5 Things we have learned about grocery shopping in Penang
Since we arrived in South-East Asia, we have eaten out a LOT more than we would in Canada. One of the reasons that we can, is that eating out is very reasonable here. With a serious gluten allergy amongst our crew though, it takes some work to find gluten-free options for eating. So, we still opt to eat-in a fair amount. Artie actually gave me a hug while I was cooking today and said “I love your food more than restaurant food”. I never got that back in Canada.
There are some things that we have found are a bit different about buying food here compared to Canada. Not bad, not difficult, not better – just different… and some of them take some getting used to. Today, we wanted to share with you five things that are different about groceries here in Penang.
1. 10 Eggs to a package
We noticed the same thing in Thailand too, but eggs do not seem to be sold by the dozen here. They are most commonly sold in packages of 10. You can however, buy them in most grocery stores (and at most markets) in large trays containing 3 dozen eggs. There are many, many more varieties of eggs available in most stores than we are used to too. And finally, you will not find your eggs in the dairy/refrigerated sections of grocery stores. They are generally near the meat and produce areas, and are out on shelves (un-refrigerated).
2. The special section for bacon
All pork for that matter, as well as any other non-halal items are sold within a separate section of grocery stores (generally with, or near wines) here in Penang. So, if you are looking to find bacon, sausages, pork loin out in the main section of the store, you will be out of luck. Bacon is quite expensive here compared to Canada too. The first package of bacon that I bought here in Penang cost just under $25 CDN /kg. So, think of paying $9.30 for one of the little packages of bacon that we buy in Canada. You do start to think twice about how much bacon you eat when it is that price.
3. Produce is weighed and priced in the produce section
We are used to having our produce weighed and priced at the check-out in Canada. Most lines have scales, and the cashiers all know the codes (and when they forget – then spin that white plastic cylinder that has the codes on it so they can find it). It isn’t that way in grocery stores here in Penang. When you have your produce picked out, you take it to a counter within the produce section and it is weighed and priced there. If produce already has a bar code on it though, it does not need to be priced again.
4. Ground coffee is not easy to find
Coffee is important to both Marcus and I. In fact, it is so important to us that a portion of our precious packing space is devoted to coffee making and grinding equipment. We have found though, that ground coffee (or coffee beans) are not easy to find in grocery stores. When we do find coffee beans and grounds, the selection is limited. What there is an abundance of though, are these “3 in 1” instant packages (that include instant coffee, creamer and sweetener). I mean dozens and dozens of varieties of if, spanning most of a grocery aisle. This stuff is ok for the occasional drink (or for mixing in with yogurt), but when you are used to a good, strong cup of black coffee – it is no substitute.
5. A lot of things are individually packaged
The “3 in 1” coffee is not the only thing that is individually packaged. Don’t be surprised to find that the cookies you bought to go with your afternoon coffee are all individually packaged as well. On the one hand, all of this extra packaging seems very wasteful. But, knowing how prevalent ants (and other creepy crawlies) are in Asia… I can understand it. We learned the hard way when we were in Thailand that we needed to put all of our food into bins (or the fridge) to keep the bugs out of them. I keep hoping that individually packaged cookies will mean that I will cut back on the number that I eat while working in the afternoon… but that hasn’t happened yet. I just have a larger pile of wrappers beside my computer at the end of the day…
About the Author
Professionally, I am an e-learning instructional designer who breaks down the barriers of space and time in learning. Personally, I'm the Mom in the Little-Green Family, and co-planner in our adventures.