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Two grocery items I cannot find in France

A-1 sauce
Low-sodium chicken base in paste (not tablet) form (e.g., Better than Bouillon)

Help! I haul these back from the USA every summer.

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  1. You say you are a cook and you don't make your own chicken base ??

    18 Replies
    1. re: Parigi

      No, I do not. I spend enough time in the ktichen as it is.
      The recipes I prepare have a max of 6 steps.
      FYI I now make Boyer's Filet de Saint-Pierre aux Oignons Confits et au Beurre de Tomates with store-bought coulis of tomato. Beats pressing fresh tomatoes across a sieve and I can make it in all seasons now. Love fish dishes that call for red (Burgundy) wine.

      1. re: collioure

        Oh.
        What would happen if you had to do 7 steps?

        (Hold that parsley sprig, that's step 7!)

        1. re: collioure

          Process alert! For those who find making tomato coulis too much work, I suggest the lazy-man's method.

          Cut tomato in half crosswise and remove core. Flesh side down, grate the flesh using a large hole grater. Toss skins. Takes less time than opening a box and you have complete control over the quanity.

          1. re: mangeur

            But it doesn't take less time than opening a jar. And the product here in France is excellent. If it weren't, the French wouldn't buy it.

            1. re: collioure

              They're really good indeed but for slow-cooked dishes, I'm always happier to find the stuff from Italy.

          2. re: collioure

            May I recommend this tried and tested tip which may solve your problem.

            Why not take a little time next time you roast a chicken to turn the left over carcass into chicken stock, it only takes a few minutes to prep the vegetables and then simmer the carcass etc for the stock. Once you have strained it then freeze it in ice cube trays and then bag the cubes and keep in the freezer.

            So next time you need a little stock for you quick recipes you will have high quality home made stock in convenient sizes for your six step recipe...far more efficient than touring supermarkets.

            1. re: PhilD

              Excellent suggestions. May I add that once you've simmered yor chicken carcass for about 1 to 2 hours (that's usually how long it takes), you may strain it and reduce the stock to a glaze: that's chicken broth concentrate that may also be frozen in ice cubes as described.
              Can't see how commercial bouillon could ever beat that.

              1. re: Ptipois

                30-45 minutes in an autocuiseur, if you don't care about reducing the volume. That is easy enough that I always have fresh broth.

                1. re: PhilD

                  I always try to have homemade stock in the freezer, but one must admit that sometimes a small bouillon cube can help add depth to a dish pretty fast if your freezer is empty... It will not be as good as homemade, so no it will not be the night when you prepare your 3 star dish, but it can come in handy.

                  Like right now, I have 3 tupperwares full of fish stock in the freezer, but no chicken stock... so tonight I'm reaching for the cube.

                  1. re: Rio Yeti

                    Tell me next time, and we do a stock exchange undercover in Marché St Quentin.

                    1. re: Rio Yeti

                      Totally agree - always good to have something for an emergency.

                      However, stock is so easily made at home it seems odd that anyone would need to import some from "home". I totally get the need to have those key ingredients or items you can't get in your adopted country (for us it's Vegemite and liquorice bullets), but for most things there are good local substitutes or alternatives. And one of the best things about living in a new country is exploring all the new alternatives.

                      1. re: PhilD

                        I also sometimes use the gel cups when I'm making something that has plenty of its own liquid, but just needs some extra flavor oomph.

                        (The Maggi Legumes de Sud has a really nice tomatoe-y flavor that's outstanding when chucked into the braising liquid for meats)

                        1. re: sunshine842

                          That is one of the reasons one reduces stock to a jelly. The other is limited storage space. I've never had one of those huge fridges that are quite common in North America now, and don't want one. My stock is in little space-saving (square or oblong) containers.

                          I will pick up that Maggi stock if I ever find it here or when in France, though.

                          1. re: lagatta

                            My freezer in France was quite literally the size of 4 shoeboxes. I simply didn't have room to keep enough stock to keep me going for even a couple of weeks.

                            I also worked and had a family to feed (and still do)-- I made stock (and still do) as time allows, but I'm really not going to feel guilty about letting the horrors of industrial bouillon besmirch the sanctity of my kitchen, especially when I cooked 5-6 nights a week (and still do).

                2. re: Parigi

                  I can't fathom that. I always make my own chicken stock.

                3. Pick up a bottle of HP sauce from the British section of the supermarket. It's not exactly the same (I far, far prefer HP) but it has a similar consistency and flavor profile.

                  Look at the Maggi or Knorr bouillon starters -- they're in a little cup of gel, and they're so good that I bring them home from France.

                  17 Replies
                  1. re: sunshine842

                    OK. Thanks. I'll try the HP sauce.

                    Maggi/Knorr starters? OK. I'll look carefully.
                    Knorr makes a chicken base of the type I seek, but they don't sell it in France.

                    1. re: collioure

                      What about Kube D'Or? But I bought chicken base in Paris. Chef brand, Concentre de Volaille. I may have bought it in Detou. I can't make out the tiny nutritional info to tell if it's low sodium, however.

                      1. re: ScottnZelda

                        Kub Or is excellent, though not low-sodium.

                      2. re: collioure

                        here: http://www.maggi.fr/nos-produits-vos-...

                        available at all supermarches -- from Franprix through Intermarche through Carrefour.

                        and here http://www.knorr.fr/produits/categori...

                        I prefer the Maggi, but the Knorr are good.

                        1. re: sunshine842

                          I'll look at this rayon again soon. Thank you. Not sure I ever see the Knorr bouillon line down here.

                          1. re: collioure

                            it is *usually* (whenever you're talking about French supermarkets, there are rarely absolutes as to location) -- in with the spices and other aides de culinaire, and *not* with the soups.

                            I could find it pretty much anywhere -- the local Monoprix had it (in a town of 20 000) -- as did the Intermarche, the local Portuguese supermarket, Franprix, Carrefour, E Leclerc, and Auchan

                            1. re: sunshine842

                              I visit just about all the supermarkets. Please note I want a product that permits me to take a spoonful or two at a time - that is, not dehydrated tablets. I'll be looking next week.

                              1. re: collioure

                                this is a gel-type product that comes packaged in a little tub with a peel-off lid. Each little tub makes 2 cups (500ml) of broth/stock.

                                They're absolutely positively NOT dehydrated tablets.

                                They're a far deeper, cleaner flavor than the cubes, with at least a little bit less sodium.

                                http://www.ooshop.com/courses-en-lign...

                                http://www.auchandrive.fr/drive/Perpi...

                                (Note that the Auchan Drive reference is for the location in Perpignan)

                                If they're available at supermarket Drive, they're available in store. They're right there on the Maggi or Knorr displays, right next to the cubes.

                                1. re: sunshine842

                                  I'll look and consider, but I don't think that's going to do the trick. I go though an 8oz jar of Better than Bouillon concentrate every 6 months. Lots of recipes demand a little.

                                  1. re: collioure

                                    I'll bite -- why would that not work? Is it just the "I'm dipping this out of a big jar" factor?

                                    The tubs are roughly a generous tablespoon/cuilliére à soupe....how often do you use less than that?

                                    In five years, I found only a handful of things from the states that I absolutely could not find a substitute or workaround for in France -- I'm finding far more difficulty finding substututes for my favourite French items in the US!

                                    Now I buy a half-dozen of the Maggi Coeur de Bouillon every time I'm in France. They're far better then Better than Bouilllon.

                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                      Well, I often use less or more than that, but I'm looking at this item soon. Thank you.

                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                        I have a list of chiles and spices as long as my arm, which I bring back to France from the US. But this is probably particular to those who lived in the SW, and would be just as true if I lived in the other 3/4 of the US.

                                        1. re: tmso

                                          Try Epicerie Bruno in Paris -- I believe he ships, and he has a *very* respectable assortment of chiles and SW spice blends. (he even carries masa and tortilla presses)

                                          Barring that swing by Candlearia (just off Bld. Lenoir) and ask the lovely proprietress (from Oaxaca) if she might part with some of her peppers.

                            2. re: sunshine842

                              The Knorr Marmite de Bouillon looks like a winner. I will try it soon. Thank you very much.

                              Both problems are now solved.

                              1. re: collioure

                                good -- I truly do understand how important seemingly-insignificant things can be when you're a long way from home.

                              2. re: sunshine842

                                @sunshine842: Thank you for the links! My freezer is smaller than four shoeboxes. I'm going to need some workarounds in the future and your recommendations were very helpful.

                          2. I think la Grande Epicerie carries A-1 in the "American" section, along with Kraft Mac and Cheese and Fluffer Nutter, to name a few other items.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Nancy S.

                              And there's always Thanksgiving, on rue Saint-Paul.

                            2. Don't know about the chicken base, but amazon.fr has A1. I don't read a lot of French, it looks like the shipping is more than the sauce, though!

                              14 Replies
                              1. re: tacosandbeer

                                My American Market has A-1 at a ridiculous price + shipping. I live in the deep south of France. So shops in Paris aren't readily available. Thanks for the ideas so far.

                                1. re: collioure

                                  Humm, move to Paris, it's cheap here/

                                  1. re: John Talbott

                                    Wine is bloody cheap there, as compared to here in Montréal, but there is the little matter of much higher rents or mortgage payments...

                                    1. re: John Talbott

                                      I lost a reply here, but Paris can't compare to where I live. Sun, sea, mountains, charmed climate, great people, good food and wine.

                                      Real snowstorm once every five years.
                                      No mosquitoes either

                                    2. re: collioure

                                      Saw A-1 at Le Bon Marche, 5 0z bottle for a staggering 8 euros.

                                    3. re: tacosandbeer

                                      On Amazon.fr a small (5 oz.) bottle is 7.79 euro + 7.89 shipping. On Amazon.co.uk you can buy 6 bottles of the same size for £22,95 + 5.82 shipping to France (at least to where I live). Then again, I could swear I saw A1 sauce in my local Super U or Cora, so perhaps it would be a good idea to visit some supermarkets in your area...

                                      1. re: Bigos

                                        I'm looking at £6.59/bottle at Amazon.uk.

                                        No Cora down here, but I'll look at the only Super U nearby. Thank you.

                                        However, Amazon.uk also has Better than Bouillon at a very reasonable price, but they can't ship it here.

                                        1. re: collioure

                                          If you don’t have any luck with supermarkets, try www.amazon.de. They have 5 and 10 oz. bottles of A-1 sauce and they do ship to France (at least I vouch for delivery in Alsace). Amazon.uk has by far the largest, and the junkiest, choice of American grocery items, but often won’t ship to France. German Amazon has also quite a few things that may be interesting to a homesick expat, including fairly large selection of BBQ sauces.

                                          The www.iherb.com claims to send things internationally and they have quite a choice of bouillon jars.
                                          http://www.iherb.com/Better-Than-Boui...

                                          If everything else fails, try Knorr’s “bouillon de poule cubes bio”, with AB certification, available in most French supermarkets. If you need broth for cooking with, rather than serving as a clear soup, it is surprisingly good. In fact Knorr also has chicken paste as well. Before Knorr I used Bjorg Bio cubes and they were the best but the supermarket in my town discontinued it . Perhaps you will have more luck...

                                          Hope you will be able to stock up on those things. And if you are craving Aunt Jemima syrup, German Amazon has that too...:)

                                          1. re: Bigos

                                            by the way -- a "save some centimes" tip -- buy your maple syrup at one of the bio food stores -- I bought one-litre jugs of *real* maple syrup (from Canada) at the Bio-Coop for €22 -- not a terrible price, considering the freight and duties (when you're going to pay US$20 a quart anyway....) -- and far, far cheaper than the €6 little glass jars at the supermarket.

                                            They'll have molasses (melasse) at the health-food store, too -- good to remember for holiday baking.

                                            1. re: Bigos

                                              "try Knorr’s “bouillon de poule cubes bio”"

                                              Indeed, after using the little gelled bouillons for a while, I tried this one, and you said it right, it is surprisingly good, and seems less salty than other cubes.

                                              1. re: Bigos

                                                I don't find any A-1 sauce or KNORR Hühner Kraftbouillon (Glas) at amazon.de.

                                                Good ideas, but no payoff.

                                                1. re: collioure

                                                  Try these links for A-1 sauces.
                                                  For 5 oz. bottle:
                                                  http://www.amazon.de/Kraft-Foods-A1-S...

                                                  For 10 oz. bottle:
                                                  http://www.amazon.de/Kraft-Steaksauce...

                                                  Knorr chicken bio cubes, Knorr paste or Bjorg bio cubes should be available in your local supermarket, although getting Bjorg’s products could be a bit more difficult. If you can’t find Bjorg in any local supermarket, their website can help find the place near you that carries their products:
                                                  http://www.bjorg.fr/produits/nous-tro...

                                                  1. re: Bigos

                                                    Thank you. That does do the trick. Searched under A-1 instead of A1. Will order the 15oz.

                                                    And it comes as I am enjoying my first glasses of Ch d'Orschwihr Gewurztraminer Bollenberg, a wine I ordered blind with several Orschwihr Rieslings on the basis of one set of references in the Wine Enthusiast.

                                                    Salut! It's just superb with a minimum of residual sugar for a Gewurz.

                                                    1. re: Bigos

                                                      Well, I thought I was going to buy A-1 from Germany, but a couple of days after this discussion, I searched in the USA for the price and found large bottles occasionally on sale for less than $4.

                                                      So I waited until I saw the price myself on the supermarket shelves in the USA. Kraft has lowered the price, I believe. $5/15oz and there are generic alternatives for less.

                                                      So Amazon Germany will be an emergency source.
                                                      Thanks again.

                                          2. Picard will sometimes have little cubes of "fond de vollaile" and "fond de veau" that are pretty good and don't have too many weird ingredients. Otherwise that Knorr stuff isn't too bad...

                                            1. I don't recall where you live, Collioure. If in Paris, I can bring in a sackful of A-1 and leave it in a drop for you. I'm of no use for chicken base, since all I have ever tried are vile. You can contact me through my profile.

                                              4 Replies
                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                  Yup, I live about 15 minutes from Collioure, the pearl of Roussillon. Just drove down to Banyuls-sur-Mer today. The Cote Vermeille is just gorgeous. That little trajet always puts me in a good mood.

                                                  1. re: collioure

                                                    That is such a beautiful region.

                                                    1. re: lagatta

                                                      Yeah, I've been living in paradise for 12 years now, and I'm never leaving. I feel truly blessed.

                                              1. Bringing a jar or two of Better Than Bouillon does not seem onerous.to me.

                                                9 Replies
                                                1. re: GH1618

                                                  but not everybody makes it back to the states in time for another grocery run.

                                                  With the exception of a few pretty specialty items (corn syrup for pecan pies, malted milk powder, cinnamon gum), I found it far easier from a time and money standpoint, and far better for my skills as a cook to just find a substitute or a workaround. What little I couldn't work around, I either brought back when I *did* get back to the states or only ate when we were stateside.

                                                  Bloom where you're planted.

                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                    You can get Horlicks malted milk powder from the Indian and Pakistani grocers in the 10th.

                                                  2. re: GH1618

                                                    You're right but I'm always trying to slim down my list of things to haul back from the USA. This year I've got a new laptop, two sets of king size sheets, and gym shoes for my gym prof.

                                                    Just eliminated A-1 sauce thanks to Bigos.

                                                    FYI buying a laptop from the USA offers more choice, lower prices and software in English. You just need a 110/220 adapteur plug.

                                                    1. re: collioure

                                                      I didn't know king-sized beds existed in France. My computer software installed is in French, but the Québec keyboard is a modified QWERTY, not an AZERTY.

                                                      I don't like using an English-defined keyboard even when writing documents in English, as there are always so many proper nouns in French with accents. The French keyboard is also fine for Italian, and I've memorized the few keystrokes I need for Spanish.

                                                      We can get a lot of products from France, of course, but often they are more expensive here.

                                                      1. re: lagatta

                                                        I brought my king size bed from the USA 12 years ago.

                                                        And I have a French clavier too.

                                                      2. re: collioure

                                                        head out to a computer store and just buy the pigtail that goes from the brick into the wall.

                                                        I bought an awesome set for my work laptop in the UK that has a UK and a Continental plug...combine that with the US one and I'm good to go pretty much anywhere (£65/$80, I think the brand was Kensington)

                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                          Yeah you can get the same for a couple euros at Montgallet.

                                                          1. re: yakionigiri

                                                            this was the brick AND the pigtails.

                                                            I agree that the pigtails are cheap; however, I had to buy a new brick as an electrical short had killed the one I left the US with.

                                                            THAT will never be a couple of euros. :/

                                                          2. re: sunshine842

                                                            No, Yakiongirl is correct. You needn't spend anywhere near that much, even for a universal adapter;

                                                        1. I haven't answered til now hoping my brain would click in with the memory, but 4 days later, it hasn't.
                                                          I picked up some A1 in a local place and it wasn't expensive, but where is the question.
                                                          I'm no expert on what stores stock what items but I have to Franprix's within a block and the items carried are not identical.

                                                          13 Replies
                                                          1. re: John Talbott

                                                            I think you are in Paris, and I am about as far from Paris as you can get and still be in France. I think there are lots of A-1 sauce loving Americans in Paris, and there are very few here (and I like it that way).

                                                            However, I believe 1 in 11 residents here is English and the supermarkets here have sections of English products, but they have no sections of American products. There apparently are a few very small Franprix's here. I'll look in if I can find one.

                                                            1. re: collioure

                                                              Yes, in the southwest, you are more likely to find British people than Americans. Also Germans, sometimes Dutch. I have friends near Albi who are originally Belgian (but they speak fluent French, as well as Flemish).

                                                              1. re: lagatta

                                                                For a long time I thought I lived in the southwest, but actually I live in the deep, deep south. Occasionally I have hiked near Lamanère which is the southermost village in metropolitan France.

                                                              2. re: collioure

                                                                "but they have no sections of American products."
                                                                My Monoprix sure has a lot of Tex-Mex stuff but maybe that doesn't qualify as truly American, on the other hand it's not truly Mexican either.

                                                                1. re: John Talbott

                                                                  nobody's quite figured out what the French-supermarket take on Mexican products actually is....

                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                    I am now making tacos for one of my easy lunches. The Mexican sections at both Leclerc and Auchan seem rather well frequented. The Auchan section is the first thing you meet if you walk in the main entrance.

                                                                    The long held French tendency to avoid spicy foods seems to be breaking down.

                                                                    1. re: collioure

                                                                      but for those of us who live or have lived in areas with a heavily Latino population, the offering definitely falls under "any port in a storm"

                                                                      It's decidedly just okay, and it really bears no resemblance to the food consumed in heavily-Latino areas.

                                                                      (THIS is an area it's definitely best to make your own)

                                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                                        Well, I tried making my own taco spice and I do not like the recipe I find everywhere online. Back to El Paso (or to Amigos when I can find it).
                                                                        The Salsa Mexicana Casera from La Costeña is rather good.
                                                                        However, the corn tortillas here are expensive and tasteless.

                                                                        1. re: collioure

                                                                          La Costena (can't find the alt-key combination) IS pretty good, because that is produced in Mexico.

                                                                          Epicerie de Bruno in Paris (yes, I know you're a long way from Paris) produces several very, very good Mexican and Tex-Mex blends: http://www.lepiceriedebruno.com/

                                                                          He also will ship for those a long way from Paris.

                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                            I tried all the Mexican items available in my local stores and found them to be mediocre at best. Much better tortillas can be purchased on-line: http://www.mexgrocer.co.uk/
                                                                            Since the store is in UK, the cost of shipping is somewhat high, but those blue corn tortillas are sure worth it!

                                                                            1. re: Bigos

                                                                              Bruno also carries a variety of dried and ground peppers, and bags of masa harina to *make* your own tortillas (he also sells tortilla presses, but told me that they sell faster than he can bring them in....)

                                                                                1. re: yakionigiri

                                                                                  Their website is still active.

                                                                                  I heard that Bruno has been ill of late, but haven't heard that he's closed up shop.

                                                            2. Re A1 sauce (which is a complete mystery to me), the mention of the English connection suddenly reminds me of something. Have you tried making home-made replica A1 sauce ? At a stall at a village fête in the Dordogne (where there is a sizeable community of British expats) I encountered an English lady demonstrating the making of her replica version of HP sauce and all the Brits were oohing and aahing after tasting it. She insisted that she could re-create almost every bottled this or that at a fraction of the retail price. I'm sure she's not the only home cook in the world to have the same idea. So google "recipe A1 sauce" and see if there's anything worth trying. Hint: pressing/ mashing the mixture through a sieve and then re-straining it seemed to be the key in achieving the correct consistency.

                                                              17 Replies
                                                              1. re: Parnassien

                                                                "Hint: pressing/ mashing the mixture through a sieve and then re-straining it seemed to be the key in achieving the correct consistency."

                                                                Sad that skipping these two last steps might result in a rather decent sauce. Or not. Not mother's milk.

                                                                1. re: Parnassien

                                                                  I think the goal was to not have to make it. It's not difficult to approximate; Japanese tonkatsu/okonomiyaki/takoyaki sauces are quite similar.

                                                                  1. re: Parnassien

                                                                    like HP, a key ingredient in A1 is tamarind sauce...which would prove to at least as much of a challenge to find in the countryside as A1 itself...

                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                      "I think the goal was to not have to make it."

                                                                      1. re: yakionigiri

                                                                        I suspect you have never lived overseas - sometimes its tricky to get products from home do the idea of making it is pretty cool.

                                                                        1. re: PhilD

                                                                          I've lived most of my life "overseas." The OP stated he did not wish to make the product, but rather, buy it. If OP wanted to approximate it, other cultures have done the same without the exact ingredients.

                                                                          1. re: yakionigiri

                                                                            but most expats figure out how to make the stuff they long for. Garlicky kosher-style dill pickles and corned beef were two of my bigger successes (that I still tend to make rather than buy....).

                                                                            I had a blast learning how to make them, and looked at it as a chance to flex my culinary abilities -- and the ability to break things down and replicate them serves me well, even in my home country.

                                                                            A1 just happens to be one of the few (like cinnamon chewing gum and malted-milk powder) that the ingredients are harder to find than the finished product.

                                                                            1. re: yakionigiri

                                                                              Sorry I wasn't clear: I meant if you grow up somewhere and spend most of your life there then move overseas later in life - that is when you miss the tastes of home.

                                                                              And obviously its easier to but something if you can, but the advice on making it at home is pretty good and it may not have crossed the OP's mind that they could.

                                                                              1. re: PhilD

                                                                                "if you grow up somewhere and spend most of your life there then move overseas later in life - that is when you miss "
                                                                                My husband does not miss corn dog. I miss congee like mad. (No I don't. Now I make my own. With chicken stock, not with supermarket cubes.)

                                                                          2. re: yakionigiri

                                                                            Yup, I do not want to make either A1 or chicken stock.

                                                                            However, I am now buying much better steaks, and the correct "sauce" for them is a very good bottle of wine.

                                                                            The first time I bought a bunch of steaks at Intermarché's semiannual sale of Jean Rozé beef (normally 20€/Kg), I though it very close to butcher quality, but the second batch is very disappointing and crying out for A1.

                                                                            1. re: collioure

                                                                              but even the Rozé is still industrially-processed beef.

                                                                              At least take the two steps behind you and buy it from the butcher -- they even post the certificate of the cow on the front of the case.

                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                One of my two butchers buys the beef of the prize winner every year. He hangs all the medals in his shop.
                                                                                If all these Rozé steaks are disappointing, I plan to write to Intermarché.

                                                                                1. re: collioure

                                                                                  "If all these Rozé steaks are disappointing..." How many did you buy, is it a frozen bulk pack?

                                                                                  1. re: PhilD

                                                                                    I bought about a dozen fresh and I froze them.
                                                                                    They taste like any other supermarket steak.

                                                                                  2. re: collioure

                                                                                    again -- I'll bite -- why would you buy industrially-produced steaks, freeze them, and then expect them to be anything better than industrially-produced frozen steaks?

                                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                      The first batch I bought was very good, close to butcher quality. This meat usually sells at 20€/Kg.

                                                                                      I believe the frist batch had thicker steaks too.

                                                                          3. re: Parnassien

                                                                            "Re A1 sauce (which is a complete mystery to me),"
                                                                            My portions of beef steak so exceed my stomach's capacity that I bring a lot of it home and there's nothing like A-1 with tiede beefsteak at night (for me).