We all enjoy buying cheap food and groceries in China – the price of Chinese food compared to Western food is significantly cheaper. Even so, there comes a time when every expat craves a taste of home, even if it comes with an inflated price tag. In Dalian there are four major supermarkets that cater to homesick expats and even though the prices might be higher, there are pluses to buying imported groceries as even Chinese people acknowledge the much higher food safety standards in the West.
The first one to mention is Carrefour, which has become ubiquitous in China. There is one at the intersection of Huanghe Road and Xi’an Road and another at 38 Square.
Here you can find a whole aisle devoted to imported food, including cereals such as Corn Flakes, Rice Bubbles, Coco Pops and muesli from Germany. You can also find plenty of affordably priced pasta and spaghetti along with sauces for when you are craving an Italian-style dish. Spaghetti costs between 10 RMB and 13 RMB and a large can of spaghetti sauce is priced at around 20 RMB. Another thing I like about Carrefour is the chocolates. Here you can find Snickers bars and Kit Kats. They also have a good selection of imported liquor, such as my Baileys Irish Cream, Contreau, Vodka and Hennessy Cognac. Generally speaking the price is lower here than at other supermarkets, varying from around 100 RMB to 200 RMB for the usual size.
Another good source of imports is Walmart, America’s giant supermarket chain. There are several Walmarts dotted around the city, most notably at Xi’an Road and Olympic Square. There are also two other stores both in Ganjingzi. There you can also find Western cereals and spaghetti and pasta. Walmart’s specific imports aisle is smaller and has mostly Korean stuff. However I did manage to find some Western cookies and biscuits with icing, along with a surprise – jelly beans! Generally speaking the price is higher than Carrefour. Still, given that it is less busy and queues are shorter, it is a good value.
A very good supermarket for imports is Mykal, located at the ground floor of the Japanese shopping center. There is one in Qin Ni Wa Qiao opposite Newmart and another at Xi’an Road next to the Roosevelt Shopping Center. Here the prices are generally steeper than Carrefour or Walmart, but there is a greater variety of Western imports. Importantly here you can find imported milk from Germany, Australia and New Zealand. Given the ongoing milk scandals in China, many wise expats and Chinese are opting to pay more for imports. However they needn’t dent your wallet too much. Though the retail price is around 20 RMB to 30 RMB, Xi’an Road’s Mykal tends to have them on sale for about 13 RMB.
Mykal has an excellent selection of foreign beers and liquor. There are European beers such as Paulaner, Stella Artois, Guinness Foreign Extra, Leffe and Hoegaarden. It also has a similar selection of liquor to Carrefour, though at a higher price. If you like Japanese alcohol, here is a good selection here including Kirin beer and sake. Mykal also sells plenty of fruit juices and cans of imported drinks from around the world. Though they are priced higher than Chinese ones, you can be more certain of their quality. There are also regular sales on them. Another good thing at Mykal is if you spend 600 RMB or more in a day you can get a VIP card with which you can accumulate savings.
Unlike Carrefour and Walmart, Mykal has real Western cheese from New Zealand and the US. The cheese options available include cheddar, edam, mozzarella Parmesan and gouda. This is the real thing, but it costs around 43 RMB to 50 RMB for a block. It’s still preferable to the sweet or bland Chinese cheese in my opinion.
The crème de la crème of imported foods in China is Metro, a German wholesaler. It is open to Chinese who own a business and for any foreigners, just bring your passport and you can get a membership card. It has a wonderful variety of foreign foods, including cereals, biscuits, chocolate, Cheese, liquor, and even rice and couscous. Depending on which country you are from you are likely to find something you thought you would never see in China. As an Australian, I’ve been pleased to find a good healthy cereal here in Weetbix, along with my favourite snack Tim Tam chocolate biscuits. In the confectionary area there are plenty of Western snacks, including chocolate chip biscuits, waffles and biscuits with icing and dried fruit.
The frozen goods on sale include chicken nuggets, vegetables, fish fillets, chicken breast, quiche, croissants, cakes and apple pies. The chicken nuggets are a particularly good value at around 45 RMB for a 2.5 kg bag. The variety of imported liquor and beer at Metro is also excellent. With the holidays here, you’ll also be pleased to find they have seasonally themed chocolates, something you can’t usually find in China.
So there you have it. If you are in Dalian and getting a bit sick of friends taking you out to yet another Chinese restaurant, say no instead and indulge yourself with a taste of home.
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