Yuyuan Markets – Food Markets

I got so overwhelmed with colour in this blog post (and in the posts to follow this week) that most of the images are now being separated with a small white gap. There is just so much colour in Shanghai, in everyday happenings, events, the daily routine…the colour of life. Last week was incredibly busy…as is this week actually. Time just seems to be flying by and I have no idea how it is nearly December. What? I’ve been here two months already??!

Last Tuesday, Lisa and I started to get all the materials together for our teaching sessions, workshops and for her jewellery label launch for ‘ProonK’. We went on her electric scooter to the Yuyuan markets…the fabric, sewing, materials and accessories market on Henan Lu. A wonderland for any creative…almost like Christmas…don’t get me started on Christmas by the way. When Lisa forgets her good bike helmet, I have to wear this yellow one that makes me look a bit like a Star Wars character or some space age creature. It doesn’t really sit on my head properly as I think my head is a weird shape. A good look for the streets of Shanghai right?

We had a long list of things to get so the hunt took quite a while…bartering left, right and centre for a best price. I couldn’t believe how much some of the things were…10 rolls of 5m ribbon (so 50m) were 10 kuai (£1) so I got 6 different colours, 100 sheets of black carbon paper 20 kuai (£2) so I got two packs, 25 plastic display bags 10 kuai (£1) so I got three different sizes as I pack and sell my handmade paper in them, linen thread 8 kuai (80p), 50 sewing needles 8 kuai (80p)…the list goes on and on and on. It baffles me as to how the global economy works. Materials like this in the UK cost so much more. My suitcase might be a bit heavy going home! I think I got a bit snobby as I went round the markets, well I think China makes you a bit snobby as regards pricing. “What, that costs 10 kuai? No. That’s too expensive”…really Rachel that’s £1. One English pound. I don’t think I’ll ever get my head round it…that’s why the world is in such a bad economic state…where’s the financial continuity in the world? (I know nothing about economics by the way.) You can literally get anything materials-wise here and in any quantity…why would you need that much string (shown below)??? Who knows but they sell it.

At the entrance to the lane where I live on Julu Lu, there are fresh food sellers that come and go throughout the day. Last Wednesday morning, before I went to get my residence certificate from the local police station (which ended up being a right long-winded faff), I sat and watched the crab man bag up his produce whilst I ate a cōng yóu bǐng 蔥油餅, a spring green onion flatbread pancake with sesame seeds on top. 2 kuai (20p) of breakfast yummy. All the photos of the crab man came out blurred so I’ll have to try to capture him again on a different day. It is getting surprisingly chilly here, then it goes back to being slightly humid and muggy climates…this fluctuation is apparently completely unprecedented at this time of year in Shanghai, and is slightly concerning. When’s Winter coming? Probably like a smack in the face at some stage.

Later on that day, after a very art-filled time of meeting with curators and gallery visits (I’ll talk about this in my next very PhD academic post), I went to the fruit, vegetable and street snack sellers on Wulumuqi Lu, a few blocks from where I live. I wanted to up my fruits and veg intake so I got cherries, kiwis, green raisins (as purple ones are very expensive) and red apples…it was bedlam in there as the American expat community were out in full force getting their food for thanksgiving celebrations (a blog post to come on my celebrations too). One shop was making a fortune on imported dried cranberries and pumpkins. After here, I got a few sesame snap cookies and sunflower seed cookies from the cakes seller just down the road. They wondered why I was taking so many photos…I love the way pastries looked.

The circular pastries are called lǎo pó bǐng 老婆饼, it literally translates as “wife cake”…a pastry in a round form, flat with a light flaky crust. They come in all different flavours including red bean, black bean, pumpkin. One of my favourite cakes from this seller is the red date, pecan and ginger cake shown above. Cake is gāo 糕 in Chinese. It is so light on flavours and texture and only 1 kuai a piece (10p). A real treat on a walk home. They are obsessed with puddings out here, not just cake and pastries but milk puddings…caramel puddings. You can get them in every convenience store in these glass pots with lids…I love looking at food in shops. One day I’ll do a post on supermarket foods, and one on the wet foods market I go to on Julu Lu…there is just so much to write about.


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