You need to watch your steps at the Asia Market.... especially with the guys that run the produce part... Now, it might have been because I am not Asian, but they will try to sell you limes leaves and galanga that are not fresh.
The Bangok Grocery Center on Mosco is the best, tho pricier...
Had a successful foray yesterday into Chinatown for fresh Kaffir lime leaves (Bai My Magroot) as well as a few other Thai ingredients.
I'll do a much more specific, very comprehensive post on essential Thai grocery spots (WITH specific addresses, subway/walking directions, etc.) when I have more time, but this is what I found when I struck gold on Sunday in Chinatown:
Udom's Corp. Thai & Indonesian Grocery
81 Bayard St., #A, 10013 (bet. Mulberry & Mott Sts.)
-this guy did have frozen Kaffir lime leaves, and basically ripped me off by selling
me a baggie for $10, but it was the first place I stopped and wanted to make sure
that I at least came home with some, so I bought the 70+ Asian man's schpiel
about most of the restaurants buying him out, and the aforementioned shortage
on Kaffir lime leaves right now (which is, unfortunately, all too real). The quality of
his leaves is OK, not nearly as pungent as the fresh ones I found at the other two
sources. Probably won't ever go back to this guy again because of the rip-off
experience. Truly, I was in a rush to make my rounds of a few places before they
all started closing on Sunday night, and he had no way of recognizing me as a
professional chef, and probably just considered me an easy, tourist mark, but I'll
be sure next time I pass by there to let him know who I am and the fact that I was
NOT happy he gouged me on the Kaffir leaves the last time I was in. Won't buy
from him again on general principle unless I am desperate for something everyone
else is out of, but he's there if need be.
79 Bayard St., 10013 (bet. Mulberry & Mott. Sts., right before Mott)
-this is the "small produce stand on Bayard closer to Mott" mentioned in a few
posts, next door to Udom's and on the south side of Bayard St. The proprietor
speaks very good English, and had no problems answering any of my questions
about any of the ingredients I asked about. He almost always has
Thai Eggplant/Apple Eggplant (Makeau Prau) in stock, as well as fresh Thai red
chiles Prik Kee Noo), fresh Thai green chiles, Thai basil (Bai Hurapah) and Holy basil. He did tell
me that he normally stocks fresh Kaffir lime leaves, but the shortage has deprived
him of his normal supply until "sometime later this year." He also did tell me,
helpfully, that he also sells a lot of produce items bulk/wholesale to restaurants, and
that the best time to get fresh red chilies is in the afternoon before they sell out.
HIs prices are also super-cheap on produce. Got a nice sack of eggplant, both
chilies, some basil, and a bunch of Chinese long beans for less than 6 bucks. Did
NOT see any fresh galangal for sale.
71 Mulberry St., 10013 (bet. Canal & Bayard Sts., right before Bayard)
-perhaps the best source for fresh Kaffir lime leaves I found. Small baggies for
$2.50, quality is excellent, much more pungent than the frozen product from
Udom's. Also plentiful source of Thai basil and Holy basil as well as both chilies,
and any other types of Thai seasonings, pastes, sauces, etc. you could want. Also
spotted very good quality Walnut Oil for sale as well at a very good price. Will be
my main source of fresh Kaffir lime leaf for sure. Again, the woman behind the
counter spoke very good English, was horrified to hear of the price Udom's charged
me for frozen leaves. This place most definitely caters to a primarily Asian
clientele. There's also a very good quality fresh seafood place right next door as
well, which saves another trip to someplace else (New Hai Cang Seafood).
Bangok Grocery Center
104 Mosco St., 10013 (bet. Mulberry & Mott Sts.)
-As also previously mentioned, Mosco St. is one of the shortest streets in NYC,
and hard to find if you don't know where it's at or don't know the neighborhood very
well. The easiest way to find it is to walk down Mulberry from Canal St.--Mosco St.
is basically between Columbus Park and Mott St., and you turn left onto Mosco
across the street from the park.
Bangok Grocery Center is the most clean of all three markets, though Asia Market
is very clean as well. It's pretty obvious this place caters more to tourists and non-
Asian seekers of Thai ingredients, as indicated by smaller, pre-packaged quantities
of things like Thai Eggplant and some of the fresh produce on hand. They DO have
fresh Kaffir lime leaf for sale, $2 for a small baggie, as well as plenty of fresh Thai
basil, fresh Holy basil, and fresh Thai red and green chilies. The also DO have fresh
galangal root (Huah Kah), as well as fresh Kaffir limes (Lo Magrut).
The young guy working when I came in also speaks
perfect English, can answer any questions, and even offered a few cooking tips of
his own. Also horrified at the price-gouging on the frozen Kaffir leaves from
Udom's. Bangok Grocery Center also has traditional stone mortars for sale.
All in all, I'd say I'd keep patronizing all of these businesses save Udom's--you can get any Thai staples like prepared Thai curry pastes, bulk Jasmine rice, fish sauce, palm sugar (Nahm Dtahn Maprao), shrimp paste (Kapee), seasonings, etc. the cheapest at Hong Kong Supermarket (109 E. Broadway, @ E. Broadway & Forsyth), but your best bet is to make the stop at Hung Lee for all your fresh vegetables and then head to Asia Market and/or Bangkok Grocery Center for lime leaf, herbs, galangal, etc.
Again, I'll put up a more comprehensive post on Thai ingredient sources as I make a trip to Elmhurst, Sunset Park and Flushing to check out sources there as well.
Yeah, at least twice the price, I'm sure. Whole Paycheck and Fairway never have any problems with price-gouging Yuppies for ethnic ingredients, mainly because Yuppies in a big city like New York will pay for the convenience of having everything under one roof and not having to find time for yet another subway errand in already-busy day.
I know in my neighborhood (Clinton Hill), I would pay $3.59 for a 4 oz. jar of Thai Kitchen Yuppie Brand Green Curry Paste (Nam Prik Kaeng Khlaw Wann), but at Hong Kong Market, I pay $1.79 for 14 oz. of Mae Poy brand Green Curry Paste, and at Bangkok Market, I saw 2 lb. tubs of the same brand prepared curry pastes for less than $3 each.
You do the math.
And really, if you are heading to the Bowery Whole Paycheck, it's not that much further to head to Chinatown for the real deal in terms of quality, price, and better selection. My suggested route would be to take the F to East Broadway instead of 2nd Ave., walk down East Broadway to hit Hong Kong Supermarket first, then continue down E. Broadway until you dog-leg to the left onto Chatham Sq./Bowery, where you can head north on Mott St. to both Bangkok Grocery on Mosco (your first left off of Mott walking north) and/or continue another 2 blocks north (past Pell St. on your right), where you'll turn left at the 2nd block onto Bayard, which is where Hung Lee will be right on your left, like the third door down, and then continue on down Bayard to Mulberry (the next block); turn right, and Asia Market the the seafood place will be right there on your left heading north, two or three doors up from the corner of Bayard and Mulberry.
After all that, you can head back the way you came for the F, or continue up Mulberry to catch the N/R/6 at Canal St., which will save you the walk all the way back to the F, your hands now full of grocery bags filled with the real deal, bought dirt-cheap. And you get a little exercise while you are at it.
Easy, isn't it?
Thai on Mosco has frozen limes whose skin can be used.
I spoke to several store owners after trying for the lime leaves. The composite story is that the Florida lime trees have to be cut due to pests that might effect all
citrus trees. The leaves in california are too young to harvest and it seems Thailand is the only source for 2-4 weeks. I you can find leaves get some extra
Wanted to actually get them at a retail store in the city (have been spoiled by a great supply that recently stopped at the Bangkok Center Grocery on Mosco St. in Chinatown. But I called Kalustyan's tonight and they do have them, miraculously, and they are supposedly fresh (I wouldn't mind frozen, since I freeze them once I get home anyway). Thanks for your link suggestion, though. Definitely looks like a viable source. A.