Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Halfway To Hong Kong

When my sister and I were young, we got dragged around to what felt like hundreds of different food stores.  My mom was of the mind that different stores had different strengths, and as such, a shopping trip by definition had to include multiple stores.  And when it came time to buy seafood, we went downtown to Chinatown.  Oakland Chinatown, that is.

My most vivid memories of these little jaunts all involve buying crabs, which we did often during crab season.  We always bought live crabs, but my mom couldn't stand boiling them live at home so she had the fishmonger cleaver them in half for her.  Of course crabs have quite decentralized nervous systems so the legs continued to flail long after the cleaver had fallen.  And as they always gave us the crabs in a plastic shopping bag, any residual leg movement was make audible by the crinkling plastic.  Driving home with the bag in the back seat, crinkling away (in retrospect I'm sure most of the crinkling had to do with the movement of the car, not of the crab) I was totally traumatized, but the trauma was forgotten by dinnertime that night.

So all of this is to say that I have no fear of shopping for food in Chinatowns generally.  However, New York Chinatown is certainly not Oakland Chinatown.  New York's is more crowded, less orderly and there do seem to be more...unfamiliar, shall we say, items on display.  So I have always been reluctant to really delve into the bowels of the place, even though I know there are real gems to be had.  But I've found my stepping stone...the Hong Kong Supermarket.

This is apparently a chain in New York, and there are locations from East Broadway to Flushing, but my store of choice is the one on Elizabeth and Hester.

The place is truly a supermarket...one stop shopping for anything and everything Asian.  And some things British (much like Hong Kong itself!).  McVities Biscuits, every Thai, Chinese and Japanese condiment you would ever look for, detergent, cheap Shiseido hair products, Korean candies, veggies, and the list goes on.

One of my favorite parts is the noodle/won ton wrapper section.  Udon noodles, little egg noodles, tofu sheets, won ton wrappers in every shape imaginable.

And the fish section is really lovely (and CHEAP).

You can order one of the live fish swimming around in the tanks, or choose from the dead ones.

The flash got in the way in this photo, but the eye on that red snapper was perfectly clear.  And the thing was only $3.99 a pound.

The prices on these shrimp are pretty hard to beat.  I bought some of the ones in the back for $4.99 a pound.  And they were great!  And much much cheaper than the comparable product at Whole Foods, which was $15.99 last time I checked.

The meat selection is pretty extensive and really cheap, although I'll be honest, I tend not to look for bargains on meat.  You hear so many horrible stories about mistreated animals and unsanitary practices all in the name of cheap meat that I prefer to stick with my west village butcher when it comes to roasts, pork chops and the like.  But if you're looking for something a little out of the ordinary, like silky chickens, this is your place.

Additionally, they sell both young and mature chickens if you're interested in a stewing hen.

And have you been wondering where to get your beef pien?  Look no further.

So perhaps after a few months of shopping here, I can move onto the stalls with the fish flopping around in the styrofoam boxes and the chickens with the head and feet still on.  One can dream, at least.


Terry B said...

I've read about the great bargains in New York's Chinatown, particularly with produce. Your story about the crabs reminds me of going to Soulard Farmers Market in St. Louis with our then three-year-old daughter Claire. My wife Marion had bought some live crayfish, which fascinated Claire. So Marion took one from the paper sack and showed her how to safely pick it up behind the claws. As little Claire wandered through the market with the angry, flailing, tiny crayfish held out in front of her, the crowds parted to let her through.

Anonymous said...

I wish there was a place in Nashville where I could order live fish swimming around in tanks. Lucky.

Joyce said...

This would be a neat place to shop and very inexpensive. I wish there was a store like this near me. Do you do your whole shopping thereor just for seafood?

Laura [What I Like] said...

Terry - That is an image for the ages. I love it!

Rebekka - I should probably mention that I've gone in there a couple of times and see fish floating upside down in the tanks, so I wouldn't get too jealous.

Joyce - Fairway is pretty much the only place I do all of my shopping at once. Most other places I find are good for a few things. Hong Kong Supermarket is great for fish, I like the Japanese yams, any asian condiment I'm looking for, and those little fruit flavored Korean jellied candies.

wambalus said...

the sound of those crabs rustling in the back seat has never left me ...

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