|The spoils from a recent trip to Chinatown.|
This is the first part of New York Food Journal's guide to shopping in New York's diverse ethnic and specialty stores. These stores provide the inspiration and ingredients for many of our recipes. Shopping in them has greatly expanded our range in the kitchen and has provided hours of enjoyment.
New York is one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse cities in the world, and one of the most fun, rewarding and delicious experiences one can have here is to explore a neighborhood through its food. As we explore, we will give suggestions on what ingredients to look for and what to do with those ingredients at home. We hope you will find these shopping tours as enjoyable as we do.
|Steamed Rice Noodle with Baby Shrimp|
Our tour begins on Mosco Street, a tiny alleyway that runs one block between Mott Street and Mulberry. In the center of the block is the unassuming . . .
Bangkok Center Grocery
Affectionately known in my family as "the Thai Store", Bangkok Center Grocery may well be the best ethnic store in New York City. It has everything you need to make any Thai or other Southeast Asian dish, from kaffir lime leaves and fresh Thai basil to curry paste and fish sauce. Few items cost more than a couple dollars. But what separates this store from the rest is the unparalleled shopping experience. The staff is as helpful as possible without being pushy or overbearing. They leave you alone to browse but are always available to help with a smile. Best of all, they are happy to advise on cooking. Simply tell them what you would like to make, and they'll tell you what ingredients you will need and how to keep them fresh. ("Want to make pad thai?" he asked me on my first visit, holding up a block of tamarind and a package of bahn pho noodles. "How about green curry? Let me show you the fresh curry paste.") The fresh ingredients and terrific service have me returning to this store again and again.
Info: Bangkok Center Grocery, 104 Mosco Street, (212) 349-1979.
Hours: Mon, Wed-Sun: 10 am - 8 pm; Tues: 10 am - 6 pm.
What to buy: thai basil; lemongrass; kaffir lime leaves; thai chilies; curry paste; palm sugar; coconut milk; fish sauce, oyster sauce and other condiments; bahn pho and other noodles; rice paper wraps.
What to make: Thai coconut milk soup (tom kha gai); phở ga; Vietnamese summer rolls.
Once you have loaded up on Thai ingredients, take a few paces west, turn right up Mulberry Street and walk north three and a half blocks. On your left, you will find . . .
Tokyo Mart is a good source for any Japanese cooking needs. Shelves are packed with all different kinds of seaweed, sushi rice, noodles, tea and Asian condiments. There is also a decent selection of Japanese and other Asian plates, chopsticks and serving dishes. At the front, there is a counter where fresh sushi is prepared. Unlike at the Thai Store, service here is nonexistent. But it serves its purpose.
Info: Tokyo Mart, 91 Mulberry Street, (212) 962-6622.
Hours: Daily, 9 am - 8 pm.
What to buy: kombu, nori and other seaweed; bonito flakes; togarashi spice mix; noodles; tea; Japanese snacks; asian plates; fresh sushi.
What to make: miso soup and dashi.
Take a left out of Tokyo Mart, walk up to the corner and make another left on Canal. One block ahead, on the far-left corner is the always satisfying . . .
Dragon Land Bakery
|Fresh Pastries at Dragon Land Bakery|
Info: Dragon Land Bakery, 125 Walker Street, (212) 219-2012.
Hours: Mon - Fri, 7 am - 8 pm; Sat - Sun, 7:30 am - 8 pm.
What to buy: red bean buns; cheese twists; coconut buns; pork buns; sesame balls; any other Chinese pastry.
Once you have had your fill of pastries, head east on Canal, walk a block north through Little Italy on Mulberry Street (stopping for a cannoli and cappuccino at La Bella Ferrara), and take a right on Hester Street. Two blocks ahead on your left is the sprawling, two-story . . .
Hong Kong Supermarket
|Chinese long beans at Hong Kong Supermarket|
Info: Hong Kong Supermarket, 157 Hester Street, (212) 966-4943.
Hours: Daily, 8 am - 8 pm.
What to buy: fresh produce (including long beans and purple yams); mushrooms; fresh fish; Asian condiments; shaoxing rice wine; fresh and dried noodles; dumplings; tea.
What to make: fried rice; stir-fried Shanghai noodles; pork and chive dumplings; ma po tofu.
With your shopping bags full, head home and prepare some New York Food Journal recipes for yourself and your friends. If you have a favorite store in Chinatown that we overlooked, please contact us with your suggestions.
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