Grocery shopping in Hanoi is like participating in a daily scavenger hunt. It requires you to make a handful of stops to gather all of the items on your grocery list. This is especially the case when you, as an expat, want to prepare a dish or meal to celebrate a birthday or holiday, cook a treasured family recipe or simply buy something that gives you a taste of home. Compared to a lot of other cities in Asia the choice of imported products in Hanoi is fairly decent.
Some ingredients however are simply not available. Some of you may have certain dietary needs that require the purchase of specialty products that are hard to find. Or a specific ingredient is a must-have to make that beloved Ottolenghi recipe sing with flavour. If you can’t live without it, you will need to pack it in your luggage on your next trip back to Hanoi.
Here are a few tips for sourcing hard to find ingredients in Hanoi.
- Quantities are limited. Seeing it on the shelf today doesn’t mean it will be there the next time you need it. If you use it regularly you may want to purchase a few packages or bottles of it to last you a while.
- Plan ahead. Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries – their dates don’t ever change. If one of these festivities is drawing near purchase the non-perishable ingredients a few weeks in advance. Order any perishable products or large meats that you MUST have (turkeys; roasts; whole salmon) about 4-6 weeks in advance.
- Place a written order with the shop manager. Only the shop manager or owner (not employees) makes the orders to their suppliers/importers for their upcoming shipments. If something is out of stock or specific to a holiday ask well in advance if they will be ordering and when will it arrive. Check back a week before the estimated arrival date to reconfirm that your order will be satisfied as this gives you time if a misunderstanding occurs or the shipment is delayed.
- Be prepared to open your wallet. Imported specialty products are considerably more expensive than what you may be used to in your home country.
- Be aware that the product may be spoiled. Because of the heat, humidity, the way in which the product is stored or length of time it sits on the shelf the product may be off. This is a particularly high probability with nuts, some flours and oils that typically require refrigeration for conservation. There is a chance that some frozen products, small/thin items such as berries, pizzas, French fries, have thawed and were refrozen during shipment possibly leading to freezer burn.
Imported products can be bought at reasonable prices at grocery stores like Fivimart or small mini-marts (such as Hung Long, Quang Ba or Dan’s Bistro) throughout the city. You may even find some specialty items at these shops but don’t expect them to have them often. However, there are some shops in Hanoi that regularly carry a greater variety of imported products.
There are four stores that specialize in carrying imported products. It is best to try these shops first when looking for harder to find items:
- Annam Gourmet Market: 51 Xuan Dieu (Syrena Shopping Center)
Gluten-free ORGAN brand products (pastas; falafel mix; gravy mix; pizza dough; self raising flour; cake mixes); Quinoa; Bob’s Red Mill Cereals; Truffle Oil; Sherry Vinegar; Walnut/ Hazelnut Oil; Herbal Teas; Agave syrup; Fleur de sel; different Pasta types; light rye flour; stone ground wholewheat; Marmite; Chestnut puree; Orange flower water; Lyle’s Golden Syrup; Flaxseed and flaxmeal; dried cranberries; dried currants; Amy’s brand frozen meals
- L’s Place: 8 locations around Hanoi with 1 Xuan Dieu and 63 Ly Thuong Kiet offering the largest selection of all locations.
Quinoa; Bulgur; Tahini paste; Vegemite; Chia seeds; Israeli Couscous; Mincemeat; Molasses; Lyle’s Golden Syrup; Indian products (jarred chutneys/ pastes/ spices/ lentils/ papadums; sooji; basmati rice); Thai curry pastes; White balsamic vinegar; Herbal teas; Equal; Korean chili powder; dried fruits (cranberries, apricots, prunes); Tinfoil roasting pans, cake pans, pie pans; imported charcoal briquettes
Veggy’s: 99 Xuan Dieu
Cornish Hen; US/AUS beef; Lamb racks; Turkeys; Salmon (fresh/smoked); Scallops; Fresh horseradish; Parsnips; Celery root; Swiss chard; Fennel; Arugula/rocket; Endives; Imported fruits (cherries, apricots, apples, oranges); Frozen berries (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries); Fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, sage, tarragon, Italian parsley); Whole and ground spices and spice mixes (Taco/ Burrito); Filo and Puff Pastry; Canned chipotles, tomatillos, jalapenos, refried beans; Walnut and hazelnut oil; Pecans; Hazelnuts; Ground hazelnuts and almonds); Stevia; Variety of pasta shapes; Frozen oven ready pizzas and Amy’s brand Enchiladas, Tamale Pie, Shepherd’s Pie; Maple Syrup; Thai curry pastes; Vanilla Beans; Semolina Flour
- The Oasis: 24 Xuan Dieu
Charcuterie/ deli meats; Imported cheeses; quinoa; soy flour; millet flour; chickpea flour; pearl barley flour; masa flour; Western vegetables, herbs and spice mixes; truffle oil, anchovies
Mini Marts with Imported Goods
- Hung Long Mini Mart 71B Xuan Dieu; 544 Lac Long Quan; E1 Tower (Ciputra)
- Quang Ba Mini Mart 98 To Ngoc Van or 4 To Ngoc Van, Tay Ho
- Dan’s Shop & Bistro 28 Thanh Nien Street (basement of Lakeview Residences)
- Lien Hoa (see address below)
Meats and Fish (Beef, Pork, Lamb, Turkey, Salmon, Barramundi, Trout)
- Le Cochon d’Or 1B Dang Thai May
- Hanoi Small Goods
- Metro Cash and Carry Pham Van Dong Street, Co Nhue, (Trout is sold as salmon “Ca Hoi” from Sapa)
Japanese products are best found at:
- Enishi House Japanese Store 51 Xuan Dieu (Syrena Shopping Center)
- Yuki’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetables 54 Xuan Dieu
- Unimart 12 Pham Ngoc Thach Street
Korean products are best found at:
- Ace Mart Ciputra (Shophouse Ct17); B3 Nguyen Thi Thap Street
- K-Mart Stores Bldg. L2 Ciputra; B29 Nguyen Thi Dinh (Trung Hoa district)
Indian spices/pastes, pulses, papadums can be found at two shops
- Hung Long Mini Mart 71B Xuan Dieu; 544 Lac Long Quan; E1 Tower (Ciputra)
- L’s Place (see above)
Organic/ Concerned about farming methods/ reduced antibiotics
- Naturally Vietnam No. 4 Lane 67 Alley 12 To Ngoc Van
- Organik Online Delivers twice a week to Hanoi from Dalat.
- Thanh Xuan Organic Vegetables
Goat’s Milk and Yogurt 163 Thuy Khue Street 7am-10pm Mr Phuong 01683996955
Don’t be surprised when you think you are at the wrong shop as it also sells antique table and ceiling fans.
BUYING IN BULK
There are some businesses that cater primarily to restaurants, hotels and some of the stores mentioned above as they will sell things in bulk or large sizes. Thankfully, they will also sell to individuals but you may need to do some of your own leg work like first going to the shops on your own to see exactly what they do sell. I tend to only use these shops when I am preparing food for a large amount of people (say the holidays and want an entire beef tenderloin or some short ribs; or I am going to do a lot of baking and need a lot of butter). Purchasing like this can save you a fair amount of money.
- Kiwi Foods 21/8 Ly Nam De Street, Hoan Kiem District, 04 3843 9258
- Metro (see meat & fish section above)
- Classic Fine Foods 19/298 Ngoc Lam Street, Long Bien District, 04 3873 6079/80
Baking and Kitchen Equipment
- Lien Hoa Mart 16 Phung Hung
- Kitchen Art Store & Studio 38/27 Xuan Dieu
- Kitchen supply shops on Hang Khaoi Street near Dong Xuan Market