So today I spent my lunch break picking up some groceries, and thought I’d share a couple of my favourite places for vegan yumminess. I live in the dreaded commuter belt, so I take advantage of working in the city centre for getting hold of things that my local supermarket just doesn’t get the turnover to keep in stock, or just wouldn’t get in.
First up is the Asia Market. I adore this place.
From the outside, it doesn’t look like there’s much going on. If you look in the window as you go by, you’ll see a room with posters on the wall and a small table. I walked past it for years, not realising you have to go down the back and turn the corner to enter the cave o’ wonders.
A small but well stocked fruit and veg section, with all sorts of hard to get bits and pieces. Today they had two watermelons about the size of a football for the princely sum of five euro. Tomorrow they’ll have fresh okra – it really does vary from day to day.
I know that a lot of people are confused or intimidated by these markets, but the trick is just to dive in and look around. The staff are generally more than happy to help with translations on anything that doesn’t have an English sign or sticker, and here they’ll even offer help with recipes.
There are also a huge amount of vegan friendly options – some will be labelled vegetarian, some might even be labelled pork flavour, as I found out recently with some accidently vegan noodles! This mock chicken is really versatile. Doesn’t look great straight out of the can, but roast or fry it and it crisps up nicely for adding to all sorts of dishes. It’s basically seitan – wheat gluten – with seasonings.
This curry sauce is marked as vegetarian – or containing no meat – but is accidently vegan too, and is the same curry sauce used for katsu curry in places like Wagamama. I also use it on occasion as a curry dip for chips, as most chip shop curry sauce contains dairy or meat stock.
These noodles on the top shelf are not marked as vegan or vegetarian, but are again, accidently vegan. These are hot and sour soup flavour, and while they’re very much in the junk food category (mostly due to the salt content) I like to keep one at work for days when I have to work through lunch, or I’ve done something silly like forgetting my lunch and wallet at the same time. With all of these flavoured noodles, when looking through ingredients for the usual suspects, keep an eye out for the word “flake” as it usually refers to bonito, which is made from fish. So far I’ve had best luck with the pork, mi goreng or wonton flavour noodles in terms of getting vegan options. Seafood ones are the least vegan friendly flavour I’ve found, and generally contain dried shrimp, cuttlefish, anchovy or flake.
The Asia market is also the holy grail of soy foods, though I didn’t get a snap of this. No tempeh today – it’s generally in on Thursday and gone before the weekend. Lots of different kinds of tofu, including sheets and puffs. Just watch out for the “special” tofu in the little tubes – it tends to be enriched with egg.
The real joy of the market is the bulk aisle. I get my rice from here about three times a year in 10kg bags – works out cheaper than the value rice at the supermarket. This is also the best place to get herbs and spices of all kinds.
This photo shows less than half of the spice aisle. Small bags are generally 50g in weight, and most on these shelves are 100g or thereabouts. If you’re really a fan of something though, you can get bags of over a kilo of just about anything! I can’t recommend enough taking some time in a place like this if you’re remotely into cooking with herbs and spices or exotic flavourings. They also have an incredible range of curry pastes, beans, pulses and whatnot. What I’d pay in the supermarket for a 30g packet of coriander seed for example, will usually get me the 100g bag here. Yellow curry paste is a quarter the price and twice as fresh.
My camera’s being uncooperative this evening, so no picture of my haul or my lovely Pad Thai with crispy tofu, but let me assure you that it was delicious 🙂