712 Somerset St W, Ottawa, 613-233-1108
The Kowloon Market in Ottawa’s Chinatown has become my favorite store for finding interesting new things and for stocking up on many of the Asian foods that are impossible to come by up here in the North. For quite a few years, I used to pass by the market on visits to Chinatown without realizing it was there. It was in a fairly poor state of repair with paper covering many windows for the longest time and it wasn’t until they did a bit of a cleanup that I noticed it last spring. Now, I make it a regular stop on every trip to the capital…
When you enter the store there is a rather unpleasant smell that can be a little bit off-putting, at first. I’m not sure what it is … and I’m not sure I want to know … but, thankfully, it doesn’t extend much beyond the first half-dozen feet or so past the entrance way. Once inside, there are all sorts of things to explore…
The dry-good and canned section, which comprises three lengthy rows and several other sundry sections, includes products from China, Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam, and all across Asia. There are spices, sauce mixes, and dozens upon dozens of culinary pastes for all sorts of dishes. The fresh produce selection is not huge but it is possible to find things that are not easily available elsewhere. On this recent visit I saw fresh galangal, which I can only buy in the dried form at home, as well as a decently varied selection of exotic herbs and greens.
Live fish are something of a novelty for me. In Iqaluit, we may occasionally get fresh mussels that are (presumably) still alive, but the ability to buy marine products that are at the absolute peak of freshness is something that makes me green with envy. Sadly, it is totally impractical for me to try and buy anything from the tanks, given the transportation realities to my home, but it is certainly a pleasure just getting to ‘window shop’, as it were.
The selection of fresh, although not living, fish is also pretty impressive. Not on par with a proper fish market, maybe, but still far more varied than the odd cut of Arctic Char available up home on Baffin Island. I saw several species here that, thus far, I have only seen on menus at restaurants specializing in sashimi down south, or in some of my cookery books.
The Kowloon market has frozen as well as fresh meat but you won’t find much in the way of steaks or other cuts typically found in a western butcher shop. You can, however purchase a lot of things that most westerners would classify as ‘offal’ and, somewhat unfortunately, dismiss. The picture above does not capture everything I saw, but for those who would like to try something a little unusual, you can come here to find such interesting cuts as beef tendon and feet, as well as pork tripe, tongue, kidneys’ chicken’s feet and hog intestines both large and small.
I could probably spend all day, and a fortune, here gathering treasures to bring home but the realities of airline luggage restrictions demand a certain amount of restraint. Nevertheless, I was still able to come away with a good number of treasures, as you can see below:
- Tapioca Starch
- Dried Mussels
- Dried Marinated Mustard Green
- Chang Fen Noodle
- Crab Paste
- Sambal Oelek
- Salted Duck Egg
- Century Egg
- Pixian Dou Ban Jiang
- Dried Yellow Croaker
It will take a while to get to all this stuff, but everything you see will eventually feature in upcoming ‘Foodstuffs’ posts as well as a many recipes and experiments …