Before I even came to Helsinki I had heard rumors of a large Asian grocery store in the middle of town. Something of the magnitude of 99 Ranch. Oh man! I thought, with glee, I'll be able to carry on with my lapcheung and ridiculous Asian cooking with no problems - what an unexpected surprise! Well, let's just say the reports of this "huge" Asian supermarket were not exactly what they seemed...
First of all, it took me several weeks to track down this supermarket in the first place. Though several people seemed to know of its existence, no one actually knew its name or exactly what street it lived on. "Oh I think it's on this street," or "I heard it was on this street." Eventually I did get concrete data on what street it was on, and low and behold - there were three of them! A white one, a yellow one, and a red one. A trusted source (read: an Asian Canadian who had been living here for 6 years and who was very conscious of all of the Asian supermarkets in town), told me very clearly to go to the yellow and red supermarkets, NOT the white one, stating very specifically, "the white one is for...you know, WHITE people. O_O". Hilarious in my life.
So, last weekend my parents and I went on the quest to find these Asian supermarkets. My Asian Canadian friend sent us the Google map as to what streets they were on, and we realized why we hadn't been able to Google them and find them initially: they were labelled as "Oriental" supermarkets. *facepalm* Right, yeah, okay, hadn't tried that...something something *grumbles*...
Anyway, we walked through town to the right neighborhood (oddly enough it's located near the local college campus), and spotted the first market: the yellow supermarket:
I wasn't allowed to take pictures inside, so you'll have to bear with me, but imagine a very small and not particularly well-stocked tiny Asian grocery store. Like one of those small corner grocers you'd find in San Francisco. I bought some staples - dark soy sauce, sesame oil, thin egg noodles, and oyster sauce, and figured I should check out the red store before going too nuts.
The red store was definitely where it was at. There was a lot more selection (like a slightly bigger, not-on-the-corner grocery store), things were cheaper, and it felt like home. Things were even appropriately mislabeled, as they would be back at home:
Neither of the items pictured is actually white radish, but I do give them a D for effort. :) At least the prices were correctly printed, and it was very clear. I bought a bunch more stuff from this store and felt quite satisfied. Some people in line were going nuts - I assume this was because of the Easter holidays (we get Friday and Monday off - they take Easter super serio here...something I'm very happy about because I'm still recovering like a gross recluse at the moment).
I found no lapcheung (aka Chinese sausage) at either of the stores, but my Asian Canadian friend tells me I can sometimes find them in the freezer sections (which is odd...because it's vacuum-packed and doesn't need refrigeration...but whatever, I'll take it where I can get it), so I'll look again next time.
I'll do a more thorough reporting next time I'm there, there was so much to see I know I didn't catch it all the first time. So happy I can get some of my staples here!