Cyndi Lauper is the perfect case for ‘You can take the girl out of New York, but you can’t take New York out of the girl.’
I’m a city girl. After growing up in a multi cultural community, my next home, New York City, was a natural fit for me. Exploring ethnic neighborhood’s local holes in the wall was a hobby. However, cooking different cuisines and experimenting with flavor profiles is a passion.
I had a little bit of a culture shock when I first moved to Orlando; mostly because I had a hard time finding ethnic grocery stores (a shelf dedicated to ‘Ethnic Food’ at your popular supermarket chain doesn’t count.)
But I was delightfully shocked to discover what a diverse immigrant population Orlando has – there are literally people from every corner of the globe.
I made it my mission to scour every nook of Orlando until I found what I was looking for. I refused to pay an arm, a kidney and my first born for a bag of Pad Thai noodles.
Here are some of my discoveries. Prepare for some schlepping around, but it’s totally worth it.
In honor of the Rio Olympics 2016, I’ll dive right into Brazil.
Silva’s Market on S. Kirkman Road
A great Brazilian store that offers an array, albeit limited, of items like:
- snacks – Pao de quiejo (a delicious ball of fluffy dough and cheese)
- staples – like yucca/cassava flour
- drinks – Guarana, a popular energy drink and Brazilian coffee
It has a hot food buffet with all kinds of Brazilian comfort food like feijoada, churrascaria, fish and a mini salad bar- priced by the pound. A butcher and charcuterie is on site as well, for fresh cuts of meat, pork and sausage.
Make your way there on an empty stomach
Patel Brothers on West Sand Lake Road
If you’re on an Indian food kick, Patel Brothers would be Disneyland. The aroma of spices, piquant pickles and agarbatti (incense) is a feast for the senses. The plethora of basmati rice itself, is astounding.
I feel nostalgic every time I shop here; they carry food I had as a child, like Parle G biscuits (a.k.a cookies, a colonial remnant) and I love that my son can share in a bit of my childhood.
Caribbean Food Market on Washington Street
Don’t let the location fool you; desperation outweighed my apprehension. This little gem on Washington Street, has a great selection for all your island cooking- jerk spices, sauces, seasonings, imported and local produce like ackee, plantains and soursop, meats like oxtail. Grab some lunch at the buffet on your way out. A fresh seafood market right across the store displays every kind of fish and mollusk under the sun at reasonable prices.
One caveat- parking is limited and weekends can be a nightmare.
1st Oriental Supermarket on W. Colonial
While there are an umpteen number of oriental grocery stores on Colonial Drive and Mills Avenue, this is easily my favorite, because of a ramen restaurant- ‘Sapporo’, right next to it. This store is GARGANTUAN. It has a funky odor when you first enter, but thankfully, olfactory fatigue kicks in, so don’t fret.
I love that it has Asian produce like bok choy, long beans, bamboo shoots and fresh mung sprouts at a fraction of the cost. Of course, the variety of soy, and fish sauces, snacks, noodles; fresh, frozen and live seafood, salted chicken, roast pork are second to none. Boba tea, need I say more? A tad pricey for this former New Yorker, but it does the job.
Indian, Pakistani and Middle Eastern
Apna Bazaar on Orange Blossom Trail
Primarily Indian, Pakistani and Middle Eastern groceries as well as halal meat. Need ingredients for that fancy Moroccan tagine dinner? You know where to look! Couscous, fresh halal lamb, berber spice/harissa and orange blossom water. Dinner done! (Might as well getting your eyebrows threaded next door, while you’re in the neighborhood.)
This is just a sliver of the pie. If you appreciate global cuisine as much as I do or just want to break out of your comfort zone, here is a more comprehensive list of other local markets.
Where do you like to shop for all your ethnic goodies?