New Year with the Roosters

A farmer at work in the fields

How many of us have gone on holiday and come back feeling drained, requiring a vacation from our vacation?  Or have felt less healthy than before we left?  If you can often say yes, then maybe it’s time to go on a healthy retreat.

This Chinese New Year, I went on vacation with a tour group called M2adventure Shanghai.  I was looking for a chance to get away from the bright lights, the pollution and the concrete jungle for a few days.  I figured a technology detox, and a WeChat detox, was also in order.  My CNY adventure to a tiny (and I mean tiny) mountain village near Taizhou city in Zhejiang province was just what I needed.

View of a Chinese mountain village

My group of intrepid explorers (!) arrived at the base of a mountain where we disembarked from our comfortable bus.  We then had to climb 2-3 hours to make it to the village as it is not accessible by car.  There was no-one selling anything along the trail and during our ascent we saw no-one but the people in our group.  The mountain air was clean and fresh; I saw more stars than I had ever seen in my whole life.  We spent our days hiking and exploring nature.  We relaxed at night by talking, singing (and dancing!) around a bonfire.

I must of course tell you about the food!  It was fresh, organic and harvested straight from the mountain.  The farm technology consisted of little more than an ox.  Everything tasted better than the food I have had anywhere in China (except for Chongming Island).  The food was light with minimal spices and oils but still big on flavor.  Some of the meals featured a little too much salt for my tastes but otherwise it was very healthy.  We were served around 12 different types of veggies alone at every evening meal!  I attended a dumpling and tofu making class and even watched an 80 year old lady collect root vegetables from the top of a waterfall!  Our Chinese hosts seemed driven to feed all of us constantly, as if we would never eat again.  We stuffed our faces at every meal but the hiking meant that we needed these extra calories.  Our hosts had their own beehives, providing a fresh source of beautiful honey.  The village also had loads of cows, pigs, and tons of chickens.  It was great spending the Chinese New Year of the Rooster surrounded by roosters!

Fresh vegetables in the countryside

All in all it was a great chance to really see China and return to Shanghai refreshed and happy to be back to civilization.  Do you think a trip like this isn’t for you because of kids or because of fitness levels?  Not true! M2adventure, and other Shanghai based tour groups, have trips suitable for bringing the kids along.  They can also cater to different fitness levels.  The trips are also very good value.  They range from around 800 to 1500 RMB for the budget savvy.  Please be warned that luxury accommodations are not part of the package for the tours.  Just to give you an idea, our group had to poop sitting on a log in a “bathroom” with no door, next to a cow!  You are sure to make lots of memories and come home with some interesting stories.

Until the next time, Eat Well Shanghai!  😉  – Jessica W.

From Hotpot to Hotdog

This weekend I had a chance to participate in an unusual workshop that discussed the future of health and wellness in China.  I suppose there are plenty of policy makers doing this kind of brainstorming every week but for me to imagine and discuss with a group what nutrition and diet, in particular,  would look like in the China of 2025 was an unique experience.

So what did we have at the end of the day?  Well it should come as no surprise  that we came to the conclusion that the basic Chinese diet, soup, veggies, small portions of meat and tofu, is quite healthy and perhaps the rise of obesity, diabetes and hypertension is  in part because the Chinese are starting to move away from the basics.

In China’s rush to prosperity  it seems to be moving away from  traditional foods and family meals, or the hotpot pot idea of sharing fresh foods in a social setting toward individuals rushing through quick meals, the hotdog, on the way to something else.

We spent some time discussing how to get back to basics with much of the discussion leading right back to the tenets of the Slow Food Movement.  If you remember (see EWS post 8/19/2011) the Slow Food Movement champions the preservation of traditional foods , using fresh local ingredients and urges us to take the time to enjoy those foods in a meal with family and friends.  These are also the same recommendations that nutritionists will promote with patients working to improve their health or deal with a chronic disease.  We concluded if China could embrace this idea, essentially walking back to previous eating habits, this could be a step in reversing the rising tide of health problems that are looming in the future.

Hooking the Slow Movement up with China’s rich culinary history just might be one way to get to a vibrant and healthy China in 2025. Something for policy makers to think about this week.

If you are interested in finding out more about the Slow Food Movement, contact Slow Food Shanghai at www.slowfood-shanghai.org

Eat Well Live Well and Eat SLOW !

Organics: Here,There & Everywhere

national_organic_labelIf you have been reading any of the local expat magazines lately you have been seeing more articles about ‘going organic’ and how to ‘be’ organic in Shanghai.

I originally wanted to write about all the places one could pick up organic products both in Puxi AND Pudong. What I soon came to realize after several searches both on foot and on the internet is that organic products are everywhere , just not all in one place. Almost all the shops I stopped in, from Carrefour to small independent grocers, offered organic veggies and some offered organic fruit (although this is much less common). Pastas and grains are the  next most available organic items to be found on the grocers shelves, followed by milk. Much less common is organic meat products , and by this I mean hormone-free, anti-biotic free chicken, pork and beef.

The best advice I can give anyone wanting to introduce some organic products in to their lifestyle is hunt around. Most stores have some products and there are always new products popping up on the online grocery store shelves. Fields at www.fieldschina.com has great organic veggies and is very helpful in assisting with other product request.  When going for the organic in Shanghai you might not find everything you are used to eating but you will find enough to move you in that general direction.

To find hormone-free meat products I can suggest Les Garcons Bouchers at 2261 Jian He Lu ( near Hong Qiao Lu) 6209-1803.  Also in Gubei there is the Japanese market Shin Sen Kan at, 925-935 Huangjin Chengdao. Also ask about the meat where you normally shop, you might be  pleasantly surprised.

Check the Eat Well Shanghai guidebook for a complete listing of the online grocery stores, many that feature organic products.

Eat Well, Live Well , Have Fun



For all the Tea in China

In the past few weeks I have heard much talk about the nutritional and health  benefits of drinking Pu’er tea, a fermented,compressed tea grown in Yunnan province.  Apparently this tea has become the wonder elixir of the year. Good for everything from heart disease to digestion to weight-loss. And all without caffeine.  It sounded too good to be true, so  I just had to do a bit of investigating and taste tasting, of course.

What is true is Pu’er tea is a very smooth beverage that is robust enough to replace your morning coffee. Since it is real tea from tea leaves it does have caffeine but the amount is much less then other teas and coffee.

As for lowering your cholesterol and speeding weight-loss, that maybe true.  A limited number of studies  have shown positive results but most these studies have been  done on rats. So while you should not assume people are like rats, this fact should not keep you from drinking this tea.

In fact, since we are in China, the mecca of the tea world, you should make it a point to drink tea. All teas have health benefits due to their super anti-oxidant content. Green tea packing the most power in a cup. I highly recommend that you try any and all varieties of tea while you are here. Even if you are a committed coffee drinker , you will find pleasure in a well-brewed cup of tea.

You can pick up tea just about anywhere in Shanghai but for an entertaining  afternoon of tea sipping and shopping, try the Tianshan Tea Market at 520 Zhongshan Xi Lu (full address in the EWS Guidebook). Like most commodity markets in Shanghai , the tea market is a mixture of shops and stalls on several floors in two buildings. I have wandered there myself and fell upon some delicious blueberry tea that was as lovely to sniff as it was to drink, and full of antioxidants to boot.

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Upcoming events: You can find Eat Well Shanghai at the Shanghai Toy Club’s Spring Kids’ Bazaar on this coming Wednesday, March 2nd at O’Malley’s.

Spring e-flyer

If you can’t make the March 2nd bazaar, get your copy of Eat Well Shanghai Guide Book  at Nest in Taikang Lu or order one from Fields at www.fieldschina.com

Eat Well, Live Well, Have Fun !