Shopping in Harbin
Compared with cities in places south of Dongbei, Harbin has fewer local products to brag about, most probably due to the harsh weather here that makes most goods pretty hard to grow.
Seafood is a popular local specialty and rare fish abound around these parts including dog salmon and sturgeon, which over the years have accustomed to the freezing winter and seem to be thriving! Monkey-Head Mushroom is little known in the west, but has long been deemed a delicacy for its curative effects. Sausage is popular with ordinary households, an influence perhaps of the Russian history here.
Clothes made from Marten (a tiny weasel-like animal) are common here, available at lower prices than in the west. A wide selection of herbal medicines (many of which are becoming pretty popular in the west) are made here. Pilose antler (Lurong) is the Chinese version of Viagra!! Tiger bone is said to relieve pain suffered with rheumatism. As with all medicines, watch out for fakes! It is pretty unlikely they will actually harm, but you may be getting ripped off!
The harsh climate in Harbin helps toughen up the physique of every species of living animal. Dog salmon (Damaha yu) is no exception. To withstand the freezing cold in winter, which can drop to temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees C, the salmon in Harbin grows a layer of fat, making it extra tasty for use in fish dishes such as fish slices, fish ball soup and salted fish.When you visit Harbin, don't forget to sample this "survivor of the fittest"!
Throughout history, Russia, just several hundred miles away from Harbin, has exerted a significant impact on the city, also manifested in the diet of the local people. Sausage seems to be much more popular here than in other places in China.
The major difference between Harbin sausage and Russian, lies in the seasoning. Chinese style sausage contains cinnamon and round cardamom and the Harbinese enjoy a good drink with it!
It is unlikely that most travelers are familiar with the unusual food, Monkey-Head Mushroom, also known as Hedgehog Hydnum or houtou gu! Nonetheless, this has not stopped this particular delicacy being listed as one of China's most famous!
It is not simply the taste, that this particular dish is renowned for but also its healing properties.
This fungus is said to have curative benefits for those suffering from gastroenteritis too.
Although Harbin is not a coastal city, it still boasts a good selection of freshwater fish. Aside from Dog salmon, Sturgeon (Xunhuang yu) is probably the most well known type of sea food.
The largest of these fish can weigh up to several pounds- and this has long been known as "The King" of fish, served up on special occasions to those in high places.