A Canadian friend living in Beijing recently asked how he could start making paocai at home. The first step is to buy a crock.
There are three places I’ve bought crocks in Beijing:
Gulou Shangchang 鼓楼商场
This kitchen supply store is a relic of former era, and a place to buy crocks and other miscellany. In a quieter era (c. 2007) before youthful Chinese consumption transformed the street into an endless row of sock shops and ukulele sellers, this shop supplied the nearby restaurants with standard culinary tools at a decent price. They have somehow survived the rent increases. They sell metal shot glasses and cookie cutters in the shapes of dragons and phoenixes.
The shop is located just east of the Chun Chen Hotel on Gulou East Street, its small and easy to miss. Look for the storefront in the picture above. Alternatively, use QQ maps to find the location if you’re unfamiliar with the neighborhood.
East Fifth Ring Road Wholesale Market
The selection of crocks here is much larger than Gulou Shangcheng but in a highly inconvenient location. From Chaoyang Park, it takes at least 45 minutes by bus. (Get on either the 729空调 or the 406 at 朝阳公园桥西 and ride ~11 stop to 奥林匹克花园东门). Taxi or driving would clearly be faster, although you will spend more on cab fare or gas than you will on crocks. Glass crocks range from 10-40rmb depending on size, ceramic crocks 20-80. Some are quite large, upwards 300 liters, and rune 200-300rmb. If you need to store your fall rutabaga harvest to feed your family through the winter, you could buy a 60-100 liter fermentation urn (pàocàigāng泡菜缸) and ship it back home when you leave China.
Many smaller vessels are available on taobao, running 20 to 80 CNY. Search for paocai crocks “泡菜坛子” and you’ll find all sorts of decorative ceramics and glass crocks of all sizes. Again 5 to 25 liters is an ideal size for your first crock.