This post is a survey of the food options that you have when you come to Dalian. If you are planning to move to Dalian, but are moving here from a foreign country then you probably don`t have any idea of what to do for food. This post is written to help give you an idea of what you can buy to eat day in and day out. I will answer a few basic questions.
Question 1: How do you buy your groceries?
Dalian is full of food and provides many ways that you can eat day in and day out. Most people will get their groceries from a supermarket and a local outdoor market. There is also an abundance of restaurants lining every street that provide a convenient and fairly cheap way of getting a quick meal. College students and other people that don`t really have the room or ability to cook their own food will tend to eat out more at restaurants or their university cafeteria. Grocery stores are located close by as well as tiny outdoor food stands that sell a variety of fruits and vegetables. A bigger outdoor market may also sometimes be located nearby depending on your location. From living here and talking to people it seems that it is most convenient to buy your regular groceries from the supermarket but then buy a lot of your fresh produce from local stands or outdoor markets.
Question 2: What kind of grocery stores and markets do they have?
I went and visited a grocery stores in the city and took several pictures. I will give an overview of each store along to help you know what to expect when you visit the different grocery stores in Dalian.
I will start by giving you a very detailed overview of the Tesco Supermarket that I visited. I think this store gives you a good idea of what a normal supermarket in Dalian is like. Other supermarkets have more stuff, others are smaller, others have different layouts, but I think you will find that this store gives you a good example of what to expect when you visit a supermarket here in Dalian.
Most supermarkets are similar to this one in that they are usually on the basement floor of a mall. Usually to get to the supermarket when you walk into the mall, you have to go down one floor and walk through a maze of shops to get to the actual store entrance.
The bakery section has a good selection of bread though the actual loaf bread part does not have a huge variety. You can still find all your regular bread though. There is a big variety of other bread/snack type food more so than the actual sandwich bread. All in all, there is a good selection.
The produce section has nearly every kind of fruit or vegetable that you would normally buy. There are a few local items but for the main part the produce is similar to the produce you would find in a western supermarket.
In Dalian, you will notice that the supermarkets have a much bigger pork selection than any other meat. In the meat section of this store, there is about twice as much of a pork selection than beef. Also, chicken is not the most popular meat. There was about twice as much of a beef selection than chicken. In Dalian, seafood is very popular, and this supermarket like many supermarkets has a big selection of fish, shellfish, and other kinds of seafood.
Most supermarkets around town will be similar to this one in that they have a huge selection of yogurts, probiotics, and other milk related drinks, but a very small selection of actual 100% milk. Milk is available, but it usually only comes in a small bottle and not in a gallon jug as in the United States.
As soy sauce is frequently used in cooking here in China I expected to see a big selection of soy sauces in this store but I thought that there would be little variety of cooking oils. They store did have a huge selection of soy sauce, but I was surprised at the selection of cooking oils available. I found soy, rice bran, corn, peanut, flax seed, olive, camellia, palm fruit, and sunflower oils all for sale.
Other Pics From The Store
There are a few other interesting things that I noticed on my visit to the store.
The store has a small section of imported foods, mainly snacks and cereal. The imported food section though is not a western snack section but is food from countries all over the world.
There is a big selection of Chinese-style snacks. Most of them look good but are snacks that I have never tried before nor would have thought of buying as a snack
There is a fair selection of coffee, juice, water, and other beverages. You do not have to worry about not finding anything good to drink.
This supermarket like the other supermarkets I have visited in Dalian have a big selection of dumplings. Dumplings are like stuffed bread pockets and are very popular here. Usually, they are sold frozen, and you boil them to cook them to eat. You won`t find microwave meals here, but dumplings make a quick meal.
You check out like you would at a normal western supermarket. The only difference is that if you want a bag for your groceries you have to pay for it. It is not free. When you walk out of the store, you have to walk again through a maze of shops to get to the escalator going up to take you to the first floor of the mall. There is a pharmacy and a snack shop located on either side of the exit. This is typical of a lot of the supermarkets I have visited in Dalian
The second store I will share about is the Metro store. This supermarket is a warehouse that sells food in bulk. It is more similar to a Sam`s club in the United States than it is to a regular supermarket here. It has some imported western groceries that are available. This store does not have as much of a selection of your regular groceries as a regular supermarket would, but it sales food in bulk allowing you to buy larger quantities at generally a better price. Here are a few photos.
The final store I will share about is the Carrefour supermarket. Like the Tesco supermarket, it is located on the bottom floor of a mall. It is very similar in lots of ways to the Tesco store or other large supermarkets in the city only I noticed that it carried a much bigger selection of imported foods. There were pink sections all over the store indicating the sections that sold imported foods. An especially valuable section is the imported butter and cheese section. This is a good store to come to if you are especially interested in finding different kinds of imported foods. I am attaching photos of the imported food sections of the store.
Local Markets Indoor and Outdoor
In addition to the big supermarkets, Dalian is full of local grocery stores and indoor markets. These indoor markets are usually full of different vendors selling different produce, meats, and other basic foods. Sometimes you can find a local vendor that just has his or her own little store containing produce, eggs, salt, flour and other basic food products. These kind of places are very convenient to go to. They are usually more local than the big supermarkets and are much easier to walk in and out of. You don`t have to walk all the way through a mall to get to them. I would say if you want to buy something quick and conveniently then these kind of stores are the way to go. Here are a couple of pictures of the different ones I have visited.
In addition to the indoor markets and stores, you will find food being peddled outdoors all around the city. Usually on every corner will be someone with a little fruit stand or cart. Also, sometimes different vendors will gather together at certain spots in the morning to make an outdoor market. At these outdoor markets, you can find a whole selection of fresh produce and seafood. Usually, you can find more varieties and quantities of produce than you could at a supermarket. Also, the prices are usually much cheaper. Outdoor markets are one of the best ways to go for your fresh produce. The only downside of them is that you have to find out if there is one close to where you live and at what times they are open. For example, the closest market I know of near where I live is too far away to walk to every day, and it is only open in the morning. If you find an outdoor market near your house, then I would definitely buy my fresh produce at it. Here are some photos of an outdoor market that I visited.
Question 3: How do we prepare the food that we get at the market?
There are no special kind of preparations that you have to do to the food you buy. Anything bought at the market should be examined to make sure that it is not of bad quality, and it is probably a good idea to wash it. But you can simply just buy the different kind of foods that you normally buy to cook a certain dish and then prepare the dish like normal. There is nothing special you have to do to the ingredients.
Question 4: What kind of food will we be eating?
At home, you will be able to eat whatever kind of food you want to eat. Of course, many food items that you normally buy at your local supermarket in America will not be available, but the great majority of things will be. Though you may have to drive to a certain supermarket to find them. Eating out or with friends will be much different. You will probably eat a lot of noodles, rice, and all kinds of Chinese stir fried dishes. You will probably eat a lot more pork as the majority of meat dishes are made of pork meat. You will also eat a lot of soy as most dishes will use soy sauce. Also, all kinds of tofu are popular. Restaurants in Dalian have a great variety of foods. You can find way more different kinds of food than you ever imagined possible. There are also many restaurants from other Asian countries such as India or Korea.
Question 5: What kind of “Western” restaurants do they have?
Dalian has a fair selection of Western restaurants. Some of the more common ones are McDonald`s, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Starbucks, and Pizza Hut. These restaurants have multiple locations around the city and no matter where you are in Dalian you probably can find these restaurants close by. I have also found Papa Johns, Subway, Dairy Queen, Costa Coffee, and Blue Bell Ice Cream although these restaurants are a lot harder to find. Most of these restaurants have some similar items on the menu as you would find at your local American location, but they also have many local items that you would not find for sale in your American store. In summary though, if you want American food you can find it at these western restaurants. I have attached photos of each of the stores.