Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Published October 6th 2012
The Uk's Largest Asian Superstore
A new Asda opened up near me recently, and as I was fed up with Sainsbury's constantly getting rid of my favourite products, I thought I would see what this new supermarket was like. I went down and saw Asda just as expected, but next door I saw another superstore. It was called Hoo Hing: The Oriental Food Specialist. It is a Chinese supermarket network that supplies in bulk to wholesalers and food caters such as Asian restaurants, but they also sell groceries for everyday families.
When I first entered the shop, there was a distinct fishy smell, and I immediately noticed the fish counter besides me, which was surrounded by several tanks with live flat fish and lobsters. You can't get much fresher than that.
Opposite the fish counter, they had loose fruit and vegetables for sale, including your usual apples and oranges, but also other exotic products such as asian pairs, mooli, pak choi, choi sum, and something called durian that looks like a giant spiky green pineapple. I decided to buy some rambutan, which at first look like a sea creature from a coral reef, but once peeled, closely resemble lychees.
Further ahead, I saw that Hoo Hing has an indoor cafe that sells spring rolls, dim sum, soup, and rice dishes, all of which are at very good prices. If you are in a hurry, you can also get a takeaway, or if you fancy preparing these dishes yourself, they sell chop stick and sake sets, as well as a rice cooker and electric steamer.
Next to the cafe, the shelves stock healthy and soft pop Asian drinks, such as a malt soybean drink, sugar free aloe vera, fizzy sugar cane, herbal teas, yoghurt lassis, and guava juice.
Among the cupboard foods they sold spices, a crate of dried chillis (they sell a lot of products in bulk), speciality flours (potato flour, rice flour, etc), and dried fruits. I bought a variety of different date species, but I when I got home to try them, I wasn't very keen.
I really liked seeing all the different kinds of food they stock in contrast to what is in our English supermarkets. For example, instead of chicken eggs, they sell duck eggs, instead of strawberry jelly, they sell lychee or plum jelly, and instead of pastry, they sell wantons for making dumplings.
The cakes on offer looked delicious, and were really beautiful colours. The one that caught my eye most of all was the Asian equivalent of a Swiss roll. Instead of a filling of jam or cream, they used green tea, chestnut or lotus paste. I decided to try some mochi, which is a Japanese confectionary treat made out of pounded stick rice, and filled with green tea flavoured paste. They were nice, but dense and very filling. More than one and they get a bit sickly.
While the cakes looked gorgeous, in the frozen section there were less appetising sounding things, such as chicken feet and pig's heart. They also sold frozen seafood, and let me tell you, you have not seen a jumbo prawn until you go to Hoo Hing; they were about the length of my hand.
Ready meals were also on offer, such as spring rolls, duck pancakes, and steamed buns. A steamed bun is basically bread made by steaming it over a boiler instead of being baked in the oven. Traditionally it is then filled with red bean paste, like the ones I bought. Like the mochi, they were nice, but the thick texture and starchy ingredients make them very filling and you won't want more than one or two at a time.
Hoo Hing was a nice find, and provides an alternative if you ever feel like tasting something different. The supermarket itself is a bit intimidating as it looks more like a warehouse than a shop. Because of this, I wasn't always sure if some areas were for customers or not. It was also a bit disconcerting when the tannoy speakers went off and I heard an announcement being made in Chinese, but I soon got used to it.