A taste of home in Manhattan
A taste of home in Manhattan
Manhattan’s international food shops are perfect pitstops for travellers craving a taste of home.
Grocery stores in other countries have long been a secret tourist attraction for travellers.
The format is familiar – aisles, shopping carts and screaming children – yet the food is anything but, ranging from the exotic to the merely intriguing.
Then there are also the smaller international food shops.
In Manhattan, the wares in these shops are directed at the cravings and cooking needs of immigrants and expats. Travelling foodies partake as well.
The iconic New York international food store is the bodega, a corner shop traditionally hawking Puerto Rican and Dominican products in lower-income neighbourhoods.
However, in southern Manhattan, the bodegas that are left cater more and more to the second generation and gentrifying masses.
While Brooklyn and Queens have cavernous Indian, Chinese, Brazilian
and Russian supermarkets you could lose an afternoon in, you’d have to
be obsessive to want to cover that much territory in a weekend.
So here’s a sample of smaller shops in Manhattan neighbourhoods that tourists are likely to be in or near.
PUEBLO DELI GROCERY
One spot that sells products like Dominican cassabe (a yucca bread) is Pueblo Deli Grocery on the Lower East Side.
Here you’ll find lots of Dominican classics, like meringue-flavoured Country Club soda, Induveca salami, Bay Rum Constanza antiseptic, and candles dedicated to saints or those who may become saints, like Pope John Paul II.
There is also an extensive underwear collection, which you won’t find in Zabar’s or the Associated.
Food tourists and discerning New York palates love Kalustyan’s in Murray Hill. In the jelly and chutney section alone, you can go from England to Pakistan to France to Lebanon.
FOODS OF INDIA
Right next door is Foods of India, which is all subcontinent, all the time. One indication: all things mango from the original home of the mango – mango powder, mango chutney, mango lime pickle and dried mango, among others.
Of course, they have spices too, and those wacky Indian sweets where half the fun is divining from appearance what they taste like – a fruitless proposition.
Don’t forget the US$2.49 Priya packaged microwaveable meals, which include dal makhani (recommended) or palak paneer (not).
BANGKOK CENTER GROCERY
Down in Chinatown, Bangkok Center Grocery is popular among both Thais and New Yorkers who like Thai food.
You’ll find ingredients that are familiar from restaurant menus but are rarer in their raw form: lemongrass; endless varieties of pastes, from chilli to tamarind; and frozen imported fish.
When it comes to the imported sodas, unless you read Thai, you’re stuck calling the two Fanta varieties “the green one” and “the red one”. Taste them and you’ll find that green is cream soda and red is strawberry.
WEST AFRICAN GROCERY
The West African Grocery store, just south of the Port Authority bus terminal, is actually owned by French-speaking Koreans.
I must admit I can’t tell the difference between the barrels of gari flour from Togo and the barrels of gari flour from Nigeria. They’re the same price – US$1 a pound – and they look almost exactly the same.
The frozen food section makes for entertaining guessing games: not much is labelled, so try to figure out which is the cow stomach and which are the imported Ivorian escargots.
BUZIOS BRASIL BOUTIQUE AND MINI-MARKET
Though Brazilians who live in Astoria are spoiled by the mammoth Rio Bonito supermarket out there, those in Manhattan must make do with the inflated prices of Buzios Brasil Boutique and Mini-Market, which subleases a small plot of second-floor space from a spa.
The store sells a little bit of everything that Brazilians miss most, from Pilao coffee (with Zero-Cal liquid artificial sweetener) to frozen fruit pulp (like cupuacu and acerola) and Nescau cocoa powder.
You can pick up Veja magazine (for an outrageous US$11; it’s free online) and the hangover helper Brazilians swear by, Engov (US$5 for three sets of pills).
Over in Hell’s Kitchen, Tehuitzingo sells a small greatest-hits selection of Mexican foods, including fresh tomatillos and jalapenos in the diminutive produce section, and the Marinela and Bimbo brands in the more expansive snack food section.
Way out the back there’s a counter serving up an endless variety of tacos, from standard pork carnitas to goat tripe. (The price is the standard Queens-Brooklyn taqueria price of US$2 but the quantity of meat is significantly less.)
MYERS OF KESWICK
Myers of Keswick on Hudson Street in the Far West Village is “Craving Central” for UK expats in need of Cadbury Flake bars, Typhoo tea and “spotted dick” (sponge pudding that goes well with powdered custard – also available).
The store also sells intriguing foods such as vegetarian haggis and popular prepared foods such as chicken and mushroom pies and bangers.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved by New York Times Syndication Sales Corp. This material may not be published, broadcast or redistributed in any manner.