Once you’ve mastered a classic stir-fry or fried rice and are ready to expand your Asian cuisine repertoire, you’ll invariably come across an ingredient you don’t remember seeing at your regular corner store. The choices below are three well-stocked, comprehensive grocery stories selling pan-Asian goods that are close to the city. Tackling Haymarket is a whole different story. [fold]
The fifth branch of the Miracle Supermarket chain lives up to its namesake for those who live in the inner west. It’s easy forget what you came in for in the first place and instead float through the aisles listening to Thai pop and marvelling at the repetitive rainbow of instant noodle packets. Miracle Supermarket stocks mainly Chinese and Japanese items and there are multiple brands of almost every product. There are lots of interesting flavour pairings: wasabi flavoured sesame seeds, coconut peanuts, green tea and peach jelly and rice macaroni. The drink section stretches down a whole aisle and there is an excellent frozen section of dumplings, pork buns and dim sum as well as a range of vegan meat, chicken and codfish. A small range of fresh herbs and choy greens sit next to a few token capsicum and apples that unfortunately aren’t super fresh, but they’re not what you came here for in the first place. If you’re looking for snacks, this’ll be your nirvana – potato chips, biscuits and happy boxes of Hello Panda line the shelves. But if you buy one thing, make it a tin of Khao Shong wasabi peas – there’s no better brand.
46–56 King Street, Newtown
Randwick Oriental Supermarket
A rose-pink stack of toilet paper greets you as you enter this Belmore Road stalwart. The store opened as an Indonesian/Malaysian grocery store but now stocks Thai, Chinese, Japanese and Korean products, organised by cuisine. This was partly because the suburb became more culturally diverse over the years and also because consumers are becoming more knowledgeable. “I have people coming in asking for ingredients I’ve never heard of,” says Arwin Poon, whose family owns the store. “After all these cooking shows, people know a lot. I have people asking for gow gee to use in desserts like banana splits! I’ve never heard of that.” The origins of the store live on in the inexhaustible range of sambals (Indonesian paste). It’s a place to save money with a huge, cheap range of spices, large bottles of Kewpie mayonnaise (a popular Japanese brand) and more types of vinegar soy and chilli sauce than you could possibly need. Be daring and try the fresh bags of pickling mustard leaves or stay safe and take home one of the delicious-looking boxes of homemade Indonesian food near the checkout. Students can’t go past the hundreds of different types of Mi Goreng noodles and delicate Japanese bowls – put them together and no one will realise you can’t cook.
57–63 Belmore Road, Randwick
Usagi Ya is a low-lit, compact shop at the end of Oxford Street near the outdoor mall. The store is mainly Japanese but stocks some other ingredients, namely a Korean barbecue sauce that looks enticing. It’s a smart choice for the time-poor; you can buy instant pho, ramen and udon kits and frozen gyoza, wontons, and gyoza sauce. Those eager for a culinary challenge should fill their basket with giant daikon (radishes), black sesame seeds and umeboshi plums to experiment with. A jar of ginger-infused honey which apparently once had tea in it is perfect for winter – just add boiling water and laugh at others wasting time dangling bags. To keep your breath fresh, buy some Watering Kissmints and if you have a spare $10, grab a bag of green tea Kit Kats and sprinkle them over green tea ice cream – if anyone asks you’re just getting your daily intake of antioxidants.
368 Oxford Street, Bondi Junction