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May 15, 2011 12:45 PM

asian groceries in Paris

I'm visiting friends in Paris and am planning to cook a nice asian dinner for them. I'm planning the menu before I leave so that I can bring all the necessary spices/sauces from my pantry. However, I'm not sure about the availability of fresh asian ingredients in Paris. Are there markets that carry Thai basil, galanga, cilantro, ginger, chilis, and lemongrass? Where are they located and are they easy to access by Metro? Thanks for your help!

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  1. For southeast Asian ingredients: supermarkets in the 13th arr, Place Maubert, rue de l'évangile, rue Belleville.
    They are all accessible by metro.

    10 Replies
    1. re: Parigi

      Thank you Parigi! Have you seen Thai basil at these markets? I'm trying to decide whether a curry should be on the menu, and Thai basil is a key ingredient in most Thai curries.

      1. re: felice

        I have seen it but can't guarantee that every shop has it every day, sorriest.

        1. re: felice

          Kaffir limes and lime leaves may be trickier to get, when I lived in Paris I could never find them, and to me these fresh ingredients are equally crucial. IIRC I could get thai basil or at least substitute regular basil without too much problem. The rest of the ingredients are quite simple to find as well as pea and apple eggplants and shrimp paste.

          1. re: PhilD

            Thank you both - looks like I need to plan for the possibility that some of the harder to find ingredients may not be available. I was thinking of smuggling in one or two leaves...

            1. re: PhilD

              I live in the 13th, and Thai basil as never been a problem. kaffir limes I have found, but not fresh leaves, only frozen and dried ones, so maybe you might actually want to smuggle a leaf or twelve.

              1. re: kerosundae

                Frozen lime leaves are as good as fresh, generally: this is one product that freezes extremely well. I use loads of lime leaves in my cooking and the first thing I do when I bring them home is throw them in the freezer.

                1. re: vorpal

                  Vorpal - I must disagree, I find the frozen ones to be very poor substitutes, maybe I am lucky as I can often get extremely fresh ones which have the wonderful fragrance that is lost when they are frozen.

                  1. re: PhilD

                    Perhaps they're very old? Then again, my experiences are slightly different: I buy mine fresh and freeze them myself, and then use them up in a month or so. I find there is no loss of flavour or aromatic when done in that way, but maybe buying pre-frozen leaves gives you very old, stale ones? I don't know.

                    1. re: vorpal

                      Which is probably the problem if you buy frozen in the shops rather than DIY. Hence the reason I only buy fresh - you just don't know how old they are. Hence David Thompson's encouragement to only use fresh.

            2. re: felice

              Thai basil is very common at those markets. Most of the Thai herbs are available. Makrut/Combava (which some call Kaffir) = leaves only frozen, fruit generally available.

              For Thai shopping, the 13e is recommended (plenty of produce flown-in from Thailand).

          2. When I lived there last year, I was often (but not always!) able to find most of those ingredients (including Thai basil) at VS Co. Cash & Carry, 197 rue du Faubourg Saint Denis. While there are a lot of Indian/Sri Lankan places in that immediate area, I always found VS to have the widest selection of veggies and herbs.

            3 Replies
            1. re: anakalia

              Perfect! I'm staying in the 17th and that is only one metro stop away. That was the golden nugget of information I was hoping for. Thank you!

              1. re: felice

                Rue Fbd St Denis - in the 10th arr - is not one metro stop away from the 17th.
                From Villiers to Strasbourg St Denis, it's already 7 metro stops.

                1. re: Parigi

                  And it does not really offer Thai produce, which is another problem. Of course you'll find things that are common to Indian and Southeast-Asian cooking i.e. bananas, ginger, mangoes, red shallots, but I wouldn't pick that neighborhood as my source of supply if I wanted to cook Thai food. I would rather métro to Belleville. I have never found Thai basil at VS Co. or at any of the Faubourg-Saint-Denis Indian stores, even less so the essential galanga, lemongrass, makrut limes,Thai chillies, etc. Better be safe than sorry and go where you're sure to find everything.