Cooking is hard enough without the crippling inability to find babaghannouge (eggplant dip), polvorón (Spanish shortbread) or samgyeopsal (a Korean cut of fatty pork belly)‚ so we’ve done the hard supermarket yards (aisles?) to find you some of Melbourne’s best-hidden speciality food stores!
For Middle Eastern ingredients:
The granddaddy of Lebanese cooking, Brunswick’s A1 Lebanese Bakery is one of Melbourne’s leading spots for pure rose water, Shawarma spices and Lebanese juices. Armed with the likes of za'atar, sumac and one of A1’s infamous cheese pies, cooking has never been easier.
A little like a Middle Eastern Costco, Oasis Bakery in Murrumbeena is home to rich variety of authentic ingredients like Al Wadi Faba Beans, Silan date syrup and black rice. Wraps and freshly made salads are available if you’re not feeling too hot about the chances of producing edible food.
For Japanese ingredients:
Named after Tokyo’s famous fish market, Tsukiji, Prahran’s version is admittedly a little smaller. But there are enough genuine Japanese groceries, fresh sashimi and sake varieties to warrant a weekly visit. Cutting fresh fish counts as cooking, right guys?
Camberwell’s Suzuran Grocery is overwhelmingly extensive—from plum wines (you'll want a few bottles) to fresh sea urchin; the popular Nabisuco chip brand chipstar and fresh soba noodles, it’s pretty much an indecisive person’s nightmare. We recommend choosing brands based on your favourite colour.
For Chinese ingredients:
Glen Waverley’s popular Kingsway Street precinct is littered with traditional Chinese groceries selling dirt-cheap fruit and vegetables, Chinese-style soya milk (it’s much sweeter than its Western counterpart) and a befuddling range of Tang Yuan (Chinese glutinous rice balls). A favourite among chefs is Astee Asian Grocery and Butcher.
Likewise, Box Hill is known for cheap Chinese groceries, with most butchers selling cuts at a fraction of your supermarket price. One such place is the Roast Duck Inn, with sticky glaze BBQ pork, tender BBQ chicken and whole roast duck hanging from their shop window.
For Korean ingredients:
Charming its way into kimchi-loving hearts, Charm Mart in Box Hill is an emporium of assorted pickles, kick-ass kimchi and gloriously fatty pork cuts. With some of the friendliest service in Box Hill, it’s also one of the few Asian marts that will point you in a specific direction on your ingredient hunt.
In the heart of the CBD, Korea Town Mart boasts a variety of Asian groceries with a particular emphasis on Korean products. Bags (literal bags) of fermented vegetables, soondae (Korean sausage) and plum extract are some of the hidden international gems.
For Italian ingredients:
Mediterranean Wholesalers has been operating out of its Sydney Road shopfront for nearly a century, so we figure they must be doing something right. Everything is imported and Italian on the shelves at these wholesalers—from rows of canned beans to fresh Italian cheese.
If you want pasta, Balwyn’s Boccaccio Cellars has it. No need for a penne for your thoughts (boom tish). From the tomatoes that make your sauce, to the grated cheese topping your Italian creation, Boccaccio Cellars has your back from start to finish.
If all else fails, head to the halls of Queen Vic or Prahran Market.
For Latin ingredients:
A cooking class-café-grocery store hybrid, El Atino & Co has a lot on its plate. Stocking the most popular products from Mexico and Peru, pick up spice-packed marinades, sauces and moles with brunch.
Operating out of its Fitzroy home since 1975, Casa Iberica Deli stocks Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American small goods for every Latin home cook. Think olives stuffed with anchovies (‘cause why not), cebolla rice (rice for paella), and addictively crumbly Polvorón. Also, for those who are as obsessed with pickled jalepenos as we are, there are 3kg cans. BOOM!
For Vietnamese ingredients:
A must for any master home cook, Minh Phat Supermarket has two locations off Queen Victoria Market and Abbotsford’s Nicholson Street. Aisles upon aisles of unrecognisable ingredients are wedged with duck eggs, tea-tree mushrooms and fermented chilli bean pastes. A pan-Asian grocery, Minh Phat is home to some hard-to-find Vietnamese ingredients like shrimp paste and shrimp skin.
If you need advice from top chef Guy Grossi, check out Guy Grossi's Top 6 Spots To Grocery Shop!
Image credit: Gareth Sobey for The Urban List