Surprising Fare

By on 30 July, 2012 in Cooking, Food, Heather Coleman with 3 Comments

Dinner at my house is much more likely to consist of tom kha or vegetarian tamales or even paneer tikka masala than fried chicken or barbecue. Finding ingredients for ethnic cuisine here in Montgomery can sometimes be a bit of a challenge. Every couple of months we make a pilgrimage to Dekalb Farmer’s Market and stock up, but that isn’t always practical. Earth Fare has a few things, primarily Japanese and Greek, but most of what you can find there you can find at Publix. In order to find truly ethnic foods, you need to seek out the small, locally-owned stores scattered around the city.

The Oriental Food Mart  in Capitol Heights has been a neighborhood mainstay for as long as I have lived in Montgomery. It is a small store, but the owner goes out of her way to have fresh produce available. They almost always have basil and lemongrass, and often have a couple of kinds of eggplant, as well as a selection of other more esoteric veggies. But with only a couple of coolers, options are limited.

Indian Spices opened a couple of years ago, and has been a fantastic resource for Indian staples. The store gets a produce delivery once a week, and if you don’t get by on the day that it is delivered, you definitely miss out. The owners are very helpful and willing to answer questions, and even order products that they don’t have on the shelves. Their beans/legumes selection is fairly large, and their prices are decent. There are several freezers around the perimeter of the store that are filled with ready-made items like naan, idili, and paneer.

With the coming of the Hyundai plant, quite a few Korean restaurants and groceries have sprung up around town. Seoul Market is by far the best of the Korean markets. They are a large store with everything from fresh vegetables, to snack foods to dishes and rice cookers. Because they specialize in Korean foods, there is a lot of seafood and fish, both fresh and frozen.

There are a number of Mexican and Latin American groceries in Montgomery. Stores like El Chido or Las Palmas are small stores that cater to the Hispanic community. El Chido even has a small butcher in the back.

Until recently, I thought these were the only options as far as ethnic foods go — taking a trip to Decatur, or hitting five or six different stores tucked into shopping malls around the city. That is until a friend introduced me to Capitol Super Market. At first glance, Capitol Super Market doesn’t look like much — tucked away on the Southern Bypass, it shares a shopping center with Flea Market Montgomery, a Dollar General and a Probate Office. It obviously was a Winn-Dixie in its former life, and honestly looks a little shabby from the outside. The only hint at what lies inside is a bit of Korean on the sign.

When you walk into Capitol Super Market, you are immediately greeted with stacks of Korean newspapers on one side and cases of Mexican soda on the other, hinting at the adventure ahead. This opens up to an absolutely huge produce section. There are typical offerings like limes (8 for a dollar) and mangoes (case of 24 for $10), but also things like oyster mushrooms, banana leaves and flowers, chayote, fresh in the pod garbanzo beans, half a dozen kinds of yams, miscellaneous greens, and even several varieties of cactus. The produce section is considerably larger than any other grocery store in town. There is a smaller section immediately behind the produce that has packaged bulk items like beans, hominy, rices, nuts, spices and dried fruits. There is also a very large selection of dried peppers.

At the back of the store there is a fish counter that has fresh fish, all sorts of prawns, and even fish heads for stock. The fish counter was so busy that I had a hard time getting close enough to even scope it out!

The center of the store is an odd mishmash of typical grocery store fare coupled with aisles of ethnic goods. There was an aisle of African and Caribbean food, several aisles of Mexican food and an Asian foods aisle (primarily Korean). The frozen food was a similar hodgepodge — typical American fare in the freezer around the perimeter, and then the center section had a lot of more unusual fare — all sorts of goat, lamb, chicken beef and pork parts. The thin sliced ribeye for bulgogi caught my eye (and at 5.99 a pound was more than reasonable).

Like most grocery stores, the meat counter was across the back of the store. The meat all looked fresh, and the prices were great $3.99-5.99 per pound for almost everything. I noticed a Korean family loading their cart with beef short ribs, so they must be pretty good!

Overall I was really impressed. They seem to cater to a combination crowd — budget grocery combined with the international market, but their fresh produce, meats and fish all seem incredibly fresh. I came home with several new things to try and I can’t wait to go back!

Heather Coleman is a freelance writer and part-time DIY’er who mostly manages to fit her projects in around her family and her volunteer work. She lives with her husband, two boys and two pets in Midtown. She is on Google+, Linked In, Twitter and Pinterest.

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  1. frankly@gmail.com says:

    I will have to check out Capitol – sounds great. And maybe there the gentleman cashier doesn’t regularly rip you off (ringing things up 2 -3 times extra when you have more than one of something) like at the Seoul Market. This never happens with the woman or the daughter rings me up there. And I am a regular, once a month shopper. Without fail, when the owner who regularly mans the cashier up front rings me up, there are numerous discrepancies on my receipt. I put up with it because I thought there weren’t other options for korean around town. Not anymore. Thank you.

  2. Jay Croft says:

    Frankly, you should never put up with this behavior. “Gentleman cashier?” More like a crooked cashier. And if he is the owner, he’s a crooked owner.

  3. David says:

    One of the first places me and the wife found. She is from Hawaii and me being from California we found a perfect blend between Asian items and Hispanic items. The fresh produce isn’t always the best but most of the time its good.

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