10 Unusual Things Found in a Chinese Supermarket

It’s a market, it’s a pet shop, it’s a tea house, it’s a grocery store! No, it’s actually just a Chinese supermarket. Like the rest of China, the supermarkets are quite distinct and unique; unlike anything you may have experienced before. In fact, just walking around one for the first time can warrant photos and videos to share with friends at home or a whole conversation based around what you saw. Wandering around a Chinese supermarket for the first few times is something like an adventure that will stick in your mind for years to come. Wondering what unusual things you may find? Here’s a few…..

Full-sized Dried Squid

It’s hard to tell what exactly this large, flat and strangely shaped item is, but all you know is that there is a whole section dedicated to them. They kind of look like an old, brown carpet that someone let get wet and then dry up in the sun too long and look just as inedible as they feel. These unidentifiable items look more fit for a Frisbee match than putting in a large pot and turning into soup. However, shoppers seem to be picking them up at a rapid fire speed.

Photo Source: Google Image

Photo Source: Google Image

Buckets of Live Turtles

If your eyes are darting around the grocery store to try to take in the visual overload, you may not see these buckets right away. But, if you stop and listen closely, you might hear the faint scratching of live turtles trying to escape. Usually situated on the floor, you might run into a whole bunch of live and quite large turtles that are awaiting their fate as soup. You may be tempted to set them free, but their fate out on the streets won’t be much better.

Photo Source: Google Image

Photo Source: Google Image

Tanks Full of Live Fish & Nets

When you wander into the seafood section, you might do a double take, wondering if you have somehow ended up in the local pet store. The walls are lined with tanks featuring live fish both large and small, awaiting the moment that they are plucked out by the net of an eager shopper. Sometimes you get to witness a fish that has flopped out onto the floor in an attempt to escape and other times you may walk by a chopping block, hosting only the head of a decapitated swimmer.

Photo Source: Google Image

Photo Source: Google Image

Escaped Crabs

Just like the fish, the crabs are alive and well too. Being a bit more feisty than their finned counterparts, sometimes the crabs attempt a great escape. Watch your ankles when going through the seafood section because you never know what kind of mood one of these crabs might be in.

Photo Source: Google Image

Photo Source: Google Image

Pick Your Own Shellfish Stations & Buckets

The Chinese supermarkets like to give their shoppers plenty of choice which is evident amongst the fish tanks and turtle buckets. They even have gone as far as allowing their patrons to choose exactly the right shellfish for their meals all by themselves. With a full setup dedicated to the occasion, the stores even go so far as to recreate the experience of picking these mollusks from the shore. At an appropriate picking height, a large platform is set up and filled with shallow water so that the clams and mussels can stay fresh while they await their fate. You will probably encounter shoppers donning small buckets to put their carefully chosen dinner items in.

Photo Source: Google Image

Photo Source: Google Image

Meat Floss

Oh meat floss; how confusing yet well loved you are. Looking fluffy like bits of cotton, this “meat floss” can be seen for sale in large quantities throughout the supermarkets. Chinese people love to use them on top of donuts, inside pastries and mixed in with meals.

Photo Source: Google Image

Photo Source: Google Image

Bins of Dried “Things”

Chinese people love dried food items as they are easy to store, keep for long periods of time and are easy to use in soups. Supermarkets wouldn’t be complete without at least one giant bin filled with dried scallops, shrimp, beans, seaweed and dates. Try to resist running your hands through them, even though you will see hundreds of locals using their dirty digits to rummage through your future lunch.

Photo Source: Google Image

Photo Source: Google Image

Pig Body Parts Hanging From Hooks

It’s no secret that Chinese people eat nearly every part of the animals that they kill. The butcher section of the grocery store does well to reflect this dietary choice as you are bound to see some pretty interesting body parts hanging from the hooks. Ears, snouts, full feet and even entire faces are for sale along with everything else.

Photo Source: Google Image

Photo Source: Google Image

A Mystery Smell

A mix between garbage, sewage, spoiled fish and rotting fruit; the smell of a Chinese grocery store will be sure to assault your senses. It is hard to put your finger on exactly where the smell is coming from but it’s likely a combination of the dried squid, fish tanks, severed pigs’ feet and the notoriously smelly Durian fruit.

Photo Source: Google Image

Photo Source: Google Image

A Tea Tasting Section

Chinese people love their tea so it’s no wonder that many larger grocery stores come equipped with a whole section dedicated to it. Alongside all of the tea packages for sale, there will often be a traditional set up with a staff member for conducting tastings. Try before you buy I guess!

Photo Source: Google Image

Photo Source: Google Image

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Shannon Ullman

Hey! I'm a published American travel blogger and teacher. My travel writing has been featured on Huffington Post, Elite Daily, Matador Network and Thought Catalog. I spent over a year living and traveling around China while I taught English there. I have also visited dozens of other countries around the world.