I’m munching on actual, real, honest-to-goodness Doritos. They were purchased at one of the most expensive and exclusive Western grocery markets in town, a place called BHG Food Market located in the upscale Sanlitun Village. And they cost 62 yuan, which is $9.11 at the current exchange rate. It’s nearly a 40 minute subway ride and a 15 minute walk away, so a Doritos run takes nearly two hours. It’s a serious commitment, dodging Beijing traffic, beggars and street vendors. Not for the faint of heart.

Why, you may wonder, would I go to such lengths to obtain American junk food? Well, it’s simple: crunchy, salty goodness. You can buy a bewildering array of snack food in China. Pringles and Cheetos and Cheerios are sold here and they look like familiar brands, but they’re not the same product. They may somewhat resemble what you’re used to seeing at home, but they just aren’t the same.  This, by the way, is a recurring theme; there is a laundry detergent called Tide but it’s nothing like the real thing. Anyway, everything made locally is (obviously) made for local tastes, which generally means it’s loaded with enough MSG to cause a migrane. The flavors are unusual too, such as sweet and sour fish or steak-flavored Pringles. Most unusually, snack food tends to be sweet here. Believe me, it’s jarring to bite into a potato chip coated in corn syrup and flavoring that resembles nothing you’ve ever tasted, but definitely not good from the Western perspective. Keeping in mind that stinky tofu is a popular snack in Beijing, you can probably appreciate the difference.

I don’t eat a ton of junk food, but the thrill of the hunt is half the fun. BHG has all sorts of products I haven’t been able to find anywhere else. You can get Florida’s Natural fresh orange juice for the low, low price of $11 per half-gallon. Cans of Prego spaghetti sauce are on offer for about $6. You can even buy frozen pizza, imported from Italy because that’s closer than the US, for nearly the price of fresh pizza (around $7). Even real Wisconsin butter, or New Zealand butter, both sold for around the same high price. Even Bounty paper towels, for the low low price of only $5 per roll. You can get anything here, says every Beijing expat. What they often neglect to include is “…and it’ll cost ya.”

Mmmmmmmmm, salty crunchy goodness. At least the roundtrip subway ride to my $9 nachos was only 60 cents.