By Eunice Wu
One of the few things I wish I was taught before coming to Durham was a guide to the Asian supermarkets around the area. Sure, you will find the geographical locations of these stores one way or another, but I had tried to search for comparisons on their price, quality, and product range to no avail during my first few weeks here. With that in mind and seven months of trial and error, I have devised an unofficial shopping guide to 3 of Durham’s Asian supermarkets, perfect for anyone looking for something Asian-inspired other than Little Moons.
- Oriental Food Collection
Oriental Food Collection resides on North Road, opposite the bus station. They have the most reasonable prices out of every supermarket on this list, thus hailed as one of the most popular shopping spots among Asians I know at Durham. When they are in stock (which is one of their few flaws because they always seem to be low in stock), they have a wide range of luosifen options, which can be translated literally to river snail rice noodles. It sounds peculiar, smells worse, but tastes delicious. I would also recommend purchasing salted egg yolks from this supermarket, perfect for making golden prawns (黃金蝦球), which are deep-fried prawns coated with a salted egg yolk mixture, a savoury delight perfect for dipping in some mayonnaise. You could also try their fresh cheong funs (腸粉), which are steamed rice noodle rolls typically served as Cantonese breakfast. While the ones from Oriental Food Collection are more on the plain side, they could give you a first glimpse into Asian breakfast culture.
- Everyday Oriental Food
This is the supermarket that is just a stone’s throw from Tesco Metro. Standing in the heart of town, Everyday Oriental Food boasts its convenience. While being rather expensive, the supermarket does often offer discounts or bundles for different items, all displayed near the cashier. They also have the widest selection of fresh vegetables, such as king oyster mushrooms. I would personally recommend their individually packaged pomelos, a rare sighting of a tropical fruit in the UK, though it leans towards the pricey side. You could also try Bibigo’s Korean BBQ dumplings, one of the best pre-cooked dumplings I have tasted and only available here to my knowledge. The supermarket is also home to Taiwanese sausages which come in original and spicy flavours. These are perfect as a side to Taiwanese braised minced pork rice, a fantastic dish that brings a myriad of flavours to your palate.
- Golden Pearl
Golden Pearl is another on North Road, and it’s the only supermarket with a greater focus on Thai food. Since it sort of monopolises this niche in Durham’s market, it is rather overpriced, so we usually visit only if this ingredient is exclusive to Golden Pearl. However, if you’re looking for range, you will be pleasantly surprised. I personally haven’t bought much from them but they do have cooking sake and jjajangmyeon, both of which I couldn’t find anywhere else in Durham. They also sell ramune, a Japanese carbonated drink with a little marble in the bottle. If you’re an Asian looking for a trip down memory lane, you know where to find that childhood nostalgia now. (Side note: the staff are wonderful but just don’t try the boba tea they sell there.)
It is true that these Asian supermarkets have a generally higher price range for their products, but they offer a pathway for students to explore what they like or don’t like to eat. It always brings me joy to see non-Asian faces in these stores, because in a way this may be out of their comfort zone. However, I can assure you that with a push in the right direction (a.k.a. this article), you will maneuver your way through the pinnacles of Asian cuisine in no time.