Stranger in a Strange Land

This past week I have met more than one newbie to Shanghai.  At this time of year I often feel like the senior in high school meeting the freshman as they wander about the halls.  There is nothing wrong with that, every expat was new to Shanghai at one time and while you might think you are the only one having a devil of a time getting use to the quirks and aggravations of life in the big city, the initial issues haven’t really changed much over the years.

The questions I hear are the same ones I had when I arrived oh so long ago. Where to shop, is the food safe and where can I find a doctor? What has changed are the options available to the newcomers.

Where to shop, oh let me count the ways. Shanghai has the mega stores like Carrefour, Metro and Lotus, the smaller international grocery stores like City Shop, Ole’ Supermarket and City Super, the traditional wet markets, also known as the fruit and vegetable market found in almost every neighborhood and the online delivery options, including groceries and farms.  I recommend you try them all to decide what is best for you. One thing that hasn’t changed is that you can rarely find everything you need in one place and that, believe it or not, is a good thing. Some places are just better for certain items.  There are good butchers, Swiss Butchery (Wulumuqi Lu & other locations) comes to mind for beef (& cheeses!).  For quality, hormone-free pork, Mahota Farm Market is a very reasonable, safe choice.

Food safety is more of a concern now than back in the early days but there is also more of an awareness of the issues and sometimes there are even public notices when there is a problem.  Remember that every country has food safety issues, some are just better dealing with the issues and outbreaks when they happen.

At Eat Well Shanghai we recommend that you shop at a variety of places, wash your fruits and vegetables well, no matter where you buy them, and spend your precious food dollars on organic milk and anti-biotic and hormone free meats.  Oh yeah and wash your hands often, not all the problems come from the food.

Don’t be afraid.  Shanghai has wonderful food options both on the street and in the restaurants and shops.  Take each day as it comes and look for the positives that come with being an expat, whether that is the delicious taste of an exotic fruit that you haven’t seen before or the relief of meeting a  friendly new neighbor.  Before long you will be the one telling the newbies where to shop!

If you want more information on Eating Well in Shanghai get the EWS Guide to Eating Well at Home and on the Go.  This handy book offers more advice on where to shop, how to clean your fruits and veggies, suggestions for dining and recommendations for living in Shanghai with special diet restrictions.  You can order the book from Kate and Kimi or contact Eat Well Shanghai.    <Updated in 2019: Apologies – the book is now out of print!>

Eat Well, Live Well, Have Fun!

<Blog updated in 2019 to reflect business openings & closures.>

Snake Fruit

People always ask me if I ever left Shanghai, what would I miss.  That one is easy , I love the variety of fresh fruit available here. Bananas and apples are fine but there isn’t anything in the northeast United States that can compare with the seasonal fruits in Shanghai, especially at this time of the year.The lychees, rambutan, Dragon eye, mangos and mangosteens  turning up in the market these days are delightful to eat and chock full of nutrition.

One of the guiding principles here at EWS is that eating a variety of food is more nutritious and more fun, so in the interest of trying something new and fun, I ordered some Indonesian snake fruit or salak. I have to admit I was most intrigued by the look of the fruit. The peel really does look like brown snake skin.

I think this fruit would be really fun to show to children, especially those interested in reptiles and dinosaurs.  It has a prehistoric feel to it.

The fruit , or pod, is about the size and shape of a fresh fig. It is a very firm, I would even say hard fruit. It can be peeled by pinching the pointy end and removing the skin. You can also just make a small cut and start peeling. I found that once you had a piece of the skin removed the rest came off pretty easily.

The fruit inside is the texture and color of peeled garlic. The mild citrus flavor  and firm flesh make it a nice addition to a fruit salad. The flavor is a bit bland to eat by itself so I suggest serving it with other fruit and cheese.

Snake fruit is from the palm family and has traditionally been used in Indonesia to treat diarrhea. The fruit  has a good amount of vitamin C, some iron and a variety of flavonoids which are quite helpful in promoting a healthy immune system.

I am not sure snake fruit will be a regular on the table but it made a very interesting snack and reminded me that there is whole lot more food out there taste!

Snake fruit is available from Kate and Kimi (

Looking for something exotic?  Check out the Jiashan weekend market this Saturday from a 11am-4 pm. Down the alley at #37 Lane 550 Shaanxi Lu near Shaoxing Lu.

Eat Well, Live Well, Have Fun!






Seitan…Say what?

This post goes under the heading” You learn something new everyday“. A few weeks ago I was at a pop up market featuring all the yummy local items available from Kate&Kimi. There were waffles and baked goods, nut butters, eco-cleaning supplies and a table with samples of what looked like sausage.

I had heard of seitan before but I was under the mistaken impression that it was a type of marinated tofu. Oops , silly nutritionist.  As I was chatting with the vendors while enjoying the Italian style “meat” I learned that seitan is a high protein wheat gluten substance , often substituted for “fake meat”. The texture is chewier than the texture of tofu and does a better job of mimicking meat. Chances are you too have unknowingly eaten seitan at one of the local vegetarian restaurants.
Culinary lore tells us the seitan, or miàn jīn in Chinese was developed by Chinese chefs for the Chinese emperors who would practice vegetarianism one week a year in a of show respect to the Buddhist religion. Seitan then spread through out east Asia, FINALLY arriving in the United States in the late 1960’s.

So what is seitan really? Seitan is gluten, most often wheat gluten but gluten is also found in rye, barley and other grains. Gluten is the protein found in these flours and yes it is also the substance that people who have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity must avoid, so seitan is not on their plate.

You can make your own seitan or you can buy one of the many ready to eat products. There are easy recipes to make your own seitan but you must start with wheat gluten otherwise you are in for hours of kneading and rinsing to separate out the gluten from wheat flour. The Vegetarian Resource Group website has easy recipes for making seitan as well as recipes for what to do with your finished product.     See for more information.

Seitan is a large part of the macrobiotic system of health and cooking and it is easy to understand why. Seitan has almost as much protein per ounce as meat, 90 gm. of seitan will have 18 gm. of protein vs. 21 gm. in 90 gm. of any meat. This “wheat meat”is also a decent source of iron and is low in carbohydrates, high in fiber and does not have any saturated fats. Sounds perfect for good health.  Seitan could be high in sodium because soy sauce and tamari are often used a seasoning for the basic product but for those concerned about their sodium intake the seasonings are easily adjusted to reduce the sodium levels.

Besides finding out that seitan is not a relative of tofu I also discovered that seitan is considered a “low energy dense food”. This is a relatively new phrase in the nutrition lingo. A low energy dense food is one that is low in calories and fills you up, remember I said that it was a great source of fiber.

There is no doubt that we should all include more plant based meals in our daily diet, for our own health and the health of the planet, but I will be honest I am probably not going to make my own seitan, at least not this week. Fortunately for us less ambitious cooks there is a source for seitan in Shanghai. Serenity Seitan ( comes in three flavors and  is available from Kate&Kimi ( Seitan should also be available in the local Chinese and Japanese markets.

Eat Well, Live Well, Have Fun!


Books & Recipes

This seems to be Eat Well Shanghai’s month for books. As of today you have another reason to order from the fine grocers at Kate& Kimi.  Kate & Kimi will now be carrying the Eat Well Shanghai  book, Eat Well Shanghai Your Guide to Eating Well at Home and on the Go!  Kate & Kimi also carries Ni Hao Bao Bao, the fabulous bilingual cookbook for families living in Shanghai ( see blog from last week). Many thanks to the folks at Kate & Kimi for their support of us little local guys.

Now the recipe part of today’s blog. Lately I have taken the time to prepare some delicious dishes.  I don’t know exactly where the inspiration comes from but I do know that I was tired of eating the same old thing. With the hectic pace of life in Shanghai it is quite easy to get in to an eating rut. It’s faster and easier but after awhile it is boring and not healthy. Remember variety is one key to good nutrition!

There was the Saturday morning of whole grain waffles topped with bananas, a dollop of plain yogurt and a drizzle or real maple syrup  and then a few days later for lunch the open face sandwich; toasted bagel spread with hummus a slice of tomato and melted cheddar cheese. Hmmm… Finally one rainy night I remembered my homemade mushroom soup recipe that always hits the spot.

Trust me these dishes were not hard to make. What helps and what I can’t emphasize enough is having a well stocked pantry. All the ingredients for these dishes I had on hand in my kitchen. It makes it so much easier to get motivated when you don’t have to run out to the store for one ingredient ( or all of them!).

To get you started I will leave you with my easy mushroom soup recipe.

Eat Well Live Well, Have Fun!

Homemade Mushroom Soup (from

  • 6 tbsp/75 g butter
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 12 ounces/340 g button mushrooms ( I use a mix of different mushrooms)
  • 4 cups/900 ml light chicken stock or broth (vegetable stock is fine too)
  • 1 sprig of flat parsley
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 ounces/56 ml high-quality sherry (don’t use the cheap grocery-store variety; it’s salty and unappetizing and will ruin your soup)

In the medium saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons/28 g of the butter over medium heat and add the onion. Cook until the onion is soft and translucent, then add the mushrooms and the remaining butter. Let the mixture sweat for about 8 minutes, taking care that the onion doesn’t take on any brown color. Stir in the chicken stock and the parsley and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat and simmer for about an hour.

After an hour, remove the parsley and discard. Let the soup cool for a few minutes, then transfer to the blender and carefully blend at high speed until smooth. Do I have to remind you to do this in stages, with the blender’s lid firmly held down, and with the weight of your body keeping that thing from flying off and allowing boiling hot mushroom purée to erupt all over your kitchen?

When blended, return the mix to the pot, season with salt and pepper, and bring up to a simmer again. Add the sherry, mix well, and serve immediately.