What I Think About When I Grocery Shop

The colours I typically eat.

The colours I typically eat.

What I think about when I shop for groceries? It’s usually not what I want to eat but how I can pack more proteins, vegetables and colours into a few meals. I decide what to do with my purchases only later. The problem with planning a menu is planning. There isn’t always time for that, yet not spending time to condense the shopping list only creates wastage.

That is why I only think about how many meals I’m buying for, and then I pick different items from different food categories until I have enough. I usually buy for two days, and each time I put a rainbow into my basket, say a carrot, burdock and cabbage, or a capsicum, eggplant and bak choy. I try not to repeat these within the next two market visits, because the best diet includes everything.

At home, I pick one protein but may use two or even three vegetables for each meal. I’ve combined chicken thigh with carrot, burdock and rice, but a baked salmon needs only stir-fried bak choy to make lunch. The protein helps me decide the vegetable to eat it with. All the more so if I’m planning a one-dish meal, because the type of cuts determines the cooking method which then narrows down the appropriate greens. I like to make soups when I have a whole chicken, to which I add almost anything like napa cabbage, corn or potato. But if I have only breast that I want to make a salad with, I use cucumber, carrot and coriander.

I never worry about missing a scallion or a lettuce, because vegetables are easy to get in my neighbourhood. However, items that tend be fresher at farther markets and supermarkets, like meats, fish and leafy greens, I make sure I already have them in my fridge. It helps to keep dried goods at home to expand the menu and I can’t do without shiitake, scallops, shrimps, cuttlefish, chilli, lentils, bonito, kelp, beans, spices and various types of noodles. I also have condiments for every mood, including fish sauce, fermented tofu, mustard, mayo, miso, gochujang and sambal.

Of all the meats and fish, chicken has been particularly good to me as it is versatile and easy to handle. I’ve done several things with it, and I’ve organised them here the way I think about my cooking: starting from meat cuts to cooking methods to the vegetables or sauces that complement.



  • garlic, olive oil & lemon
  • duck fat
  • soy sauce & worcestershire sauce

Roast chicken with duck fat, salt and pepper.



  • black pickled radish (老菜圃), dried liquorice root (甘草), rehmannia root (熟地)
  • chinese yam (淮山), codonopsis root (党参), solomon’s seal (玉竹), chinese angelica root (当归), rhizoma ligustici (川芎), red dates, wolf berries
  • carrot, celery, potato, onion
  • cabbage, dried scallop, dried shrimp

chicken cabbage soup


  • potato, curry paste, coconut milk

curry chicken



  • salted fish, ginger, oyster sauce, rice wine


  • shiitake, ginger, sesame oil, soy sauce, soy bean paste, rice wine



  • carrot, celery, potato, onion
  • dried scallop, century egg, spring onions, rice
  • boiled egg, coriander, sesame seeds, somen noodles

century egg porridge


  • cabbage, carrot, coriander, cucumber, fish sauce, lime, chilli
  • apple, celery, raisin, mayo

vietnamese chicken salad



  • garlic, olive oil & lemon
  • soy sauce & worcestershire sauce
  • miso & butter
  • honey, soy sauce, garlic


  • onion, egg, dashi, rice
  • burdock, carrot, shiitake, soy sauce, rice
  • scallion, onion, shiitake, soy sauce, sake, mirin, bonito flakes, udon
  • black fungus, wolfberries, soy sauce, rice wine

burdock carrot rice


  • chinese sausage, salted fish, shiitake, soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice wine, rice
  • salted fish, ginger, oyster sauce, rice wine

claypot rice

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