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Ingredient Meccas

When you are hunting around Boston for something ethnic, where do you head? For me, (and I live in Arlington), I aim for these places..

I am not listing meat, seafood, and produce, but there are enough threads here mentioning Dewars, Russos, Savenors, etc.

Korean/Japanese - Reliable Market or Kotobukiya (till May 10), H-mart when it finally opens..
Chinese - Super 88 (I like the one in Malden) or Ming's Supermarket
Middle-Eastern - Arax and Sevan in Watertown
Italian - Salumeria Italiano in the NE or Bob's Food in Medford
Mexican/South American - Hi-Lo in JP, Tropical Food on Washington
Eastern European - Berezka Deli or Bazaar in Allston
Spices - Penzeys in Arlington or Christina's in Inman

As for Indian, seems like there are small markets everywhere, but there's a place in Waltham on Moody that seems well stocked..

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  1. in the north end, pace is well-stocked for italian and on blackstone st. there are several middle-eastern markets downstairs that carry loads of goods. there is also a syrian grocer in the south end, right near the franklin, with unpredictable hours but excellent inventory.

    1. Korean - Reliable Market, Mirim, John's Market
      Chinese - Kam Man
      Armenian and Middle Eastern- Sevan, Arax, Massis, Bay Sweets, Sabb's, Cedar's, Bob's/Droubi Bakery, Syrian Grocery Importing Co.
      Indian - Waltham India Grocery was my go-to before Patel Bros moved in, but they have some really good stuff too. Shalimar is the best closer to Cambridge/Boston
      E. European - Bazaar/Berezka, Baltic Deli, Euromart
      SE Asian - Paylin Lynn Market, Full Moon
      Latino - La Favorita, Tropical Foods
      Italian - J Pace (downtown or behind MGH), Salumeria Italiana, Dave's Fresh Pasta, Sessa's

      1. I think you mean Patel Brothers as the well-stocked place on Moody Street. There are several other solid Indian groceries on that block, but Patel is the most supermarket-like. I adore that stretch of Moody Street.

        2 Replies
        1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

          Speaking of that stretch of Moody street, Salem grocery is great for Italian and there is a Latino market that has a good selection. (can't recall the name but it is across from the Indian markets)

          1. re: rouxmaker

            Yup, SalemFoods is good, and the Mexican place, with a very decent selection, is La Chapincita, I believe.

        2. angkor watt market and angkor thom market on shirley ave in revere for cambodian and other se asian goods

          1. For spices, flours, bulk items, I like Harvest Co-op in Central Square. They have a great selection & it's much cheaper than buying in a regular grocery store.

            6 Replies
            1. re: BackBayGirl

              I'll have to look in Harvest next time I am in Central - but I have a hard time believing they'd beat out Penzey's for spices - Penzey's has like 4 kinds of curry powders, 8 kinds of peppercorns, etc, and they sell them in small jars at pretty decent prices..

              I had forgotten about Sabb's and Cedar's, and I work out here in Norwood.. man, Sabb's makes a mean shwarma

              1. re: grant.cook

                Not quite as good as Penzey's but darn close and it is serve yourself so you only get what you need. They certainly don't have the multiple varieties of peppercorns, etc.

                1. re: StriperGuy

                  At the Harvest, I served myself a lb of Forbidden Chinese black rice last week. Saw a couple of recipes, one savory, one sweet, that I plan to give a whirl.

                  1. re: Taralli

                    Did it say which vendor it came from?

                    1. re: galleygirl

                      Sorry, I was so excited to even find it, that I didn't look.

                      1. re: Taralli

                        You can regularly find it in their non-bulk aisle, and at Whole Foods. Lotus does all kinds of heirloom rice, including the Forbidden Rice...

            2. Filipino: Surebinoy Oriental Food, Quincy

              1. Re: Italian

                While Bob's Food has it's pluses, it isn't very good for ingredients.

                A truly great non-Boston choice is Constantino's Venda Ravioli in Providence,
                In Boston, Mercato di Monica and Pace and Sons. in the North End.
                Capone Foods in Cambridge and Somerville
                and of course Whole Foods Market

                6 Replies
                1. re: robertlf

                  Yes, I would agree on Bob's.. maybe its that massive prosciutto and provolone sandwich that subconciously got me to place them in the posting.

                  Although I can generally find something unique - mushrooms, fiddleheads, peppers at WFM, and their produce/meat is of high quality, I don't really ever get that excited about shopping there, with the one exception of being able to get a decent amount of free samples so I can snack while shopping. I like buying kimchee from a Korean market, and dulce de leche from a South American one. Maybe its supporting local businesses, or just the feeling that buying it from an ethnic market brings me a bit closer to the culture behind the food...

                  1. re: grant.cook

                    "or just the feeling that buying it from an ethnic market brings me a bit closer to the culture behind the food..."

                    -that's so true, and robertif's suggestion of Venda Ravioli in Providence is a great example of that: go on a weekend and you will think you're in Italy, they don't sell produce but everything like prepared foods, salads, cheeses and cured meats, Italian cuts of meat, fresh pasta, breads etc, and you can order a plate and a glass of wine and squeeze in next to everyone else, the espresso machine hissing in the background. Take a cooler and bring back some of the frozen pasta.... Depending on where you live, Providence is no further than the North End, and there are plenty of attractions there to make a day trip worthwhile.

                    1. re: cassis

                      YES -- stroll along Atwells Ave. There's a little bakery with RI-style strip pizza -- Palmieri's on Tobey Street. They have expanded to add a coffee bar with tables now. It's very Rhode Island -- and you'll see guys in suits driving dark SUVs coming in for boxes of pastries. I am waiting for Tony Soprano to show up. Also on Atwells, I like Roma on the opposite side of the street from Venda Ravioli. Both are fantastic. I love the pork sandwich at Roma. They have olive bread on the weekends, and it always sells out, so get there by noon if you want a loaf.

                      1. re: foxy fairy

                        Atwells Ave. is a shadow of its former self, alas. Roma is gone. Tony's Colonial has a great selection, though it's relatively pricey (though cheaper than Salumeria Italiano, with better selection). Venda Ravioli is the big winner. And, while you're there, check out Pastiche, on the other side of DePasquale Square, for cakes and pastries that are better than I've had anywhere in Boston (and I've tried a lot!).

                        1. re: winedude

                          Pastiche is pricy for dessert though, no?

                  2. re: robertlf

                    The various locations of Tutto Italiano are decent for Italian also.

                  3. Great thread and I'd like to ask for some help here. I am looking for some elusive products as I prepare to cook from James Oseland's book Cradle of Flavor with the Cookbook of the Month.

                    I need to find DAUN SALAAM which is an important herb in Indonesian cooking; it is also known as Indian bay leaf (but not generally available in Indian markets). I have checked five markets with no luck. Any ideas where I could check around Boston with the best probability of finding it? I also need to find

                    *fresh turmeric
                    *fresh red holland chiles (long red ones)
                    *double black soy sauce -- preferably Koon Chun brand
                    *star anise
                    *daun pandan (screw pine, pandan leaf, pandanus leaf -- used as seasoning, native to Indonesia)

                    I was thinking about going to Kam Man Market in Quincy for these. South Shore would be easier for me than Boston itself. Any suggestions are most appreciated.

                    *foxy fairy*

                    12 Replies
                    1. re: foxy fairy

                      Star Anise is pretty common - Christina's spices in Inman should have it. Penzeys (Arlington) has it as well.

                      For the dark soy, here's the spread of Asian markets I'd try:

                      Downtown - C-mart (several locations..), Ming's (South end-ish) Outside Downtown - Reliable (Union Sq.), Super 88 (Malden or Dot)

                      Not sure if Kan Man would have it - never been there, but hear it mentioned a lot. Troung Thinh in Dot might be an option..

                      I am not too versed in the Indian-centric items.. there are some other threads around that reference this place in Providence, but that's a haul for you I suspect.

                      Five Star Supermarket, Inc
                      25 Bucklin Street
                      Providence RI
                      (401) 421-6400

                      1. re: grant.cook

                        Thanks, grant.cook. Actually, I live in Providence (but I'm in the Boston area frequently with my SO). I went to Five Star Market two days ago after reading about it here on chowhound, coincidentally! Great market! Sooo friendly, great produce, lots of dry goods available from various Asian countries. I was impressed. I found Indonesian sweet soy sauce there and tamarind paste. I believe the owner is Cambodian. He looked at my cookbook with me :)

                        1. re: foxy fairy

                          Try the mekong grocery store in Providence for frozen daun pandan.

                      2. re: foxy fairy

                        angkor thom market on shirley ave in revere usually has fresh turmeric root and indian bay leaves

                        1. re: foxy fairy

                          Hmm, let's see.

                          - what galangatron said about fresh turmeric. It is also sometimes available at at least one of the three Indian grocery stores on the same block of Moody Street in Waltham. (See note about Daun salaam).

                          - candlenuts are to be found all the way in the back in the Indonesian section of Ming's Supermarket, on Washington Street across the Turnpike from Chinatown. You can probably find the double black soy sauce in the same market.

                          - fresh red holland chiles. I recently purchased some on Shirley Avenue in Revere.

                          - Daun Salaam. for some strange reason Mings does not seem to carry this. I did not see it on Shirley Avenue (fresh or dried) when I was there, but it could just have been bad luck. I DID get some dried daun salaam at Patel's on Moody Street in Waltham recently. Be very careful about what you buy. Sometimes daun salaam is sold in Indian groceries in packages labeled as being bay leaves. However sometimes the bay leaves in those packages are really what most of us would call bay leaves, not daun salaam! So you have to look at the contents to figure out what it really is. It's not hard. Regular bay leaves have a central spine and some smaller straight branch-like ridges coming out of it. Daun salaam leaves have a central spine but also a good number of other ridges that start off at an angle to the central spine but then curve around so they are fairly much parallel to the center spine. See the photo for what I believe are daun salaam leaves.

                          I recently got some daun pandan. It was frozen, not dried. If memory serves, I found it at Ming's.

                          Good luck. I was cooking from that book a month or so ago and having a very good time of it.

                          1. re: PinchOfSalt

                            Cool, sounds like you take your food seriously...

                            1. re: StriperGuy

                              <blush> Thank you, I certainly enjoy trying to!</blush>

                          2. re: foxy fairy

                            foxy, what are you still looking for at this point? I think I have found everything except for daun pandan. Happy to share where I found them.

                            1. re: smtucker

                              Thank you smtucker and PinchofSalt and galangatron.

                              I still need the candlenuts, the daun salaam, fresh curry leaves, daun pandan, sweet soybean paste, red holland chiles.
                              Whole Foods is getting me the fresh turmeric -- produce dept ordered some for me yesterday.
                              I was thinking of checking out the Angkor Thom shop on Shirley Ave in Revere for the daun salaam, red holland chiles. I will also check the Kam Man Market, Quincy.
                              Today I got the star anise and the Koon Chun (yay, the one he recommends) brand double black soy sauce at Chinese American Mini Market Inc in Rolfe Square, Cranston (see post below).

                              This search is fun*

                              1. re: foxy fairy

                                I have two packets of the candlenuts and daun salaam arriving early next week from an online vendor. The fresh curry leaves have that new import prohibition, so I am still searching for them, along with the daun pandan. The sweet soybean paste I found at Super 88 in Malden and red holland chiles I bought at Wilson Farms. I would be happy to pass a bag each of the candlenuts and daun salaam to you if you can't find them locally, and you let me know where you find the other elusive ingredients!

                                1. re: smtucker

                                  YES yes yes yes yes! Oooo, how exciting. I just woke up and this is thrilling. I will totally take you up on the candlenuts and daun salaam if I don't get them in the next few stops. If I find the fresh curry leaves, I'll grab extra or tell you where I get them. I heard that one of the places I initially checked has daun pandan in the frozen section, so same deal on that. I was so obsessed with the daun salaam that I didn't ask for the daun pandan, so I will go back to find out. That store is:

                                  Five Star Supermarket, Inc
                                  25 Bucklin Street
                                  Providence RI
                                  (401) 421-6400

                                  Also, here is another thread I started, with some interesting info on Asian markets in RI and southern Mass:

                            2. re: foxy fairy

                              You can buy pandan leaves at the grocery stores in chinatown, they are in the frozen food section. Look for long plastic packets of things that look like palm leaves. You can also find pandan flavoring for baking, but it's not that great and usually is colored green (so baked goods are colored) so it would not be a good substitute in a rendang or curry.

                            3. Cheese -- the Formaggios, South End and original in Huron Village; Whole Foods Symphony is also pretty decent.


                              2 Replies
                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                Wasik's in Wellesley is the great cheese shop as well, with other gourmet goodies.

                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                  harry's cheese at haymarket also. he doesn't have the number of varieties that you'll find at formaggio, but a very good selection and prices are rock bottom. olives and meats too.

                                2. RE J. Pace, the Saugus store really has an incredible amount of the hard-to-find goods - imported capers and condiments, a full aisle of imported pastas, dozens of olives oils, great cheese selection (over 50 I think) and fresh meats galore - plus pretty god italian deli meats (unreal prosciut di parma). It will be interesting to see what they do when they expand this fall in downtown Saugus.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Bob MacAdoo

                                    They are not expanding in downtown Saugus. They will be down Main St closer to the Kmart (on the former site of the KofC, near the Avalon apt complex)

                                    1. re: Bob MacAdoo

                                      In our family, we call J. Pace, Mecca. A real, old-fashioned Italian market. Make the trip -- then make yourself a sandwich in the car with fresh cold cuts and a hunk of bread. Heaven.

                                      They have great pastries, too.

                                    2. I just enjoyed hitting up Food Pak Express in Boston, on Southampton St. Sort of a big Asian-focused Costco-ish restaurant supply house. If you need anything Asian in bulk (although they do have a lot of home-ish sized packages as well), check it out.. they do sell to the general public..

                                      1. Not enough has been said in this excellent thread about the Indian Grocery stores on Moody street in Waltham, they are all excellent more or less across from Tapeo and all excellent. Also New Deal seafood, in Cambridge should be mentioned.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: StriperGuy

                                          Yes.. one of the stores on Moody street blew me away with the wall of lentils and beans.. well lit, good layout.. it would be my go-to place for Indian supplies. New Deal I would second as well.. the staff will do (and suggest) pretty much anything to help you prep the fish. And you can't beat being able to pop over to Mayflower Poultry as part of the trip.

                                          1. re: StriperGuy

                                            hmmm did I use the word excellent often enough in the post above?