Ethinic Food Stores
Arguably the best sources of vegetarian foods and ingredients are the different ethnic grocery stores and shops in one’s community. Easy to say living in a large urban environment, but the same idea usually applies in smaller cities and towns, particularly when accessing foods where vegetarianism is quite prevalent in those cultures. Calgary has an amazing number of specialty grocery stores that cater to a wide range of ethnic communities, from African to Caribbean to East Indian, from a variety of Asian to Latin American and European, Calgary seems to have it all. Here then is a selection of stores I have found to be well suited to the vegetarian consumer; it is a small selection of many, to give an idea of what awaits those who like to go on adventures of discovery.
BASHA FOODS INTERNATIONAL
- Temple Crossing - 5401 Temple Drive NE, Calgary
- (403) 280-6797
- Hours Monday through Sunday, 9am to 9pm
Temple Crossing is situated right on the corner of 52nd Street and Temple Drive, making this an easily accessible store, no matter which direction you are coming from. It is quite large, having taken over a space formerly occupied by another grocery store known as Sabzi Mandi. Basha has taken over where Sabzi Mandi left, by way of maintaining the flavours of the cultures they serve while also providing more generic 'western' foods for the entire community, and beyond. Given that, entering the store one can see that the focus definitely remains integral to the Asian and Middle Eastern cultures. I don’t suggest for a minute that there is a schism here between cultures, since clearly the foods of India and Pakistan, the Middle East and elsewhere are embraced by many outside of those cultures; the point to be made is that the foods here serve all cultures and diets even as there is a pronounced emphasis on the non-traditionally western foods.
In and amongst the canned corn and green beans one can find, for instance, stuffed eggplant as well as stuffed grape leaves; both of these vegetarian. There is an entire aisle dedicated to the most exotic of spices, while across the way is a huge range of dry mixes of a dizzying number of masala types and brands, powdered mixes for south Indian foods such as Dossa, a lentil crepe, Idli, rice dumplings, Vadai, deep fried savory ‘donuts’, as well as Sambhar, a rich red curry sauce/soup, and a variety of foods from all throughout that region of the world. They have two different kinds of dry soy protein nuggets used in various vegetarian dishes in India, Soyatein and Nutrela. Both of these are soaked in water prior to using and then are added as an alternate to meats, or are incorporated in dishes specifically created for them.
Another aisle has the beans and lentils-four different kinds of lentils, including the green, yellow, brown and red, with each of them being used in different kinds of dishes, such as daal and curries. As for the beans, I have never heard of ‘Moth’, and they had a vast amount of other kinds too, such as the Moon, Black-Eyed, Kidney, Urad and Chick Peas.
The frozen section contains a treasure trove of vegetarian delights, from prepared foods to frozen exotica, such as fruit and vegetables not available in Canada that are suitable for cooking with. For the prepared foods they have products made according to Halal custom, including vegetarian pizzas, samosas and falafel. There is also a rather intriguing brand, Chings Secret-”Indian Influenced Asian Cuisine”, that carries all kinds of foods, from ‘Indian influenced’ spring rolls and fried rice dishes, to Hot Vegetable Dumplings in Garlic Sauce and Vegetarian Hakka Noodles. All of their dishes are vegetarian it seems. There are variations on the jalapeno poppers here, but as Paneer Poppers, using Indian cheese instead of North American varieties. Of course there are the traditional foods, samosas and Patra Rolls, as well as frozen Idli and Sambhar, along with bags of paneer and Puri, a bread accompanied with Potato Sagu, a spiced potato dish, similar to a curry.
As soon as one enters Basha they pass a video rental area into the produce section which has quite a good selection of exotic vegetables and fruit to go with the more typical variety found elsewhere. To the back are the coolers with fresh ghee and paneer as well as the usual milks and products.
There is meat sold here, so it is not strictly vegetarian; the meats sold are all Halal, but this is clearly an excellent source of vegetarian foods, foods that one would have difficulty finding elsewhere, especially on this scale. This is a good thing to know, that there are places to shop for groceries where they are very friendly to one’s own tastes and style. With Basha Foods, it just happens that there is an added exotic flavor to your shopping.
- South Store - 1512 11th Street SW, Calgary
- Hours Monday-Friday, 10am-6pm, Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday, 12-5pm.
- North Store - 777 Northmount Drive
- (403) 289-2202
- Hours Monday-Friday, 10am-6pm, Saturday, 10am-5pm. Closed Sunday
Boca Loca is all Renette Kurz, the proprietress of these stores, a woman who must surely have been a Latina in previous incarnations given how her love for the Mexican/Latin American life and food has translated itself into opening up these fantastic stores-and that is using the term quite liberally. La Boca Loca is a grocery store, a lunch counter with excellent takeout meals, a cooking school, a caterer, and a wonderful place to just come by and be inspired to try some new food, enjoy a coffee, Mexican style, pick up a cookbook….
The first Boca Loca opened in 2000, inspired by Renette’s travels and subsequent love affair for Mexico and all its different regions, each unique to the others. By 2005 it was time to find more space for her growing concern so the second location opened in the northwest. From a fairly humble beginning it was clear that this was going to be an al-encompassing centre of life for all things Mexican. There is a great cross section of canned and dry foods including hominy, all varieties of beans, dry fruit such as papaya, guava, quince, sauces, as well as a healthy selection of salsas from different makers and a variety of flavors and chilies. Fresh produce is also available, variety determined by season though it includes plantain, chayote, tomatillos, mango, guayaba, lime, cliantro, as the list goes on.
Of course one cannot forget about the Chilies sold here, fresh and dry, or the various spices as well, to assure one of success in creating true Mexican dishes. Different styles of tortillas are sold fresh here as well, along with Mexican candies and coffee and chocolate; the list is seemingly endless.
Dry goods such as plates, tortilla warmers, placemats and tablecloths are also sold here, for everyday use or as gifts.
In the takeout deli section there are a number of salsas and dips made fresh on the premises, including guacamole, enchilada sauce, refried beans, and more, while also offering a number of vegetarian foods to go as well, such as the Vegetarian Empanadas, Vegetarian Burritos and a Vegetarian Chili Wrap. The soups tend to be made using chicken stock, so one should inquire while there.
The catering menu has a good variety of vegetarian options although the Main Course section has only the Chilies Rellenos, stuffed poblano peppers with cheese and a red chile sauce. Aside from that, one can order Jicama Salad, Empanadas, Wraps, Enchiladas, Flautas, Chiles Rellenos(singles), Taquitos or Tartaletas, a variation on quiche. They also sell salsas by the litre, and Key Lime Tarts, to round out their catering menu.
For those who love Mexican cuisine but have never attempted it Renette offers classes through La Boca Loca, taught by Martha Hernandez. The classes are offered at different times in the year, and tend to fill up quickly. Phone for more information.
I love going here just to bring back memories of having lived in Mexico, picking up some nopales, empanadas, Mexican Chocolate, basically to immerse myself in the flavors of my heritage.
- #300 5075 Falconridge Boulevard NE, Calgary
- (403) 590-1611
- Hours Monday through Sunday, 9am to 9pm.
Fruiticana is part of a chain, originating in Surrey, British Columbia. They are located in the Safeway Mall on the corner of Falconridge and McKnight Boulevards. It is in an area behind the main section of the mall, tucked in along the area closest to McKnight by the Scotia Bank.
A busy store, it is stocked full of product and produce, with a sense of organized chaos reigning. A great place to browse in, I discovered quite a huge selection of vegetarian jelly desserts, vegan actually, coming in all different flavors, exotic and non, alike. Here one can buy their rices and beans, with quite a good variety of each available. Ghee comes in different container sizes, suitable for all needs.
They had, when I was last there, a few different kinds of mangos and both dessert and cooking papayas, to go with their choice of Indian style limes and the more typical North American. As well they have Indian Eggplant, the small bulb-like variety.
Spices and dry mixes, such as those for making masala and other curries and dishes are both plentiful and varied, with papadoms available as well of varying types. I picked up some amazing flat breads fresh baked and delicious, a variation on foccacia. I didn’t see anything that didn’t seem vegetarian, so this is definitely a store for those seeking exotic, Indian flavored foods and goods.
This mall is suited for vegetarians in that there is also an Indian Sweet Shop that serves vegetarian dishes along with Indian sweets. And of course there is a Taco Bell….
T & T ASIAN SUPERMARKET
- Pacific Place Mall - 999 36th Street NE, Calgary
- (403) 569-6888
- Harvest Hills Crossing - 1000 - 9650 Harvest Hills Bouvelard NW, Calgary
- (403) 237-6608
- Hours (both locations) Monday-Thursday, 9:30am-10pm, Friday-Sunday, 9am-10pm.
T & T is a supermarket chain here in Canada, its origins being in British Columbia. They are huge, as far as both store volume and the number of products they carry, and are quite clean and well organized. Their products range from foods to houseware, from fresh produce and bulk items, to canned and frozen foods, as well as having a deli counter and an in-store bakery. In reference to the Pacific Plaza location, there is a barbeque and hot foods kiosk, where they generally have a good selection of prepared cold vegetarian items, along with perhaps two hot items for us, the sheet tofu, and the mixed vegetables. This is part of T & T, and as such offers the same packaged gluten trays as the main store, made for them by The Veggie House restaurant.
Inside, there are all kinds of exotic produce, vegetables and fruit, generally sold at extremely reasonable prices with specials available weekly on various items. I find myself coming here for the Taiwan Guava, Dragon Fruit and the Lychee or Longan, as well as Star Fruit, finding the fruit to be fresh and of excellent quality.
They sell many varieties of tofu and soy milks and products, including sheet tofu, deep fried and/or flavored tofu, to name a few. The selection of vegetarian meats and foods is quite extensive, including products made locally by DSI or from BC, as well as numerous items imported from Taiwan. They include ‘chicken’, ‘shrimp’, a variety of savory items and the occasional prepared meal in a bowl that is veg-friendly. As well, they have a number of different potstickers for vegetarians, roti and green onion cakes, as well as veggie Spring Rolls, Samosas and more. They sell fruit juices that are similar to Tropica in that they are not from concentrate, such as Mango, Passion Fruit and Mango, Guava and Pineapple, etc, by a company Sun Tropics, that are fantastic; using pure juices the flavour is fresh and delicious.
For roadtrips or for a snack I will buy packaged flavored soy ‘jerky’, and for a treat some bamboo shoots in chili oil to add to a plate of potstickers. After having ‘discovered’ Edamame courtesy of Soba Ten restaurant I come here quite regularly to buy a bag or two of frozen salted soy pods to cook up at home and enjoy while watching the tube, writing, whatever; they have an amazing variety of these. The selection of exotic canned and packaged goods, from preserved vegetables and fruit, to a wide range of spices and noodles is second to none. Nuts and candies and snacks, along with a huge variety of teas from throughout the Orient, abound. T & T has certainly established itself as a prime location for vegetarian delights, catering to the vegetarian and the vegan alike.
- 1836 36th St SE, Calgary
- (403) 272-4054
- Hours: Monday through Friday, 10am to 8pm; Saturday 10am to 5pm
La Tiendona is a perfect source for real flavours of Mexico and parts of Latin America, where the vegetarian will find great deals in numerous hot sauces, sacks of beans, canned goods and so much more. I was quite surprised that there was very little in the way of meat-based foods, pleasantly of course.
Much of the store is comprised of bulk purchase quantities, with 25 lb. bags of beans and rice and case lots of a variety of goods available. If one chooses, for instance, one can buy either a pound of yerba matte, of so many different flavours, or buy it in bulk in huge packages. Of course, here one would expect to find some bargains scattered throughout the store; in fact the deals are quite dramatic here, on virtually everything. The yerba matte for instance, where one would pay 14-15 dollars per pound package, it costs approximately 5 dollars. Hot sauces are less than half the price one would easily pay elsewhere.
Definitely a store worth going towhen seeking to satisfy those cravings for foods unique to Mexico, including the renowned Mexican Chocolate tablets used in the making of hot chocolate. It is vegan, incidentally, just requiring a non-dairy milk for those so inclined, including myself!