Here in Melbourne, we know how to eat Asian cuisine. Arguably, we’ve got the finest fine-dining Chinese in the country, some brilliant young chefs pushing the boundaries of traditional flavours and alleyways filled with brain-numbing Szechuan food. But great grub isn’t all about eating out. We like to get on the tools ourselves – and thankfully, there’s a smorgasbord of Asian grocers selling staples and exotic produce alike. It’s by no means an exhaustive list, but here are a few of our favourite Asian supermarkets around town.
Minh Phat Supermarket
Minh Phat is the granddaddy of all Asian supermarkets. Just off Victoria Street in Richmond, this giant supermarket is brimming with goods from Southeast Asia (particularly Vietnam), China and Japan. Opened in 1988, Richmond’s Minh Phat is actually an offshoot of the city store opposite the Queen Victoria Market, which has been a home chef’s favourite since 1979.
To summarise Minh Phat’s vast offering is impossible. Think a whole aisle of tea, from delicate flowers to ‘slimming’ powders; another aisle dedicated purely to herbs and spices; strainers, stockpots, claypots, knives and crockery; tea-tree mushrooms, shrimp skins, Barwon flowers, Japanese seaweed, duck eggs and an ocean of canned fish.
2-8 Nicholson Street, Abbotsford
(03) 9429 4028
Korea Town Mart
Korea Town Mart (or KT Mart if you’re mates) was perhaps the busiest of all the supermarkets we visited. That’s probably because while only modest in size, its selection is judiciously chosen. As its name might suggest, KT Mart specialises in all things Korean. There’s a great variety of ‘Pickled Things’, including a swathe of fresh kim-chi. Along with pickles, Korea also loves its chilli and KT Mart is no exception. Its range of chilli pastes and sauces is unsurpassed. The store also has one of the largest ranges of dumplings and gyoza on offer, with seafood, veggie and pork packages ready for boiling, steaming or frying. Plus, KT Mart has one of the most extensive selections of specialty rice from all over Asia, from your standard jasmine to your fancy sushi.
527 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne
(03) 9329 8242
Hometown Asian Supermarket
The newest kid on the block, Hometown comes across like the Simon Johnson of Asian supermarkets. Although it features goodies from all over the region, its particular focus is on Japanese and Malaysian cuisine. There’s a beautiful range of sake and umeshu (plum wine) as you walk in the door, which is worth a trip on its own. Also on offer are hand-rolled udon noodles direct from Japan; Kurobata pork (otherwise known as Black Berkshire); and a generous variety of miso. Plus, like any great Asian supermarket, there’s a huge variety of impeccably presented sweets, including a selection of delicious moon cakes when they’re in season.
Shop 2, 440 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne
Mon to Sat 10am-midnight
(03) 9663 2603
Great Eastern Food
If you’ve already been to one Asian supermarket in Melbourne, it’s probably Great Eastern Food on Russell Street in the CBD. Just off the Chinatown drag, Great Eastern is that one-stop shop whenever you’re in town. With the requisite selection of noodles, dim-sims, sambal and soy, Great Eastern also stocks a limited range of sake, which is fantastic if you’re headed somewhere BYO. Also on offer is a selection of fresh fruit and vegetables, which are consistently fresh.
185 Russell Street, Melbourne
Mon to Thurs 10am-10pm
Fri & Sat 10am-11pm
(03) 9663 3716
KFL in Flemington is an excellent all-rounder. Spanning two floors, its selection of imported dry goods really is admirable – and neat as a pin. If you’re after an unusual peanut drink, there are four varieties. Want a case of Thai Red Bull? Have two. Vermicelli noodles? Have some in hot-pink packaging. What about canned jackfruit? Go to the canned jackfruit aisle upstairs.
KFL is also commendable for having its own butcher inside the supermarket itself. When we dropped in they were actually butchering whole animals right there in the store – if you’re into that sort of thing. For those of you who’re further to the west, KFL has a Footscray twin that’s pretty good too.
321-323 Racecourse Road, Flemington
Mon to Thurs 9am-7pm