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  • Blonde in Beijing

Monday: 买一送一 Salads at Element Fresh

Updated: Feb 28, 2018

There are a few things to know food-wise as a westerner coming to Beijing:

1. Expect to lose a lot of weight at first, especially if you have limited experience with Chinese food. All of the flavors are new. Everything tastes too spicy. Your stomach feels nauseated frequently.

2. Expect to gain all of the weight back, plus some. This was certainly the case for me. In college, I never gained the “Freshman Fifteen”, but within six months in Beijing, I had gained the “Peking Pounds.” Once you get used to Chinese food, everything begins to taste delicious. Moreover, Chinese food is consumed with a lot of starches – which they call “staples.” In the morning, you eat baozi (steamed white bread buns, stuffed with meat vegetables, or sweet bean paste.) Lunches and dinners are served with large portions of white rice, or noodles. Many vegetable dishes are full of potatoes.

3. Everything “western” is premium-price. Especially salads. At least, good salads. So, once you decide to start eating your healthy, western diet again – expect it to break the bank. As a student, eating a healthy, western diet is often outside the realm of possibility, budget-wise.

This is where Element Fresh comes to the rescue on Mondays for the buy-one-get-one-free (买一送一) salads! For those of you who have never heard of Element Fresh (or 新元素 in Chinese), it is one of the most popular, high-end western food chains in China, with 16 branches in Shanghai; 10 branches in Beijing; 2 branches each in Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Nanjing, and Shenzhen; and a branch in Chengdu, Suzhou, Tianjin, and Wuhan. Many of the restaurants feature beautiful al fresco dining options and they have a special brunch menu over the weekends. For lunch and dinner, you can get everything from a hummus platter for an appetizer to a steak fillet for your entrée, and New York style cheesecake for dessert. It is a westerner’s culinary haven, but the price of a salad can set you back anywhere between 70 and 130 RMB.

If you have an Element Fresh membership card, you can get two salads for the price of one on Mondays. It is a great option if you want to take your friend out to eat or take your date to a nice restaurant. But you can still get the deal if you go alone. I often go there for dinner on Mondays and eat one salad there, asking them to prepare the other salad for me to go (打包).