Buy Crikey: Widen outlook at Asian stores

Take a trip to your local Chinese, Korean, Thai or Japanese supermarket and broaden your culinary experience. Photo / HOS
Take a trip to your local Chinese, Korean, Thai or Japanese supermarket and broaden your culinary experience. Photo / HOS

Ni hao. Everywhere you look are Chinese and other Asian supermarkets that offer competitive prices on fruit, veg, meat, seafood, rice, soy sauce and hundreds of other products.

Yet Kiwi customers will often walk in, wander around and leave with just one product, such as rice or chopsticks, says Michael Chan, owner of the Tai Ping supermarket in Porana Rd, Wairau Valley, North Shore.

I started off relatively gingerly - at the Lim Supermarket in Mt Albert.

On my first visit, I left with a packet of salted peanuts in their shells.

Over the years we've built up a long list of favourites from these supermarkets, including lunchbox snacks such as Indonesian Mamee Monster noodle snacks and Korean Kim Nori seaweed packs.

When I sneaked the latter into my son's lunchbox he came home gushing about how delicious it was and how he has to fend off drooling friends whenever he takes Kim Nori to school.

It's hard to know what you're buying sometimes and I have strategies:

• Buy something new at each visit.

• My latest revelation was dried shredded squid, which is high in protein, low in fat, and yummy.

• Google it. This week I found that lily bulb pieces can be cooked into "Lily-stuffed Pears", "Hundred Get-together Shrimp" and "Lily Bulb Congee".

• Corner a member of staff and ask. If the first one doesn't speak good English, he or she will always find someone to help.

• Ask a customer as many are often delighted to help a linguistically challenged Kiwi.

• Read the backs of packets. There is usually some information in English that tells you what's inside.

I did price comparisons on products that I buy from Tai Ping and Countdown and, in most cases, it was cheaper to go Chinese.

It was possible to buy a whole kilogramme of dried egg noodles for $2.50 at Tai Ping, compared to $2.29 for 280g at Countdown.

Raw peanuts, dried chickpeas, Australian Sun Rice, Lee Kum Kee oyster sauce and many other items were cheaper at Tai Ping. Some were almost half the price.

Casting my journalist eye over Asian supermarkets gave me new insights.

I'd always bypassed the fish and butchery sections, yet in Tai Ping's fish section, there was fresh whole tarakihi for $7.99/kg and, for an extra $1 a kg, the obliging staff member filleted it for me and chopped the remains for my cat.

In the butchery, I was astounded to find lean pork meat for $8.99/kg, compared to $12.99/kg 250m down the road at the Mad Butcher.

Finally, just do it. Take a trip to your local Chinese, Korean, Thai or Japanese supermarket and broaden your culinary experience.

More deals

• Aroy-D Sweet Chilli Sauce for Chicken, 720ml, $2.99 at The Tofu Shop branches.

• Tofu King brand tofu. Two pieces (340g), $1.99 at Panmure Fresh.

• Philippines Gracio whole pineapples, $1.69, Fresh & Save, Manukau.

• Cock brand Thai curry pastes, 400g, $2.70 at The Tofu Shop branches.

• Marukome Japanese Nama Wakae Miso, 216g a 12-pack, $1.89 with Onecard at Countdown (today only).

- Herald on Sunday

Diana Clement is a freelance journalist who writes about personal finance and careers. She has worked as a journalist for more than 25 years in both New Zealand and the UK. Diana has contributed to a large number of local and international publications. Her pet topic is the secrets of saving money.

Read more by Diana Clement

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