Minh Phat

If you love the chaotic markets of South East Asia and want to recreate the experience in Melbourne, there are plenty of grocers on Victoria Street which will serve the purpose – complete with pushy Asian grandmas, dusty cans, haphazard piles of unidentified foodstuffs and shouty (non-English) service.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved strolling through such markets in Vietnam and Thailand. But when I’m on a pantry-stocking mission, even Asian Joyce can’t go in those kind of shops without wanting to beat a hasty retreat….

….to Minh Phat, the Asian grocery superstore. A haven of well-ordered aisles of Asian food with no shouting, just the soothing sounds of Cantopop in the background. A calm place where you can ask what stuff is, where it is, or what’s the best brand in amongst the confusing selection. I swear, the first time I walked into the well-lit space I burst out an involuntary ‘Waaahhhh!’.

I didn’t take any photos as I was juggling too many items in my shopping basket:

  • Firm tofu. I’m so proud that RM, a country boy, is willing to eat tofu (something one friend once described as like eating air). According to my mum, the best brand is Evergreen. I noticed they also sell organic Japanese silken tofu but unfortunately they don’t do a firm variety.
  • Bamboo steamer baskets. For my experiments into steamed pork buns and glutinous rice wrapped in lotus leaves. Can also be used to serve cupcakes, bread rolls and Peking duck wrappers.
  • Oyster sauce. Lee Kum Kee for me, the one with the lady and boy in the boat.
  • Shaoxing rice wine. Look out for the Golden Pagoda brand and beware of imitations like Two Pagodas.
  • Herbs and spices. Cheap cinnamon quills, star anise and cumin powder.
  • Vermicelli. You have to keep an eagle eye out for Lungkow, as opposed to Longkow which I’ve bought before, creating a gluggy mess when I cooked ‘Ants climbing up trees’.

I have to admit, the prices may not necessarily be the cheapest in Victoria Street. Personally I think the 20 cents difference here and there is worth not feeling frazzled by the shopping experience. Shopper’s tip: If you pay cash for purchases over $30, you get 5% off.

Need some food after your shopping? Go in search of the perfect rice paper rolls on Victoria Street, or head straight to Pho Dzung Tan Dinh for a bowl of beef pho.