I was let on to a little food gem this morning and I sense my relationship with Vietnam will never be the same.
For those wondering, I've never actually been to Vietnam. The closest I've come is my lovely Vietnamese nail ladies who fill me up with stories about cheap massages, delicious foods and breathtaking scenery. To say that I ache to go is an understatement.
However, having just returned from Sieu Thi Dong Thanh Supermarket, I feel that I've now taken a mini-trip. And without further ado, my top five list of Why I Love Sieu Thi Dong Thanh Supermarket!
1. The Smell
The smell is really indescribable. It is a mix of fermented things, strange fish, unfamiliar herbs and dried earth. Almost sweet but not; kinda garlicky, but not; teetering on the edge of off-putting, but strangely reassuring. It lets you know that you are in a store that sells authentic Asian food.
As a person who is obsessed with food, I tend to think that I know a fair amount. The latest seasoning? I've been using it for years. A "new" spin on an old classic? Old hat to me. Well not in this store. I was like a kid in a candy shop who couldn't recognize half of the candy! After the first aisle I was already lost. It was an awesome feeling.
3. "Fresh Meat"
Everything was labeled "Fresh Meat" alongside the price. Everything. Basil? Oh no, that's fresh meat. Lemongrass stalks, again, fresh meat. Frozen seafood? You guessed it, fresh meat. All of this fresh meat did not help me wind my way through the maze of unfamiliar ingredients, but added to fantasticness of the experience.
4. I can't read Vietnamese
The items not labeled as "Fresh Meat" were labeled in Vietnamese. I can't read Vietnamese, so basically anything I choose is a gamble. I like gambling.
5. The prices
The pricing is the best part about shopping in Asian food stores. They don't gouge you.
There is no greenwashing or upscale branding or pretty bows around pretty jars. While sometimes I enjoy the narratives behind fancy products, I often just want to buy my food without all the bullshit. Asian stores are queen for this.
Suffice to say, this tucked away store is bursting with strange products, pickled and dried and salted and... mmmmmm, fermented. I am leaving fermentation for a future post. Today, my focus is pickle. Pickled lotus rootlets to be precise.
Pickled Rootlet Salad
- Four lotus rootlets, chopped on the diagonal (you can use more but they are really, really spicy)
- One carrot, grated
- Half a yellow pepper, sliced thin
- Half of a lime (and zest)
- One tbsp of fish sauce
- One tbsp of honey
- Handful of cilantro, roughly chopped
- Sesame seeds
- A drizzle of toasted sesame oil
Now add the cilantro and sesame seeds and stir together gently. Garnish with freshly plucked whole cilantro leaves.
Find them at:
Sieu Thi Dong Thanh Supermarket
"You must be a lotus, unfolding its petals when the sun rises in the sky, unaffected by the slush where it is born or even the water which sustains it."
Shonagh writes An Offal Experiment exploring the guts of food.