywhere I go, almost anyone I meet generates some sort of amazement, wonder or intense puzzling. The supermarket perhaps even more so as it is meant to supply you with something as basic as food.

So far, I’ve had two supermarket experiences. The first one was comical, the other one started in a fun way but ended up in utter repugnance. So much so that the second time we’ve resorted to online delivery (and overspending to make sure we hit the minimum spending amount to be delivered).

The first supermarket experience was at a local Tesco Express (Le Gou in Mandarin). We wanted to buy some cleaning products and some food on the very day we moved into our flat. Our idea of a quick shopping trip was cut short when we realised we actually couldn’t make informed decisions about most of the products because it was ALL written in Chinese… A few examples below:

Which one's the shampoo and which one's the conditioner?

What to choose?

The second experience was at the gigantic Carrefour (Jia Le Fou) to the west of town. I needed to get a hoover machine, a kettle, a hair dryer as well as more food, that we could recognise one way or another until we start knowing and mastering local products and foods. I started with the house appliances section and was immediately and aggressively greeted by 7 or 8 salespersons throwing themselves at me. One lady even took hold of my trolley and would not let me go any further, until I firmly shouted some mono-syllabic word at her. All these people started selling their products in Chinese. Why did they bother so much I don’t know because obviously I don’t speak the language, second what do I really know about hoovers? The situation did make me laugh, it was so ridiculous. I had to shout a big “ok, wait!” and to wave both my arms laterally to shut them up and start having a look. Once the hoover was chosen, the shouting started again for the kettle, and again for the hairdryer. Apparently, all these people are not employees of the supermarket but of the different brands and get paid by commission. You could find other salespeople in the cleaning products and food sections.

The rest of the shopping experience became gradually horrible, trying to find different things such as coffee, sugar, tea, pasta, cans of tomatoes, corn flakes, olive oil. However, I was very amused on a number of occasions when I came across interesting products (see below) and things I just couldn’t figure out, like why ALL of the instant coffee pots were sold without their lids… It started being annoying when, as in the first supermarket experience, I couldn’t recognise some products because the packaging would NOT tell you what it is in English, but would stress in English that “[The producers] adhere to strict standard of high quality for remarkably delicious taste.” Obviously, it’s only at the very end that I discovered the “Western” section of the supermarket, tucked in a corner, and it became clear why I found that there were two sorts of “western” customers: those who looked very purposeful and focused and the completely bewildered and frustrated species like myself…

Anyway, hopefully never again now that we have all appliances and that the rest can be found more locally, namely at City Shop on Nanjing Road and at the legendary Avocado Lady, who deserves her own dedicated post. Watch this space…

Papaya and ginger perfumed cleaning products :)

Why????

This is not seaweed, this is tea! Bought it but didn't try it yet.

Don't want to hurt anybody's feelings, but I shall pass on this for now...

Aargh but what is it??? Milk, yoghurt, soya milk, rice milk???

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