The $1 Shanghai Lunch

The $1 Lunch

The above lunch actually cost 92 cents. I just rounded up to $1 because it sounded better. The funny thing is the 630ml bottle of Asahi beer cost less than the instant noodle. No doubt about it, if you want to drink, China is your place. If you belong to Alcoholics Anonymous, China is your worst nightmare!

While $1 for a lunch sounds awfully cheap, you have to keep in mind that everything is relative. The average Chinese factory worker makes about $150US per month. Spending $30 a month for lunch would be equal to 20% of their income. Can you image spending 20% of your income on lunch?

Relative or not, I’m having a great time trying out all the local food. If it’s local, it’s really cheap. If it’s an imported brand, like HΓ€agen-Dazs, it’s really expensive.

One dollar lunches are great and all but it doesn’t quite project the Dot Com Lifestyle. Up next, Sarah and I will be dining at M on the Bund, the restaurant of choice for Shanghai’s rich and famous. Something tells me that dining in China is about to get a whole lot more expensive.

48 thoughts on “The $1 Shanghai Lunch”

  1. Mike B. says:

    Every time I read about how cheaply things are over seas I get the urge to move away and live like a king haha. It is crazy what value the dollar has in different parts of the world.


    1. Jake Stone says:

      I understand that quite a number of people are actually living as lifestyle traveling bloggers. If you stay in countries where it is possible to get by with – let’s say – 20USD per day, then it is not a difficult to support yourself with a modest website.

    2. Michael Zhao says:

      I keep on coming back and looking at that bowl of mushroom, broccoli, and noodle soup! I’ll have three of those now please!

    3. It reminds me of Jamaica. A relative of mine is on vacation there right now & she told me that 50k in Jamaican money is only around $5 in American or something like that. Crazy.

      1. fas says:

        That is awefully crazy. I mean that shows how underdeveloped the FOREX of Jamica is.

  2. Rizzo Tees says:

    What are the ingredients in the soup?

  3. Freedrinx says:

    mmmmmm..I plan on only having leftover KFC

    1. Michael Zhao says:

      Left over KFC is still good!

  4. Gloson says:

    In Malaysia, you can get a Nasi Lemak, coconut milk rice with sambal (chili mixed with other ingredients) for RM1.

    RM1 equals to about $0.30

    1. Jake Stone says:

      Ok, ok, you win!

    2. Frenchy says:

      So are you inviting John Chow for an all-expense-paid trip there so he can try them? πŸ™‚

      I guess cheaper meals are just common in some South East Asian countries.

      1. Gloson says:

        Maybe it is just because US money is more expensive than Southeast Asia countries.

        1. fas says:

          Gloson, the fact is that Americans eat alot more then the Southeast Asian countries can chew :p

    3. Coconut milk minus the rice sounds good. Now I want some.

  5. Raj says:

    You disappointed me. I thought there will be a frog fry, snake soup, dog thigh, cat noodles. I could see nothing sort of like that here!

    1. John Chow says:

      You need to use your imagination. They’re all there. πŸ™‚

      1. Raj says:

        You need to earn in the United States and live in China. Great earnings, less expenditure and great savings. That is absolutely possible for you John with internet and blogging. Why not try settling down in China and return to Vancouver just for holidays?

        1. John Chow says:

          Because I enjoy living in Vancouver.

  6. That’s quite unbelievable. It’s unbelievable how expensive other countries when you compare it to China. How did it taste?

  7. Not sure there is anywhere in the US you can get food and drink, heck even water, for under a dollar.

    1. Yeah, at all the shops I’ve been to, water alone is more than $1.

  8. Reggi says:

    Wow! Thats terrible. I guess they got use to it but are still suffering from inside. Basically, If you give to a family 2000$ worth of groceries, they will have more then enough to eat for the entire year. Thats something I would consider to do.

  9. That looks great! And Chinese food is so healthy too.

    What I love about the East is that you can eat out every day and healthily and generally for cheap – if you don’t drink beer every day πŸ™‚

    You can’t do that in the West. Healthy food costs a premium.


  10. Susan says:

    Sounds yummie…..

  11. Agent 001 says:

    Asahi beer costs 40 cents. Right? Then the instant noodle is 52 cents.

    haha Cheaper drinks. I remember you video you posted few days ago about cheap beers.

    1. John Chow says:

      Yes, the beer was 40 cents.

      1. My boyfriend would love it if beer in America was 40 cents!

  12. Agent 001 says:

    That beer is 40 cents. Right? the noodle will be 52 cents.

  13. Monty says:

    Awesomeness! I have NEVER had lunch at that price. However, in India we get beer for $2 and a Chinese dish would cost another $2. That would be in a decent restaurant. If your having the same stuff on the roadside it would end up on MAX $3 spending πŸ™‚

  14. JW says:

    Don’t forget Din Tai Fung while you’re there!

  15. Michael Zhao says:

    True that…true that…I’m thinking about going back maybe after graduation from college.

  16. Those chopsticks look awesome! Under the mushrooms looks like udon noodles?

    1. Wow you have got really sharp eyes or you were hungry while looking at photos … lollzz

  17. Pahn says:

    for 3rd world country like mine, you can have something cheaper than that,, but having a beer,, it’s a more really cheap, I think you’re only paying for the beer, and have the meal as a bonus,, hehehe

  18. Juan says:

    7 Yuan? So coool men> hehe πŸ™‚

  19. This weird, and imported Ice Cream is truly damn expensive and a meal with a bear its almost free, thats very amusing. Seems you are having a great time in China, Is in it John?

  20. I couldn’t imagine spending 20% of my income on lunch like that if I were only making $150 a month. I don’t think I’d go dining at all.

  21. Ben Pei says:

    $1 as in USD right? I hope?

    1. John Chow says:

      Yes, 1USD. If it was 1RMB than it would be really nuts.

  22. $1 for a lunch sounds great, but thinking it’s 20% of average income for every-day lunch is depressing

    1. That is true, for a local, a beer with your meal might be a treat only a few can afford on a regular basis. But as a tourist, its definitely a great way to explore the local culture and experience it all to the fullest in a short time – its why I love to travel.

    2. No kidding. Hopefully it changes for them in the near future, but who knows.

  23. I think if I live in China, I may spend less on meals but I may have to spend more money trying to reduce the weight I’m putting on.

    Peter Lee

    1. the food you eat there like most Asian countries is not processed like a typical American meal…add your daily walking (since traffic is insane) and you would lose the weight without really doing much!

  24. Silvia says:

    I’d like to order some salad.I don’t like noodle and beer.$1 would be enough for 2 days.It is interesting to be a Chinese some days.

  25. Oh dang, that totally is a steal. I gotta go back there with my wife and enjoy the food πŸ™‚


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