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Chinese Food and Cooking: Looking for direction

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abcdefg

Alex_Hart, finding an apartment sounds like it might open some doors, especially if it's in an older, well-established neighborhood. And Angelina can doubtless give you some valuable tips.

 

I know of a couple wet markets here in Kunming that are in newly-rebuilt neighborhoods. Surprised me to discover that they are located underground, at the basement level of one or more large 高楼大厦 type buildings. I kept seeing people emerging from fairly small entrances carrying produce in plastic bags, and that was the tip off.  

 

Don't be discouraged; it always takes some time to settle in to a new city and find your way around. Takes a while for it to begin feeling like home.

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Alex_Hart

Angelina, do you know of any of the markets similar to what abcd discusses? Full of homemade goodies, etc. (we would call it "artisan" in the US  :P - abcd calls it the "wet markets"). I've found 3 or 4 groceries but the selections are largely limited to a nice array of fruit (which I have been partaking in liberally having never seen many of them), veg, fish, meat, etc. Yet to find any markets like what I saw in Chengdu with a 老板 standing behind 50 large jars of pickles or the ilk. 我住在玉泉校区的附近。My problem with vegetarianism hasn't been so much finding an option as being told an item is vegetarian only to find it not be so, e.g. dried bamboo shoots with hidden bits of pork, or a tofu soup with ground pork at the bottom. 

 

Interesting, abcd! Hadn't thought to look in basements - I found several hidden in an alleyway, but they were usually rather open to the outside. Will continue to look around. Will try to snap some pictures as well!

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abcdefg

I think what happens is that when the price of real estate gets to a certain magic point, often determined by syndicated outside investors with a long-range view, they must develop the space as tall buildings to get what they consider an acceptable return.

 

This puts the squeeze on mom and pop businesses selling small-garden-fresh cucumbers and tomatoes or the husband and wife selling 23 kinds of cured and pickled vegetables or 17 kinds of tofu. The old guy and his daughter who rent space every weekend to sell just-made wonton 馄饨 and dumplings 饺子 can no longer make ends meet.

 

Sometimes developers will lease the shallowest level of the underground parking as a produce market. For whatever reason, in my experience the signage is usually poor. They become sort of "stumble upon" places. A couple times I've had to just backtrack along the trail of people carrying edibles home. Old people pulling those folding fabric shopping carts with wheels can also be a clue.

 

I'm sure you already know from Chengdu, but just in case, the kind of place you are seeking, and the kind of place I so dearly enjoy, are called 菜市场。I don't really know where the English "wet market" name came from. I reluctantly adopted it since nothing else seemed to fit. They are indeed very close in feel to a Farmers' Market in the US, with lots of small-batch, artisanal products.

 

Best way to ask some old timers would probably be, 我找个传统菜市场,不要个超市。The one I use most often here is frequented to some extent by university students, since it's a couple blocks from a large campus (云南理工大学) and is surrounded by older dwellings, mostly six stories tall. It's also very near the railroad tracks, which might make the land less desirable for high-rise development.

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Angelina

Depends on where you live, now that you have mentioned lurkers maybe it won't be a good idea to talk about it haha

 

Most foreigners live on 玉泉校区. So, for those foreigners who live there, there is one small Farmers' Market near north gate. This is 西溪路, the building is the first building you will see if you walk out of north gate and turn left, don't cross the street. 

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Alex_Hart

Thanks to both - will take a look near where Angelina mentioned and follow up with abcd's tips. Hopefully, will stumble on a gem! I will have ready access to a kitchen as of Friday so will be perfect timing!

 

Similar thing has occurred in my hometown, abcd. Used to be full of tiny restaurants cooking up delicious 小吃, but they've all been pushed into basement malls lately. The food quality has fallen alongside the move.

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