Vancouver's diversity mirrored in its specialty grocery stores

It's possible to experience the world in local supermarket aisles

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      One way to experience the diversity of Vancouver is through its grocery stores. They range from the tiny Asia Market (326 East Kent Ave. South), which sells a wide range of Thai curry pastes, to the rapidly growing Sungiven Foods supermarkets, which offer Asian goods.

      So here’s a whirlwind tour. Let’s start with Sungiven Foods, which sells many herbs commonly used in Chinese cooking. If you show up at one of these stores before the Spring Festival, as I did, you’ll be blown away by the selection of holiday treats.

      Sungiven is a rising rival to T & T Supermarket chain, which was founded 29 years ago in Burnaby and joined the Loblaw empire in 2009. T & T’s flagship store in Richmond’s Lansdowne Mall may have the most extensive selection of Asian baked goods in the region, along with a wide selection of Asian and non-Asian groceries and dim sum products at far lower prices than any Chinese restaurant.

      There is a multitude of grocery stores catering to the South Asian community, including the Sabzi Mandi outlets. But the granddaddy remains Fruiticana, which offers low prices for its wide range of Indian spices and prepackaged flatbread and naan along with a huge produce section and lots of products from India. The nostalgic '70s-style South Asian music takes shoppers back to happy times in the home country. 

      The 6257 Fraser Street store can be a little crowded during busy times, whereas there’s more room to move in the store in Cambie Plaza, at 4101 No. 5 Road in Richmond.

      Those with a hankering for Greece at an affordable price really should stop by the well-maintained Parthenon Market (3089 West Broadway). Not only is there a wide range of Greek goodies, Parthenon also has an excellent deli.

      Just down the street, at 2827 West Broadway, is one of the eight Persia Foods stores in the region. This chain offers very competitive prices for its produce. It’s worth a visit for its baklava, Middle Eastern herbs and spices, and authentic Persian saffron.

      Georgia Straight readers voted Bosa Foods as the best specialty grocery store in the newspapers 2021 Golden Plates Awards.

      For East Side residents, Bosa Foods (562 Victoria Drive) is the go-to destination for specialty Italian and Mediterranean groceries. From biscotti to Italian cheeses to traditional flavoured candies—this local landmark has it all.

      Speaking of sweets, have you ever checked out the Celtic Treasure Chest (5639 Dunbar Street)? You’ll find them in abundance at this little store, which sells groceries and gift items from England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Here, you’ll find real Cadbury chocolate from England along with an excellent selection of jams, frozen pies, and candies from across the pond.

      There's another store like this in Richmond. Steveston's Best of British is loaded with candies and chocolate bars straight from the U.K. It reinforces the British mood with a huge banner of the Queen behind the till.

      There are more than a dozen Filipino stores selling groceries, including Sari-Sari (5191 Joyce Street), Aling Mary’s (2656 Main Street), and Mang Isko (4959 Kingsway).

      Kingsway is also home to many other international grocery stores, including African General Market (3543 Kingsway), Alenka European Foods (701 Kingsway), Dong Thanh Supermarket (1172 Kingsway), and Los Guerreros Mexican Food Products (3317 Kingsway).

      The relatively new Mi Tierra Latina (1104 Davie Street) also offers specialty Latin American groceries in the West End.

      There are so many others worth mentioning, including the Korean-American chain H Mart and the locally created Japanese grocery store Fujiya, which each have three Lower Mainland locations, as well as the Caribbean Market (804 12th Street, New Westminster).

      The world is truly in the local grocery aisles—it’s No Frills travel for those who can’t afford to reach these countries by air.