Sunday, October 18, 2009

Tastes just like Asia

Are you someone who buys Thai cookbooks and then mopes about how you can't cook most of the recipes in them because where the hell are you supposed to get Thai holy basil in Athens? Do you chase African handbag sellers down city centre streets, sidling up to them with breathless questions like "Hey friend, do you know where I can find a Big African Banana in Athens, you know what I'm talkin' about?"

No? Just me then.

On Saturday, my blog buddy Al and I met up with no particular aim in mind. What are two Asian babes with a free afternoon supposed to do in Athens when they're broke and it's not window shopping weather? We pondered for a few quick minutes and then it hit us: but of course! Two food obsessed Asians with a free afternoon should go on a pilgrimage to a food temple, and for this holy excursion we picked Salamat, an Asian grocery store I've blogged about in the past after it was featured in Gastronomos magazine but which neither of us had been to.

Now, what exactly to say about Salamat market? It's roughly the size of two peripteros pushed together, yet somehow Al and I managed to blow about three hours in there thanks to the dazzling selection of ingredients that both of us had never imagined we'd find inside the borders of Greece.

I'm talking about fresh galangal, yard beans, fresh lemongrass (I tried to grow this from internet ordered seeds last year so desperate was I), thai holy basil, pandanus leaves, banana leaves, banana blossoms, passion fruit, lychee juice, shrimp paste, curry pastes, fresh tumeric, fresh green peppercorns, sauces, noodles, dim sum, roti canai and so many other weird, wonderful, stinkily delicious South East Asian ingredients. There were bags of dried shrimps and dried ikan bilis, little anchovies that make a curry to die for but smell so bad I'd get divorced on the spot if I brought them home.

There were rice cookers, sake sets, woks and even a mongolian hot pot. Now, just how many people in Athens stand in their kitchens on a Saturday afternoon and think "God damn, I really want some mongolian hot pot, but I don't have the pot."? And yet here was the pot sitting expectantly on the shelf, waiting for someone to have that very thought.

There was junk food, prawn crackers, violently coloured custards and jellies that us carefree Asians love, canned lychees, mangoes, jack fruit and rambutan and frozen durian. It was food heaven. I wanted to pitch a tent outside and never leave. We were so delighted that we bought what we could carry, took a coffee break and then headed back to pick up frozen items before heading our separate ways.

Salamat is located on Korinthias street, closest metro Ambelokipi. The super thing is that whatever we didn't find at Salamat, we found at other wonderful little Asian grocers along the same street, including pak choi (stir fry with oyster sauce - heaven) and at long last after accosting African immigrants for months on the streets of Athens, I located my much sought after plantain bananas (wait till well ripened and serve fried in chunky slices alongside goat curry and rice).

So there you have it. Anything to do with South Asia can be found on Menandrou Street and anything to do with South East Asian food can be found on Korinthias street.

Go forth and shop! Your meals need never be boring again!


Korinthos 24


ph: 210 77 96 766


Ambelokipi metro. Exit and head down Leoforos Alexandras towards the mountain. When you get to the junction with Kifisias, turn left (look for a tall hotel called President hotel and head towards it).

Korinthias is the third street on the right.

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Psofofeggaro said...

Heheheh, quite silly but I understand what you mean. Had found a lovely indian reastaurant when we were at the island this summer and spended the last 3 evening there as I finally managed to pursuade the sceptical husband to enter it. The last night, he had lamp vindaloo and I had chicken Madras and he stared at me seriously and said " if you don't make me this at home, I'll divorce you". Tried quite a few times but still try unsuccesfully to find the right spicies (and understand what they are and what the greek name would be)but no big difference. Master gave me a thumbs up on tikka, as he said was quite close to the flavour, but that's all. If I could stumble upon you on the streets, be sure that I would bomb you up with questions about recepies, ingredients and where to find them :P
(By the way, could you possibly post some recipies? the whole cyberspace is full of them but the same food seems to have tottaly difrent ingrentiends from one form to the other )

Sesi said...

Yup, I get what you mean as well. I am German born and raised, though of Greek nationality. The area where I grew up has a lot of local thingies, that just don't taste the same when made here, because some sort of tiny ingredient misses. I've looked everywhere for Bratwurstbraet and of course, noone sells that stuff here, or a decent Bratensosse.
Each time my mother comes to visit from Germany, I order huge packs of various food items, to last me a year. And of course, we run out faster than that.
If anyone reading this knows where to find Maultaschen in Athens, let me know. I will cherish the information forever.

AL said...

ohh i hope i have time to make a driveby stop for some of that bokchoy and long beans.