Category Archives: Food

Free Books About China

A couple of years ago I wrote a few ebooks about Chinese life and culture with my son Nathaniel. We wrote about Chinese snacks, going to a Chinese kindergarten and celebrating the Chinese New Year. The stories are short and simple (I was working with a four year old at the time!) and we included some pictures and then I published on Amazon’s Kindle platform. They sell for $2.99 each or are free if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited.



I consistently sell a lot of these books around Chinese New Year and, over all, they have been downloaded by thousands of people. But few people take time to leave reviews…and I’m hoping you can help.


Through Tuesday, January 10 the following titles will be free for download:
I hope you’ll take a few minutes to download and read one or more of them and then leave a review to help boost the rankings.

Win A Copy of

Knocked Up Abroad Again

For each review that you leave on my books, (one per book, of course) I’ll enter you to win a copy of Knocked Up Abroad Again, an anthology of 26 stories of women who’ve been pregnant, given birth or raised kids in countries other than their passport one. If you have it already, another book can be substituted.


Bonus: If you buy/read/review MaoMao and the Nian Monster by Anna Zech, I’ll give you another entry. Anna’s become an online friend over the last year, and I purchased her book a few years ago when it first came out. A great introduction to Chinese New Year with beautiful illustrations.


After you write your reviews, please email me at Charlotte Edwards Zhang (at) gmail (dot) com (remove the spaces and format it correctly…I just don’t want a lot of spam after posting this) with the title of the book you reviewed and your Amazon user name. I’ll also give extra entires for sharing on social media. Again, just send an email with the link to your post and I’ll give you another entry.


Reviews should be left before January 26, 2017 and I’ll choose a winner and post it while I watch the annual Spring Festival Gala.

Thanks so much and all the best for a wonderful Year of the Rooster.


Update on Vitacost Orders to China

I’ve placed, and received, three orders with Vitacost and thought I’d give an update on my experiences so far.

In my previous post, I told how there was some glitch in the package leaving Hong Kong but otherwise it arrived without a problem, and within the given time frame.


With my second Vitacost order I bought a bag of beef gelatin to make a healthy gummy candy for the kids. It never clicked in my mind that since it’s derived from animals, customs doesn’t allow it. And they caught it. The box arrived with the item highlighted and a sentence saying that it’s not allowed to be shipped in the country. I spent a good two days upset with myself for making such a stupid mistake, which cost be almost $20 when you factor in the shipping cost.  That was in mid June. Imagine my surprise when about a week ago I got an email saying that my return was received and that my credit card was credited for the product! Sure enough there’s a credit back on my credit card for that amount. What an unexpected blessing. I’m still out the shipping cost and tax but I’ll chalk that up to “stupid tax.”


Now I’m very careful with my orders, double checking to ensure that I’m not accidentally violating customs rules.


My third order went through just fine, though I wasn’t allowed to add the two free samples, like I was in the past. I was able to add them but it said that they couldn’t be shipped to China. Once I removed them from my cart, the order was processed. Honestly I’m a little bummed because I love free samples of things like granola bars, toothpaste and deodorant (super hard to find outside of the big cities in China).


Vitacost Has Some Great Sales
My last order included 8 bottles of ALA (which my husband takes daily) since there was a buy one, get one 50% off sale. This week I got an email about a buy one get one free sale. Bummer…and it’s on the same sort of products, all Vitacost brand items, it seems. Next time I’ll wait for that; were pretty well stocked on all the supplements we take but in a few months I’ll jump on this discount when it rolls around again. I’m sure it will; retailers typically follow a sales cycle.


Shipping and Customs Fees
Since my first order, the packages have arrived much sooner. I’m pretty sure that was just a fluke, though it seems that it does take two to four days for the package to be picked up by the shipper. I’m not exactly sure how the process works, but once it gets picked up by Shun Feng I can track it via a link in my order confirmation.


With all three orders, each totaling over $100, the customs fee was 60 yuan. The first one was just over $100 and the second one was close to the order limit (imposed by Shun Feng) of $160. So I’m guessing that it’s a flat fee no matter the order total, which means you get more bang for your buck (or yuan) when you place a larger order.
Other Discounts
I also always start my order though (join to get a credit) which gives 4% back on Vitacost orders. Not much, to be sure, but it helps take the sting out of the shipping costs. Twice I’ve encountered problems with not being credited properly, but upon filling out the online customer service form, I was credited the amount within a few days. Ebates only pays out quarterly, so the delay in that wasn’t a problem.


I also check to get the link to the free samples and see if there are any discount codes. Often if I place a few items in my cart, but don’t check out, I get an email saying they’ll give me 10% off my order. But I’ve had a coupon code for 12% off and seen another for 15% off, as well.


Overall I’m a very happy customer and so excited that I can get these things shipped to China at rather affordable prices.


(Links are affiliate links, which means I get a small credit if you place an order, but your price isn’t affected at all. Thanks for helping keep the lights on here!)

How To Get Affordable Coconut Oil, Vitamins and Other Health Foods Shipped to China Inexpensively

Online shopping is huge in China; the November 11 sales (for the 11.11 “single guys holiday”) easily outdo America’s Black Friday, but online shopping isn’t so easy if you can’t read Chinese. Besides having to read Chinese to find out the details about the product, which often includes a very long drawn out sales page with a lot of neon type, you have to engage in a chat with the seller to get more specifics. Something a simple as buying cocoa powder takes my husband at least 20 minutes. Seriously.


So for everyone who prefers to order in English, and without interacting with the seller, meet my new favorite retailer, Vitacost. They have a huge selection of food and beauty products, many of which are organic and natural. I was thrilled to find coconut oil for $25, compared to the $40 I paid in China. I also ordered some vitamins, cocoa powder, coffee and protein powder.


I’ve really been wanting to use more coconut oil in our meals and my husband wanted a certain vitamin, so I was so excited about this and really hoped it would work out well. And it did!


I’ve heard of Vitacost before, but didn’t realize that they ship to China. When a friend told me about this, I was skeptical, thinking the shipping will be outrageous. But it’s not. They use SF Express and DHL Global to ship from the USA to China. There’s a flat rate for up to a certain weight (and the weight is calculated as you add things to your cart so you can be sure to maximize your limit), and then a per pound weight for each pound above that. With Shun Feng Express your order can’t exceed a value of $160. And of course you have to pay import fees and taxes upon arrival. You can get more details about shipping and customs here.


My order was just over $100, $25 for shipping and then 60 yuan in taxes that I paid the delivery person.


There are, of course, some restrictions as to what cannot be imported. Mainly for China it’s meats and seeds. Don’t try to order them thinking it will go unnoticed; from the way it was taped, my package was opened twice. Once at customs in Hong Kong and the other in Tianjin. Everything was in the box and not damaged at all.


Not only is Shun Feng Express cheaper, it comes with tracking. My order arrived in Hong Kong less than 48 hours after ordering, but then got held up there for a week. When I called to inquire, they told me that it wasn’t anything with my package, just a delay. After it arrived in Tianjin, it was in my house less that 24 hours later. From the time stamps, they work round-the-clock! Less than 30 minutes after it arrived in town, it was in my community.


With SF Express, you do need a Chinese friend to help you upload their ID card to the SF website after you order and the order has to be addressed to that person. I thought I could use my passport, but they only accept Chinese ID cards so I used my husband’s name as the recipient and then uploaded his ID card. But you only have to upload the ID card the first time. Subsequent orders still need the same name, but the actual address and telephone number doesn’t matter. I don’t think you need to to this with DHL Global; that’s the only benefit that I can see since it’s more expensive and slower.


Get $10 off your first order of $30 or more by clicking here. (If you do order, I also get a $10 credit.)

Spring Fruits and Vegetables In China

Even though you can get fresh veggies and fruits in China all year round, they’re at their cheapest and tastiest when they’re in season. This is the time of year when, at least in the northern half of China, you can get fresh strawberries, pineapple, coconut, mulberries and asparagus. In my area (a few hours south of Beijing) this season runs from March to mid-May. After that, you may or may not be able to find these
I always get the smaller strawberries, which range from 5-10 yuan per jin (500 grams/just over a pound), since they’re sweeter and not just plumped up with water. Pineapples are great because the sellers will cut the skin off with a knife and nifty tool. Expect to pay a little more for this service; it will save you tons of time and scratched hands. We soak the pineapple in a bowl of salt water for 10-15 minutes to make it less acidic. A pineapple will cost 5-15 yuan depending on the weight and if they remove the skin. You can often find pineapple sticks being sold on the street for 1-2 yuan per stick.
Coconuts are tons of fun since you can drink the water and then crack them open to get out the meat. Eat it as is or chop it up to put in granola bars, shred it and dry it or blend into coconut milk. When I make coconut milk I save the meat and toast it in the oven. Due to the high fat content, the result tastes and smells a lot like fried hash browns. So yummy!  Coconuts are 5 yuan/jin right now, though sometimes they’re sold by the piece, and I’ve paid 8-10 yuan for each one.
Coconuts aren’t very popular in my town so you can’t buy them already opened with a straw to drink the water, but it’s not too hard to open them. Remove the little tuft of hair (as I think of it as) and then you’ll see the three eyes. One of them is easier to open than the others. Open it with the tip of a small knife and then insert a straw or invert it over a large glass for the water to drain into. The water tastes best when it’s chilled.
To crack open the coconut, the easiest way I’ve found it to take it outside and just slam it onto the ground a few times. Collect the pieces and go home to wash them off. Then scrape the meat off with a spoon. For granola bars I’ll chop the coconut meat with a big knife or toss it in the blender.
For coconut milk, I use about 1 cup of coconut meat to 4 cups of room temperature water. Blend it together, add sweetener if you need it, and then strain it through cheesecloth. Cover and refrigerate the milk; it’s best used within 24 hours. Then use the shredded coconut in cookies, granola bars or toast and eat fresh out of the oven!
Asparagus is expensive; 12 yuan/jin or more. It’s not always good and I always have to remove an inch or two at the bottom, but it makes for a nice treat. I roast it in the oven with some olive oil, sea salt and chopped garlic or garlic powder. Cook it for about 40 minutes at a medium heat to get it tender with a crispy outside.

Chinese Dumplings RecipeStep-By-Step Guide to Making Chinese Dumplings


Chinese New Year Chinese dumplings
Freshly made dumplings

Do you like eating those delicious packets of meat and veggies otherwise know of as jiaozi? I do enjoy them from certain restaurants, and we always eat them on the Chinese New Year but we don’t often eat them at home. They are time consuming to prepare, especially if you make the wrappers from scratch, but are a great activity for the whole family to enjoy. Even toddlers can get involved in the process!


Earlier this year I wrote a blog post for My Kids’ Adventures on how to introduce kids to the Chinese New Year and make homemade Chinese dumplings, or jiaozi.


You can learn some of the history behind the country’s biggest, most important holiday, see pictures of us making the dumplings and get a yummy recipe for dumplings and dipping sauce over at My Kids’ Adventures.

Chinese New Year Chinese Dumplings
Piping hot chinese dumplings or jiaozi filled with pork and cabbage.