HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


Do you tend to buy your ethnic ingredients from the same country origin?

By ethnic, I mean non-American.

I drove to my local Indian store to buy my Indian spices. When I bought my fish sauce, I prefer it is from Vietnam. Yesterday, I was buying soba noodle, and I was flipping over each of the bags to see if it is made in Japan. This is far from a hard rule, and I am especially relax when I know the background of the product. For example, I was buying my soy sauce from Yuet Hueng Yuen despite that it was made in Canada at the time. Still, there is definitely a bias -- as small as it may be.

What about you? Any preference?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Buy ethnic. yes, though in the following manner.

    For products used in Japanese and Chinese cuisine, as many products as possible from Japan and Taiwan, avoiding wherever possible anything from the mainland. Products from Korea and Vietnam for specific ingredients related to those cuisines.

    1 Reply
    1. re: wattacetti

      I do follow this one. I always check dried shitakes, for example, to make sure they're not from the mainland (the local ones taste better anyways).

      I go ingredient by ingredient. For miso, buying the Japan brand is definitely worth the extra money, compared to the Taiwanese brands. Bacon - imported over local, because the local version just doesn't taste the same.

      Vegetables - in general, local if possible, but I prefer imported grapes, for pesticide reasons (grapes are hard to scrub, and I like eating the skins).

      Wine - *definitely* imported. I'll use vinegar as a substitute rather than use local wine. Or possibly turpentine. (Yes, it's that bad).

      For me it does depend on the cost/quality/availability matrix. If I can get something locally made that's cheaper and good enough for what I'm doing, I'll buy it. If the imported stuff is worth the cost, or the local version doesn't taste as good, then I'll spring for the more expensive version.

    2. I find when I go out of my way to get a recipe exactly authentic it bleeds all the magic out of the dish. It's better to do your best but not go over-board in the sourcing department.

      1. I am biased towards the country of origin for specific ingredients. Cabernet Sauvignon or a Chablis from France. herb and spice blends definitely reflect country of use. I use nah prik on Thai and Vietnamese dishes and Sriracha on US editions of those cuisines.

        So I am definitely inclined to look for country of origin.

        1 Reply
        1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

          Same here. We also bring ingredients back from countries we visit.

        2. yep.
          Greek ingredients come from Greece.
          not France (you'd be surprised!)
          not the middle east
          not burgaria
          not Italy
          From Greece.

          1. It depends. I do a lot of Chinese cooking, but many ingredients or produce are now made or grown in the US: tofu, oyster sauce, noodles, sausages, countless fruits and veggies, etc.

            2 Replies
            1. re: raytamsgv

              < I do a lot of Chinese cooking, but many ingredients or produce are now made or grown in the US: tofu.....>

              Yes, but you probably buy tofu made in US from a Chinese company, as opposed to tofu made in US from a US company, right? This is what I did for the Canadian made soy sauce. It was made by a company which has a Chinese root.

              For example,


              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                Yes, a number of them are companies with Chinese roots but the factories and fields are in the US. But there are other smaller, local companies that manufacture their products in the US from US ingredients, including tofu, noodles, and sausages. The produce is almost entirely grown in the US or Mexico.

            2. Many of my "American" dishes are made with ingredients from foreign lands, such as vegetables, fruits and some meats and fish. I try to buy local just for the economic impact and freshness but that doesn't mean my "American" dishes are off because of such foreign purchases.

              There are some ethnic ingredients that one cannot get in many cities, particulalry some spices/vegetables used in Indonesian cooking. And if you decide on a dish you don't have time to order on line.

              As there are dozens of perfect stews, soups and gumbos in this country , dishes in other countries vary by district, taste, and family. There are curries all over the world. so one ingredient doesn't always mean authenticity.

              It is nice to get an ingredient from its homeland but that doesn't mean it is necessarily better. It may just be that the manufacturer can afford to export (or can afford to alter to export to pass Ag regs).

              The good news in some areas is that local ethnic farmers are producing many of the rare Asian vegetables and spices.

              1. I am very particular about some things-
                Dijon mustard from france.
                Pimenton from spain.
                Soba from japan.
                Coconut milk from thailand.
                Bulgolgi from korea.

                I wouldn't call myself a snob, but i read every ingredient as well as where it was made before purchasing-regardless of the store.

                I diligently avoid foods made in china for reasons i won't elaborate on here.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Ttrockwood

                  <Coconut milk from thailand. >

                  Really? :)

                  <but i read every ingredient as well as where it was made>

                  I read about 70-80% of the time.

                2. Nope; I live in a foodie wasteland. I love ethnic foods but there is no authentic source for most of what I cook. I shop where products are available. It may be a walmart or other grocery chain; if I happen to go out of the area, I'll find what ethnic shops are available so I can bring things home. I do read ingredients though.

                  1. I could never get my Indian food to taste quite right
                    untill my brother who lives in Delhi brought me an array of Indian spices from India. It made all the difference.

                    1. I prefer to buy my produce locally, whether it is cauliflower or gailan. Luckily I have always either lived in an area with a large Asian population or grown my own vegetables, so I've never faced too much difficulty.

                      For everything else, I just go with the products that I think are best. I use a Thai oyster sauce (Maekrua) as well as a Thai fish sauce for non-Thai recipes because they have the best flavor. I buy dumpling wrappers made in Brooklyn because they are fresh. I buy a popular brand of green chutney that also happens to be made in the USA. Certainly there are items whose terroir can have a significant influence -- wine, olives, spices, cheese -- but apart from those more delicate ingredients, I have no hard and fast rules about origins.

                      1. I am Chinese and I diligently avoid all Asian cookings in the US because they just won't come out right imo. The eggs I used to eat back in China were from chicken that were raised very differently (they pecked fresh grass and worms let out all day in the field etc), my grandparents picked young chick or old hen or young rooster depending on the style of dishes, and some of the cookwares I just can't find them in the US. I simply give up eating ethnic food. The only time I enjoyed Japanese food was at a Japanese couple's. They had to order fish from Alaska :( But their wasabi is soo good.