When Local is Global and Global is Local

It was a rainy Saturday in April.  No kid activities were scheduled. What is the Family Foodie to do?  I know, let’s explore some of the small global-local markets in our backyard! Well, only the eldest jumped at that offer, but jump he did, and off we went.

Having lived in enough towns where ethnic cuisine is limited to the pizza-pasta-sub joint on Main Street, I am constantly amazed at the variety that surrounds us in the greater DC metro area.  We decided to begin our shopping tour at the small family Vietnamese market (Vietnam Supermarket, 6609 Wilson Boulevard) around the corner from our house — right next to BJs!

When you enter the market, you are greeted with open boxes of produce, and seedlings for you to take home.

And then, you are greeted with the sharp aroma of incense and an amazing area of products in a corner market – not as many as BJs, but more than you would expect.  When you enter any small ethnic market,  make sure to look up.  Although IKEA makes a big deal about using all available vertical space in your home, all of the markets we visited today exemplify that practice.  So, word to the wise, if you don’t look up, you will miss half of the products available for sale.  For me, the best part of this market was the wide variety of oils and seasonings and spices – many of which you can’t find at your local grocery store. And if you’re looking for seafood or Asian greens, I’d come here in a heartbeat.

Heading back out on Washington Boulevard, we decided to go over to Leesburg Pike, and stop at the next likely market. So, we ended up visiting Iransara Middle East Grocery next (6039 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church).

As we walked in, the owner was taking delivery of fresh unleavened bread (not pita, but I didn’t get the name of it), and we were greeted by an array of Iranian staples including, preserved lemons, fresh figs, and an incredible array of spices, including the non-edible frankincense! The spice purveyor used here, Sadaf, was not the same as used by the Vietnamese market, and the offerings included large amounts of dried lemon peel and orange peel, and homemade Schwarma seasoning.

The eldest was quite taken by the varieties of herbed waters – including dill water- that lined this shelf.  A Google search indicates that these are used for medicinal purposes — we’ll need to ask the owner next time we’re there!

As is true of every store that we visited, the staple of most cuisines around the world, was featured prominently here — rice.  We’ve decided that we eat enough rice that we should turn to purchasing it at the ethnic markets — of course, the many varieties that are available will make it necessary for us to improve our rice savvy.

Next door was 88 Oriental Market (6035 Leesburg Pike), so since we were already here, it made sense to return to the Far East.  Besides, I was quite taken with the ceramic pigs in the window.

This storefront had more space than the others that we had visited so far, but still managed to display an amazing array of products.  As the store owner explained to us, his clientele is both Asian and Latin American, and we were struck by the side-by-side displays, catering to both sets of customers.  The spice racks, in particular, clearly reflected this cross-hemisphere influence. I was fascinated at the proximity of the exotic (so many varieties of curry paste) and the mundane (Heinz catsup, Jif peanut butter),

And then there are really really exotic fare (at least for me).

The frozen area drew our attention….Craving some bubble tea? Why not get them in ice bar format?

And if you need some dishes, you’re in luck.

The eldest was up for one more, so we drove a bit further down Leesburg Pike and saw two more markets side-by-side, Duangrat’s Oriental Market (5888 Leesburg Pike), and Aphrodite’s Greek Market (5886 Leesburg Pike).  A quick spin around Duangrats was enough for today, given that it was the third Oriental market in a row, so we lingered a bit longer in Aphrodite’s.

Where we found many dried red lentils, and chickpeas, and bulgar, and very large amounts of Greek olive oil and wine.

Some delicious sesame candy and a wonderful olive bar, and we needed to call it a day, a very productive marketing day.

Next time we head out, I’ll need to be sure to bring a list. Building a global pantry is easy to do in the greater DC area — and it is much more fun to do it by visiting the small local global markets than by going to your local Harris Teeter.

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3 Comments to “When Local is Global and Global is Local”

  1. This post puts a smile on my face – this is what I love about the DC area!!! And yes – so much better to shop those little markets than the big chain stores!!!

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