Want to recreate overpriced pad thai (because, let’s face it, who can afford to eat out in Stockholm)? Want to impress your mates with a sushi party but don’t know where to find ingredients? YLC to the rescue!
Every self-respecting city has legions of Asian grocers. Stockholm is catching the trend like a hipster in heat, but the stores can be a minefield of pungent, slimy and scary textures for the uninitiated. Fear not, YLC’s guide will help you tick gochujang, shrimp paste and lemongrass off your shopping list like a pro.
First, mental preparation.
You need to be prepared before diving into the jungle of Asian supermarkets. You’ve got to have the right mindset. When you enter a store, remember:
1. Be adventurous
2. Poke, prod, sniff and squeeze (politely of course). You’ve got five senses, use ’em!
3. Ask advice from shoppers and staff about ‘thousand year old eggs’ or ‘vacuum packed jellyfish’
4. Use Asian Market Shopper or Asian Ingredients 101 apps (yes, they exist) to decode mysterious ingredients
5. Giggle at hilariously translated English labels
6. Buy something awesome sounding each time
Mapping the Landscape
Most stores follow a basic format. The guide below helps you find stuff and prevent you from hyperventilation when confronted with jars of fermented anchovies that give surströmming a run for its money.
You’ll find enough ramen brands to last you through a zombie uprising á la The Walking Dead. Also test your strength with 20 kg sacks of rice (under 200 SEK). Huge selections of pulverized, whole and semi-crushed flavoring agents – think ring-of-fire inducing chilies or the components for a seriously divine curry – all for a pittance.
Boost your health with fox nuts and wolf berries or buy tea in all its Asiatic varieties – just because you can.
The backbone of Asian cuisine, what would we do without our bottles of witches brew? Stock up on curry pastes (Mae Ploy or Aroy-D), ‘Cock’ brand sriracha (I’m not joking), at least 10 varieties of soy sauce, anything by Lee Kum Kee for authentic Cantonese and fish sauce – the simultaneously icky smelling yet delicious concoction of fermented anchovy runoff (‘Baby’ or ‘Squid’ brand). Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.
Dozens of soy incarnations from tofu (organic, silken, firm and fried) to tempeh, bean sprouts and soy milk.
Forget the additive laden, expensive concoctions from Swedish supermarkets, this stuff is cheap and fresh.
The only ingredients being water, beans and sugar (“osötad” means unsweetened). Ogle the Asian vegetables, fresh herbs, kimchi, green papayas, mushrooms, cured meats, spiky durian (doubles as both bludgeoning weapon or formidable sweet fruit) and dream up your next culinary creation.
Want exotic species of fish or fowl to liven up your meal? Asia’s wet markets now come in frozen form. Prawns, octopus, mussels, fresh and saltwater fish, ducks and geese are available for prices that won’t make you sob hysterically. Also find wonton skins, dim sum and hot pot ingredients to help you survive Swedish winter. Or “spring”, for that matter.
Cleavers, chopsticks, steamers, pots, pestles, mortars and pretty porcelain all sold for peanuts. Pick up a proper wok and ditch your crappy IKEA one. There’s also incense, makeup, cleaning products and everything you never knew you needed.
If you haven’t tried Asian junk food, you have not lived!Change that with wasabi peas, mochi, Pocky sticks, prawn chips, lychee juice and neon coloured drinks .
If the “inspired” flavors don’t entice you, the psychedelic packaging with doe-eyed anime characters will.
Buy Lotte, Nong Shim and Oishi brands.
Now you are ready to tackle Stockholm’s slew of Asian supermarkets! But there are a lot of ’em – why not start off with one of YLC’s TOP FIVE?
Featured Image: Denna Jones/Flickr (file)