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Jul 13, 2009 06:16 PM

Asian Vegetables: Super 88 Allston vs Russo's in Watertown

This morning I had some errands to do in Boston before heading back to Western MA. I cooked a big Chinese meal tonight, and some of the errands included picking up ingredients.

First stop was Super 88 - in fact, I had intended for this to be the only stop. I hadn't been to Super 88 in 4 years. WHAT HAPPENED? It is way smaller, they didn't have anything very good, produce section was kinda sad looking, meat section was even oh man. I was hoping to find some more obscure Asian vegetables, but the selection was really poor. I haven't really been following the Boston Chowhound boards recently so I don't know what the story is here, but I hope Super 88 gets better soon.

I bought quite a bit at Super 88 even though I wasn't thrilled with the quality, but then decided to stop by Russo's on the way home. I have only been to Russo's once before, and I didn't pay much attention to the produce section there on my when I got there, I kicked myself, since they had EVERYTHING I needed, prices were good, and quality seemed great. So I still bought a few more things.

I was most excited to find wosun (lettuce stem or celtuce), but I also saw most vegetables that were common in China when I was there in June - sweet potato leaves, water spinach, green chives, pea pod leaves, Chinese celery, long squash, fuzzy squash, etc. etc. They really seem to have everything - I am Russo's new biggest fan. They even had fresh mangosteen, from Philippines I think....super expensive but not bad looking (5 dollars for 4 small fruits)

Now that I know how good the Asian vegetable variety is at Russo's, I won't bother with Super 88 anymore. Hopefully in Chinatown there are still some good produce places though..

That's about it for now...

Dave MP

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  1. so right dave. I couldn't even get sesame oil at the Super 88 last week and the bok choy was ugly. Russos has lovely greens, long beans, chives, and pretty much everything I need. I ended up getting expensive sesame oil and not the kind I like at Whole Foods. Who ever heard of an Asian market without sesame oil?

    1. Super 88's problems are ongoing and well-documented -- the selection (not just of produce, but of all items) tends to ebb and flow, but they are definitely in a very bad trough right now at the Allston store, and folks have said that other locations are even worse.

      But yes, one of the great secrets of Russo's is that they have outstanding Asian veg. My personal favorites are the long beans, pea pod leaves and what they term the "junior baby bok choy," so small and tender that if you stir-fry them longer than about 45 seconds, they're ruined.

      1. The Super 88 people invested too much in the worlds largest casino in Vietnam, which we hear nothing about. I also heard some stores have been sold.

        1. Protip: best Chinese vegetables can be found on Harrison at the corner of Kneeland, at least on weekend mornings. Some ladies are always selling 3 or 4 types of green vegetable, at roughly 50% of Super88's price, and they're all fresher than the kind you'll find in plastic bags at stores. Lychees were typical price last time I saw them there (4 lbs for $10)

          1. Wow, the Allston Super 88 is like a ghost market. Some produce, meat, etc., but almost nothing on the shelves adn the lobster tanks were empty. They did have a few fresh rice noodles, which was what I was really looking for, but not much else. Hard to imagine they can survive long.

            2 Replies
            1. re: bear

              Omigod, I went today,to pik up a can of coconut milk, thinking what Dave MP was posting about was just a reaction to what we've seen th past 9 months or so..WRONG!
              This time, it's really jumped the shark....Bulk cans of soy paste spreading out over a whole aisle, likewise with a case of ramen-type noodles....No coconut milk, none flavor of curry paste,...Truly weird...
              Some of the veggies looked like they were picked up today, as well as some tofu, cuz that's all they can probably buy day to day...I'm a little leary of anything refrigerated at this point, tho, becasue they seem to be shuffling it around to fill space...

              1. re: galleygirl

                So true. It felt really bizarre. Agreed that some things looked fresh and good, which seemed even stranger. My son tried to check the expiration date on the rice noodles because he was a little nervous given the state of the store, but alas there was none. (I don't think they usually have a date). I took a chance anyway and hopefully they are okay.

                I won't be back anytime soon, and I can't imagine they will last without a miracle. I hope H Mart has fresh rice noodles!