Tiny Chinese Food

Check out my new refrigerator magnets!

chinese food refrigerator magnets

Here are some pictures of actual Chinese food that the magnets resemble:

I got the magnets from a vendor set up right outside the Pizza Hut next to Zhongshan Park. He told me they were 2 RMB each. I knew full well they weren’t worth that, but sometimes you really don’t feel like haggling over a couple RMB. I offered him 5 RMB for all three, which he accepted immediately.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. Da Xiangchang Says: September 9, 2005 at 1:04 pm

    Hey, these are pretty cool. Whenever I return to China, I’ll make sure to load up on these trinkets cuz I haven’t seen them stateside. That’s why I LOVE traveling in developing countries: your buck goes a long ways. I bought 3 well-made exotic-looking Cambodian t-shirts for $3 total recently, and my friends in California absolutely loved them. Haha. The best trinkets to buy in Shanghai, though, aren’t in China. It’s in Dingshan, a couple of hours away in Jiangsu Province. It looks like some landscape out of the Industrial Revolution, but man, what a bargain! There are like HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of Yixing teapots for cheap cheap cheap, in probably a thousand different styles, some only a US quarter each. Every Westerner I’ve given these teapots to have been blown away by them. Spend $20, and you’ll have enough Christmas presents for the next decade cuz these Yixing teapots cost like $50 stateside. Just check out a dealer:


  2. Da Xiangchang Says: September 9, 2005 at 1:08 pm

    “. . . aren’t in Shanghai,” I meant to say! 🙁 Dingshan is obviously in China!!!

  3. pretty awesome! Like Da Xiangchang, I’ll have to keep a note of these the next time (soon I wish) I’m in China. That and all the super awesome cheap stuff to be found in the peoples republic .

  4. 5 RMB for 3? John, you’re a good bargainee,hehe.

  5. Heh, those are cool. Kexia and I bought magnets while we were in Shanghai as well, 10 for 7 RMB 🙂

  6. So what are they? Enlighten those of us w/ a chineses-food challenged menu.

  7. I’m surprised no one has chimed in, “Cute.”

  8. Cute

  9. mr. pasden—

    i think what we have here are examples of dumplings that you might commonly see while eating dim-sum style. you should know that when you eat dim sum, you not only eat dumplings. you can eat little tarts, or spring rolls, or sesame balls. the most distinguishing (though not essential) element here is that when you sit down to eat, several varieties are brought to you in these dishes or bamboo-esque containers that are depicted in john’s new, CUTE magnets. i fathom that the reason no one has guessed what these particular dim sum dishes are is that all three are DUMPLINGS! (or buns.) and, hey. who knows what’s in that stuff, right? we can only guess. so here are my guesses: the first magnet that john is holding (in my secret dim-sum fantasy) is a steamed bbq pork bun. mr. p, these buns are soooo delicious! the second magnet, directly to the right, i can only imagine is a beef-filled siu mai dumpling. what makes these dumplings special is that they tend to be opened on the top, so you can readily see the filling. and, finally, for dessert… we have a red-bean-paste bun. yum! i know that coming from an american perspective you might think that red beans would not be associated with a sweet taste, but you can often find desserts in asian cuisine that use red bean. so… you wanna go to lunch, dim-sum style? i’ll treat! (how did i do, john? i may not speak chinese. but i sure as heck know my food.)

  10. I’m no expert on dim sum, which is why I refrained from naming the different foods. I guess I’ll give it a shot, though. To make things easier, I’ll follow the naming conventions on the Wikipedia dim sum page. You can also find fuller descriptions there.

    In my fingers is what looks like “Shanghai steamed buns,” although they do seem a bit too big. Maybe they’re supposed to be some other form of baozi, like a pork-filled one, as Illy suggests. It’s the swirl on top that reminds me of the Shanghai steamed buns.

    Going clockwise, we have what Illy correctly identified as Siu Maai (that spelling, like “dim sum,” reflects the Cantonese pronunciation of the word).

    At the bottom is a kind of baozi which at first, I, like Illy, thought was filled with red bean paste. After looking at the leftmost food picture of the three I supplied (which is pork-filled), though, I’m not entirely sure. But then I hate red bean paste and never eat those buns, so I’m not very familiar with them or how their plastic miniature rendition might appear.

    I hope that satisfies your curiosity… I’m no expert, and I’m no reference librarian either… 🙂

  11. john!
    i am soooooo broken-hearted.
    you don’t like red-bean-paste buns?
    they are completely
    SO INCREDIBLY…. delicious
    can i tell you, john?
    just out of curiosity, i clicked on the photographs of the real dim sum pictures to see what-was-what. and the first thumbnail, which shows a little dark filling peeking through, that photograph on the flickr said “steamed bbq pork bun.”

    (jeez. i guess you kinda pointed this out in your response… sorry.)

    now, i know that with the red-bean-paste bun… you never see that filling peeking out. so, couple this fact with what the tagline for the first thumbnail says… and you gotta know that your third magnet is probably not red bean.
    i just deemed your third magnet a red-bean-paste bun because…
    because they are so yummy that it’s unholy.
    john, does your girlfriend know about your not liking this bun?

  12. I agree with John; red bean paste stuff is gross.

  13. ohh.. i was near Zhongshan park the other day. My friend had a house-warming party. I like cute things. I’ll go have a look near Zhongshan park another day. I just bought a small fridge and need a few magnets. hehe

  14. i have to agree — those magnets are VERY cute! and yummy looking!
    john, as picky as i was about the food i would eat while i was visiting china, i really missed the food when i left (after only 2 weeks). when next i visit, can we try to track down live versions of these tasty-looking morsels?!

  15. Amy,

    Sure can!

  16. Xiao long bao, sao mai, and dou sa bao (though the magnet makes it look like sesame).

  17. Heilong Says: June 18, 2006 at 3:26 am

    Yes the 2 on the top are cantonese Zhao zi and the one on the bottom is bean bao zi. I ate these alot at a cantonese resturant in Dublin, But cant find them in Dong Bei.

  18. I remembered I bargained for 10 magnets for one of my Italian coworkers at the same spot two years ago. It was 1 RMB through my efforts. Last time I visited him, I saw a Semens refrigerator wrapped with all kinds of magnets!!!!!!!shocking……indeed.
    was the salesman of the vendor disabled?

  19. Hi John,

    Do you know where I can purchase those dim sum magnets in the U.S.?



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