Supermarket shock. English Muffins with Poached Egg and Chorizo.

You know you’ve been in China for too long when….

Living in China comes with its share of stories, jokes, and life lessons. Along with liberally spitting out the acronym TI(This Is China!), always said in part jest and part exasperation, the laowai (directly translated: Old Outsider. Basically, Chinese slang for any expat/foreigner) are always making comments about life in China. I mean, you know you’ve been in China for too long when….

How would one go about finishing this sentence? Well, for example, when…

…the sound of subway doors sliding open elicits a natural response to stick out your elbows.

…Tiger Beer no longer gives you nasty hangovers

…grunting is language. “mmn” becomes synonymous with “yes” and “unhh” synonymous with “sure“.

…every other sentence out of your mouth starts with the clause, bu hao yi si, 不好意思. Part “oh sorry!” and part “oops”, here in China it is used without any thought, and precedes just about any comment- a suggestion, a question, a snarky remark, and an insult. It works. bu hao yi si, can I interrupt? bu hao yi si, but I have to step on all ten of your toes to get bybu hao yi si, but your baby is uglybu hao yi si, can I borrow three hundred bucks? It’s basically the email smiley face emoticon of China.

…Privacy? What’s that?

…on a trip home to America, you notice people are staring at you inside of a Macy’s because you are yelling into your cell phone. No problem honey, I’ll pick up your diarrhea medicine on the way to dinner. What?!

…you drink hot water out of a tall glass as if it were lemonade.

…frozen burritos in the aisle of the supermarket causes heart palpitations from sheer excitement.

I could go on, but I think you get it.

That last one, the one with the burrito, actually happened the other day. The DiploMan and I were marveling at the wonders of a Western supermarket that had been open for awhile, but that we had only recently gotten across town to visit. ‘Western’ supermarket, as in, stocked predominantly with imported goods- Duncan Hines cake mix, a real deli counter with cold cuts and cheeses, dishwashing liquid, tampons, etc. I believe Barrett’s first words were in the canned food aisle,

“uuuhmagawd, they have different kinds of olives

I’m actually still not sure if this quote came as a question or an exclamation.

And later, when the Amy’s burritos appeared in misty cases of the freezer aisle, it sent shockwaves down our spines. I almost dropped the bag of King Arthur’s Flour in my hands.

Needless to say, we easily spent the 1000RMB necessary to obtain a frequent buyer card. After a long cab ride home spent chatting about Kettle Chips and Greek Yogurt, we got home and emptied our groceries onto the kitchen counter. In truth, our 1000RMB didn’t get us very far, especially in comparison to the measly 30RMB I spent at the wet market earlier in the week. So we’re combining some local goods- eggs, spinach, cilantro, onions, etc., and rationing our treasured goodies, devouring breakfasts such as the one below with poached egg, Thomas’ English Muffins, chorizo and greek yogurt.

We might just die when we see Whole Foods again.

Poached Eggs and Chorizo on English Muffins


  • 2/3 cup chorizo, diced into small cubes
  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 small tomato, diced
  • 1 green onion, finely chopped
  • a few sprigs of cilantro, leaves only, finely chopped
  • English Muffins
  • 2-4 eggs (depending on how hungry you are, or how many people you have)
  • 1 Tbsp. white distilled vinegar (for poaching eggs)
  • Greek Yogurt


  1. Saute onions on high for 3 minutes, add chorizo and saute for another two minutes. Add the remainder of the ingredients and turn down heat. Saute on med for another 5-7 minutes or until onions are thoroughly browned and chorizo is charred and crisp. Take off the burner and set aside.
  2. Toast English Muffins. Optional: Drizzle with olive oil or spread with butter.
  3. Poach Egg (see instructions below). Set the poached egg on top of one half of the English Muffin, and add a generous few spoonfuls of the chorizo-onion-tomato mixture over it and on the second half of the English Muffin. Top off with dollops of full-fat Greek yogurt.

yield: 2-3 servings

How to Poach An Egg:

  1. Crack each egg into one small prep bowl, one egg per bowl. In a small or medium saucepan, heat water to a boil. Add a teaspoon of white vinegar, and turn down heat to Medium.
  2. Lightly swirl the water with a fork, and drop one egg into the pan. Don’t touch it. After a minute, use a spatula or slotted spoon and make sure it hasn’t stuck to the bottom of the pan. Drop in a second egg at this time, if you dare.
  3. Let each egg cook for approx. 4 minutes. Or more, if you want the yolk to be slightly firmer.
  4. Using a slotted spoon, carefully fish the egg out of the water and set on a plate lined with paper towels. Carefully flip over to pat egg dry, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Carefully transfer to a plate. 
  5. Did I mention, to do all this carefully?

A not-so-super market

This is my local market. Not the big one that has a lot of really nice candies and fresh packaged eggs and a pretty decent Western section, but the one that’s next to the wet market I like to go to and kind of smells like old cardboard.

Does it scare you? It kind of scares me, too. The aisles are super narrow, a lot of the age of the items on the shelves are ambiguous, and I am pretty sure there is no stock house in the back so every single product is stcked high-high-high on the shelves.

But you know what, I don’t mind it. Not only for the fact that it is closer to home and twice as cheap, but also because I’m now becoming fond of all things Chinese. And, seeing a photo like this makes me smile with disbelief that I actually include something like this in my weekly routine.

Rib Rub

If Beef is what’s for dinner in the U.S., I think anyone in China would agree that Pork takes center stage on the dinner table in this country.

Since my preference for daily groceries lies in visiting the local wet market (and okay, it’s a tad bit out of laziness, too), I’m succumbed to the cuts of meat that are laid out in open air, pig heads displayed proudly on some stations, and pork belly and trotters and various other cuts I’ve never seen hanging from meat hooks all the way down the aisle.  To choose your cut of meat, once you’ve specified what you want and insist that you want something better than what is laid out (par for the course), you’re thrown a few choices in front of you to poke and prod and examine. After which your prized selection, which is praised by the vendor to be his “best cut”, and “clearly, the best choice”, is weighed, crumpled bills exchanged, and the meat tossed in a thin red plastic baggie that can barely support the contents inside of it. I’ve come to love this entire process, and it’s always a thrill to buy meat at the market. But due to unshakable fears of SARS, bird flu, swine flu, cat flu, and flu flu, it’s a shopping hobby that is alternated with a more safely trip to the sanitized meat refrigerators of the supermarket.

Anyway, since pork is king, I’ve been cooking a lot of it lately- and certainly to no one’s objections.  Pork belly, pulled pork, pork loins, roast pork…I also discovered that randomly, Wednesday after lunchtime seems to be when the pork delivery arrives at my local wet market.  I happened to stumble upon this a couple of weeks ago as I walked in with each butcher pulling apart huge carcasses on their stations.  Since the Chinese usually hack the ribs into unmentionably teeny nubs, I seized the opportunity to ask for whole racks of ribs.  Not quite the clean cuts you’d find at Whole Foods, nor that precise, but I’ve learned to make do with what I get here.

And make do is what I did- when life gives you a rack of ribs, you use some rub.

I’m not to partial to BBQ sauce, although we do have a bottle of Salt Lick in our pantry that I can’t wait to pop open. I’ve found my favorite recipe to flavor pork ribs, which I’ve used countless times already.  After this rub, all you need is a glaze for the ribs to add a touch of sweetness and richness- either in the form of a Dr. Pepper glaze as the orginal recipe asks, or in the case of my recent foray a soy-honey-ginger glaze.  If I had molasses I would surely try something of that nature, and right this moment I’m dreaming of something involving bourbon.

What’s great is that this rub can be made ahead of time (the recipe makes several cups), and stored in the pantry for a quick rub on both pork and chicken. It gets a lot of kick from the chipotle powder and a nice rich ‘zing’ from the mustard spice, both of which I’m partial to.

Spicy Rib Rub

**Borrowed from the Homesick Texan


  • 1/4 cup of salt
  • 1/4 cup of black pepper
  • 1/4 cup of brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons of mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne
  • 2 teaspoons of chipotle powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of allspice


  1. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.  Use immediately on a rack of ribs, letting it sit with the meat for at least several hours (and even overnight).
  2. Store the remaining rub in an airtight container.

Yield: 1 cup o’ rub

Holy Turkey

I snapped this pic of the deli label from one of our purchases a month or so ago.  I wanted to prove that I wasn’t exaggerating whenever I claim that “Western” food here comes with a price.  Exhibit A: Roasted deli turkey breast goes for 145RMB/500g, which is about $22/pound.

Those turkey sandwiches tasted a helluva lot better than the ones at home, let me tell you.