The Economist may have the Big Mac index, but I use the jianbing index to get a sense of prices. A jianbing is a fried cake that can be purchased on many city streets in China. It is cooked on a large flat circular griddle surface, as you can see in the video in the link above. The batter is slapped on the griddle, and a cooking trowel is used to wipe off the excess batter; an egg is then cracked on the cooking batter, the yolk broken, and spread around the cooking batter. Spices are then added – usually scallion, maybe cilantro, and then a brown sauce is spread on the top. The brown sauce is then laced with red peppers (they usually ask if you want it spicy, which I do), and then a piece of fried dough is added. The cake is then folded up, cut in half for easy eating, and put into a plastic bag.
This was what I had for my first breakfast in China; it cost 4 RMB. If I remember correctly, it cost 2.5 RMB last summer in 2013; the first time I had it in 1993, it cost .5 RMB. Now the lady that I usually buy my jianbing from wasn’t open yet, so this was a different vendor (and maybe I got ripped off). The group will be looking at the prices of everyday food items (not really street food) to get a sense of people’s food expenses and how this shapes their consumption practices. Various studies have tracked the growing inflation of food prices, especially for food items such as cooking oil, pork, milk, and other food items. This has also been linked to various food scares and food safety issues