A while back, I posted about finding some specific ingredients in Paris (mainly Japanese but also Thai and generally all sorts of non-French food) without having to pay for overseas shipping each time.
Following some kind readers’ suggestions and with a bit additional exploration, I have since resolved all my culinary woes. I figured I’d post a quick recap and a few extra advice for the sake of past and future seekers of exotic food in Paris:
First off: the bestest, cheaperest, fresh tofu, along with countless other goodies (can you believe they even had konnyaku!?!) was found at Supermarket Paris Store on Avenue d’Ivry (about 10 minutes from Place d’Italie, on the left side), thanks to Chrys, whom we shall dearly miss now that she has relocated…
Unlike most other Asian stores in the area (Tang Frères etc.), this one stocks up a fairly consequent aisle of typically Japanese products.
Of course they also carry the usual south-east asian fare, though their curry paste didn’t turn out all that convincing to my humble curry-loving tastebuds (their coconut paste: not at all). But these are much easier to find anywhere else in the neighbourhood… I still want to find some of this mucho combiniente cononut powder (same taste, much lighter to carry around), but the canned stuff is available everywhere… On my next trip, I might even try some of their kimchee (kimchee ramen… yay!).
A few arrondissements away: ready-made dashi powder and a few super-specific Japanese items can be found on rue Saint Anne, albeit at a much higher price. Personally, I’d rather make my own vegetarian dashi (using dried shiitake and/or konbu), as I am no fan of katsuo at all, but if you need the powder, you’ll find it in the small combini cum fast-food joint, roughly halfway through the street, on the right side when walking toward Opera.
Oddly absent from all these stores was fresh shiitake: I was starting to give up on the idea (the combini mentioned above sells the dried kind, which is OK for dashi, but absolutely unfit for miso soup or okonomiyaki) until I realized that, among more traditionally French morilles, chanterelles and other champignons de Paris, my very local, very Parisian, supermarket proudly offered fresh shiitakes in its veggie aisle. I have honestly no idea whether this has been the case all along in standard Parisian supermarkets (I wasn’t exactly the cooking type 10 years ago when I first lived here, and even less so of the shiitake-cooking type) or if that’s just a quirk of my local store. The latter is not to be excluded, given how many Japanese visitors seem to inhabit the neighbourhood and frequently shop there. Should yours be devoid of the ‘shroom: my faithful supermarché Champion sits around the corner of rue de Seine and rue de Buci (with an entrance on either street). I hear fresh negi (spring onions/scallions depending on which side of the potatomatoe you speak on) is no trouble to find under the name “ciboule” (not to be mistaken for its much more common local cousin, ciboulette, frequently used as a condiment in French cooking), but apparently you need to wait for the right season. I’m also hoping to see some lemon-grass (citronelle) soon enough in the aisles.
As it happens, the supermarket downstairs also sells cranberry juice, a few feet over from the vodka bottles, all of which frequently contributes to make us a very happy girl indeed. If you are not as lucky as I am, check out comments on my original entry for some leads…
On the topic of rice cookers: my mum (raised in the Indian Ocean and therefore more rice-dependent than your average mainland Chinese) spontaneously presented me with a rice-cooker as indispensable housewarming gift, on her trip over, a few weeks ago…
And I rejoiced.
Then, I realized how much of a technological advance the Japanese hold in rice-cooking techniques.
The devices that you will easily find in stores around here (French or Chinese-made), are little more than glorified water heater (no high pressure, no programming, no nothing). Since the point of such apparatus is to make it absolutely seamless for lazy clueless cook such as myself to eat non-burnt, fully-cooked rice at the push of a button… We had a problem.
From the land of tiny transistors, a recently visiting houseguest brought me a model of the more advanced kind for which I now only need to find a proper volt-converter. At which point I will be faced with the most delightful of freudian dilemma as to which gift I am to give preference to.