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Bread - Sandwich Bread
You may think this is a pretty stupid addition to our website - that is until you come to try and buy bread in China.

By default Chinese bakers manage to empty a large tripper truck full of sugar into every small loaf - it really is that sweet! This is fine on the odd occasions you may want to buy currant bread or malt loaf - both of which are easy to find in stores and supermarkets.

The problems begin when you want to buy a savoury bread suitable for making sandwiches, as this is extremely difficult to find in China!

Sandwich Bread

The good news is that it is actually quite easy to obtain a reasonable savoury sandwich bread if you know where to go and what to buy. You will need to read Chinese to do this.
Ham min bao
'min bao' is a general Cantonese word for bread, which can also mean dim sun muffins made with rice flour. Rice flour always makes products noticeably white, whilst wheat flour always gives a faint yellow appearance - that's your first clue.

'Ham' pronounced 'haam' means salty (yim means salt) and when added before 'min bao' means western style sandwich bread. Do not use this word in other circumstances, as it is usually used to refer to sexual things concerning men!

This does not mean you're home free, as even this can have extra sugar in it, or very frequently applied to the crust = and all of the crust! This is very common in the street bakeries which are best avoided (exceptions).

Buying Sandwich Bread usually means going to a large supermarket and taking time to select the right product. The store will normally sell something edible and there will be two racks of it ready sliced in a clear plastic bag. The larger shelf is normally sugar laden, and the smaller shelf what you are looking for - but not always.
Image: Typical bread as sold in Chinese supermarkets - Click to Enlarge

Image: Bread label showing 'ham' character in brackets - Click to Enlarge
To choose the right bread examine our pictured label above. The last character in brackets at the top means 'ham'. The label will appear exactly the same on other bread nearby, but this single character will be different.

I buy my bread pictured above from Vanguard supermarket and it is excellent. You can see this loaf was priced at Y3.90 RMB and contains 10 slices. The loaf on the right is full of sugar yet looks identical.
Image: Label showing bread that is full of sugar - Click to Enlarge

Garden Brand 'Happy Chef' bread is sold all over China and is very reliable. They offer a full range of sandwich breads including: white, brown, dark brown, dark brown with bits in, and a high fibre version also. You may not always find all of these in one supermarket, but they are kosher.The see-through packet is marked by white lettering on a red background at the top, and has a happy chef motif. They contain 8 slices of bread.

Vitabread or similar name also sell packaged bread in supermarkets, and it is presented exactly as you would expect in the west. These tend to be long loves about half as high as a normal one, and come ready sliced. One of them is just about ok if you are desperate - it may be the blue one? All the others contain vast amounts of sugar + eggs, currants, nuts = all sorts of horrible things!

Rolls for burgers and sandwiches can also be bought - mainly from large supermarkets. They may hint at too much sugar, or may not. Usually ones with sesame seeds on top are OK for burgers, if slightly dry. You really take a chance with other rolls and won't know if they are sugar or salt until you eat them.

French Bread = Baguettes and Batons are freely available in most large supermarkets, but may not be quite what they appear to be. Most of you will be aware that good french bread is made from only the best French flour, baked, and eaten within 6 hours. Chinese bakers do not use French flour, and can leave sticks out in fancy wrappers on the shelves for days. I think they actually make them with concrete, as the only useful purpose I can image for these things is to beat a stubborn donkey with.


We do not intend to even try to cover every type of bread sold in China in this section, but will bring your attention to one other that we like.

Xi'an Bread is notable for being a flat British style muffin that is white in colour. They are up to 4 inches across and about 1 inch high. They are used to make Chinese hamburgers, which we often enjoy late at night in the backstreet's of Foshan. They are a semi-levened bread which is usually filled with seasoned lamb, coriander leaves, and wicked chilli. My friend tells me they are identical to the ones sold in Xi'an when she was at University there. On the streets they are sold by the Moslems of Qinghai and Xinjiang who wear small white hats.

You will find these in the freezer section of any good supermarket and probably on the fresh bread counter also. They are ideal for making instant meals. Simply pop in a toaster and wait until they brown slightly, cut in half and fill with whatever.

Your only problem is that they will make a range of these, and only one will be suitable - the rest being full of sugar and other unimaginable's such as diced nuts in red date sauce. Yuck! However, once you work out which is the plain salty one they are excellent, and resemble in many ways soda bread.
If you want to make your own bread then we tell you how here, and making pitta bread (Unknown in China) is detailed here.
This information is as supplied by ourselves, and ably supported by our friends and various internet portals.
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