Where’s the Beef?

Is it just me or is ground beef the rarest commodity in the entire Middle Kingdom?

When needed I can easily source beef of various forms from any of the large and well stocked Chinese supermarkets surrounding my apartment. I can have it in shanks, steaks, cubes or jelly. I can have the feet, the ears – hell, I could probably have the tail.

But for the love of God why is mince such a rare thing?

No-one anywhere near me stocks minced beef. To buy this rare treat I need to travel on the subway for 30 minutes and change lines twice to get to the Western supermarket I know about. Is it the closest one to me? Not a chance, but I know how to get there and back again so it’s the local one in my mind.

This upscale Western market has all the goodies.

It’s well lit, smells beautiful, spacious and has little cheese samplings! There’s plenty of service and all the Western delights I could ever want.

But clutch my pearls the prices..

For the money I pay for minced beef I could feed a family of four at a restaurant. Short of buying a grounding machine myself and cranking it out, I have to keep buying it there and paying those prices. I could just buy pork I suppose and pay pennies, or even chicken breast which is far cheaper (unlike in my local Australia). But while I continue to cook the food I stubbornly eat regardless of where I am on the planet at a given moment, I need to accept paying the equivalent of $20 for half a kilo of minced beef.

Paying roughly $20 for half a kilo of mince back in Australia would be enough to stop your heart, a butcher would never sell an ounce. But here in Shanghai it’s a luxury imported purchase that doesn’t form a staple of the everyday Chinese diet, so the price is justified.

When I first moved here I took comfort in my friend telling me that his mother makes him lasagne whenever he visits home. It made me feel confident that minced beef must be sold cheaper elsewhere and all I’d need to do is ask her for the location. This theory was great until I actually saw her lasagne..

Beef chunks suspended in mashed potato (substituting the white sauce).

I had to say a prayer.

Beef isn’t the only thing that’s expensive, but it’s the one thing that has me shaking my head and sighing as I put it in my basket. Weirdly paying $8 for a stick of butter or $12 for a litre of cream almost doesn’t seem like a big deal.

Basically at what it’s costing me to make a lasagne in China it’s a damn event eating one. It’s also an event shopping for one.

The Western market that sells my beef is one of those beautiful, well lit and fragrant markets that distracts from its prices with cheese samples and beautiful servers.

My local grocer is grungy and smells, the woman who bags my vegetables scowls and gives zero cheese samples. But it’s cheap.

I think one market is the kind you shop at for your everyday dinners on the bed, binge watching ‘Rick and Morty’, and the other kind doesn’t have cheese samples.

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