Where to Shop for Chinese Ingredients
Mei takes you behind the scenes of Chinese stores in Dublin. You will not only get the scoop of what store had a "Miss Saigon face-lift" but where to get the freshest seafood, local herbs or best dumplings.
Asia Market. Photo: Blanca Valencia
Here is a list of some of my favorite shops in my home city. This is a very limited list, so please do share your favorite spots in your comments.
1. Asia Market (Drury Street)
The Chinese market by which all others are judged. The original city centre location on Drury Street, since its hipster Miss-Saigon facelift, is the most organized of Chinese stores to navigate. The Asian produce, like Thai and Japanese aubergine, choi sum, Chinese chives, and winter melon, is consistently fresh; plus they are clearly labeled in English as well as Chinese. There is a kitchenware section of woks, cleavers, chopsticks, and teapots to cater to all budgets. Also among the Chinese shops, it has the widest array of other Asian ingredients, including Thai, Indian, Filipino, Japanese, Vietnamese and Korean.
Plus, Asia Market maintains a relationship with Irish producers; including their own Asia Market branded locally-grown herbs. They are the only Chinese market carrying Kwanghi Chan’s line of spices and sauces, as well as the Sandyford restaurant China Sichuan’s meal kits. Steer away from their seafood, arrayed in polysterene boxes on ice. Some dry goods like spices and rice come in unwieldy sizes, as who the heck needs a kilo of Korean gochugaru? The staff is aloof, but competent.
18 Drury St, Dublin 2, D02 W017; www.asiamarket.ie
2. Oriental Emporium
Across the street from the Jervis Shopping Centre, this Chinese store’s star is its the spectacular seafood counter whose daily offerings of octopus, cockles, geoduck clams, monkfish tails, rosy snappers, turbots, and live lobsters and crabs draw customers from all countries and walks of life. Prices are written on the board behind. The guy behind the counter is friendly, and will fillet, skin, and in the case of your lobster, dispatch.
The rest of the shop is like a used bookstore, dauntingly disorganized but a rummage can yield treasures, like fancy Japanese ramen and exquisite pickled chili bamboo. The butcher counter has tripe, hooves, chicken feet, as well as the conventional cuts; the hot-food is an excellent lunch deal with more-ish garlic aubergine as well as roast duck and pork belly revolving on a meat hook.
For all the Oriental Market counters, bring cash.
30/32 Abbey Street Upper, North City, Dublin, D01 DE00; www.orientalemporium.ie
Rong’s is one of the newest offerings on the increasingly buzzing strip of Parnell, dubbed by many Dublin’s Chinatown. It is one of the city’s prettiest shops, from the sparkling seafood counter to the aisles stocked with enticingly packaged treats, like seaweed snacks and soft sesame mochi. The exotic fruits (dragon fruit, Satsuma, and gigantic grapes) look appetizing. A favorite recent buy was a yuzu marmalade that you can spread on your toast or stir into hot water for a soothing tea. What’s more, Rong’s boasts the freshest, and largest selection from the Dublin-Chinese bakery Haolilan. Find cocktail buns, pork floss buns, pineapple buns, milk breads, and Swiss rolls.
Finally, Rong’s is the place to go if you love hot pot. Known as huo guo, shabu-shabu, and jeongol, this is one of the best party foods. People cook at the table by swishing bits of meat and vegetable in a simmering broth (like fondue, but more fun). However, hotpot was often done in restaurants, because the prep is labor intensive. Rong’s has a specifically dedicated hot-pot section of tissue-thin meats, garnishes, stock bases and sauces that lets you bring this ritual home in Covid times. For more about hot pot check out the always reliable Woks of Life for a recipe. Or go here for an Instant Pot hot pot hack.
157 Parnell St, Rotunda, Dublin 1, D01 N8C7
4. Golden Beach
Golden Beach is smaller and slightly drabber than any of the aforementioned markets. However, this friendly place makes many delicious Northern Chinese staples fresh in-house. This includes scallion breads, hezi (eggs and chives stuffed in pastry), xianbing (flaky meat pies), youtiao (savory Chinese cruellers), and many, many dumplings. Plus they have hot soybean milk soup and congee, and you can get their handmade dumplings frozen at the back of the shop. For this reason, Golden Beach has become the must-stop for Chinese longing for a taste of home. If you are confused, the smiling staff will help.
137 Parnell St, Rotunda, Dublin, D01 CF97, www.goldenbeach.ie or https://www.d2ugo.net/merchants_index.php?merchant_id=247 (the website is in Chinese)
5. Asia Market (Ballymount)
Those in the know call it the Asian food Ikea, so this is not for the faint-of-heart. This new branch sports many of the same offerings as Drury Street, except that it is gigantic, off the motorway, with free parking and a separate cash & carry.
Ballymount Merrywell Business Park, Ballymount Rd Lower, Fox-And-Geese, Dublin 12, D12 W327