If you love the chaotic markets of South East Asia and want to recreate the experience in Melbourne, there are plenty of grocers on Victoria Street which will serve the purpose – complete with pushy Asian grandmas, dusty cans, haphazard piles of unidentified foodstuffs and shouty (non-English) service.
Don’t get me wrong. I loved strolling through such markets in Vietnam and Thailand. But when I’m on a pantry-stocking mission, even Asian Joyce can’t go in those kind of shops without wanting to beat a hasty retreat….
….to Minh Phat, the Asian grocery superstore. A haven of well-ordered aisles of Asian food with no shouting, just the soothing sounds of Cantopop in the background. A calm place where you can ask what stuff is, where it is, or what’s the best brand in amongst the confusing selection. I swear, the first time I walked into the well-lit space I burst out an involuntary ‘Waaahhhh!’.
I didn’t take any photos as I was juggling too many items in my shopping basket:
- Firm tofu. I’m so proud that RM, a country boy, is willing to eat tofu (something one friend once described as like eating air). According to my mum, the best brand is Evergreen. I noticed they also sell organic Japanese silken tofu but unfortunately they don’t do a firm variety.
- Bamboo steamer baskets. For my experiments into steamed pork buns and glutinous rice wrapped in lotus leaves. Can also be used to serve cupcakes, bread rolls and Peking duck wrappers.
- Oyster sauce. Lee Kum Kee for me, the one with the lady and boy in the boat.
- Shaoxing rice wine. Look out for the Golden Pagoda brand and beware of imitations like Two Pagodas.
- Herbs and spices. Cheap cinnamon quills, star anise and cumin powder.
- Vermicelli. You have to keep an eagle eye out for Lungkow, as opposed to Longkow which I’ve bought before, creating a gluggy mess when I cooked ‘Ants climbing up trees’.
I have to admit, the prices may not necessarily be the cheapest in Victoria Street. Personally I think the 20 cents difference here and there is worth not feeling frazzled by the shopping experience. Shopper’s tip: If you pay cash for purchases over $30, you get 5% off.
- Minh Phat, 2-8 Nicholson Street, Abbotsford 3067 +61 3 9429 4028