Aug 14, 2007
Shilla Oriental Food and Gifts
As a first-generation Asian food eater, I'm in that awkward class of people who (a) grew up eating Asian foods but (b) without being fully steeped in the Asian food marketplace. Which is to say: I have lots of appetite for good Asian food, but I don't havee the trained-from-childhood intuition for how to find what I want "in the wild."
Immigrant Asians have ingredient hunting and gathering programmed into their DNA. When they move to a new country, they find out where all the food sources are because they have to. If they don't get their regular supply of whatever-it-is-dish-or-ingredient-they-need, they'll die. So they make the effort to find out where to get what they need.
By contrast, first-generation folks commonly fall into an equilibrium defined by (a) catch-as-catch-can of what we love combined with (b) constant frustration that we don't get enough.
Maybe this is why I get more excited than most people whenever I get to know a new Asian restaurant or food store in the Triangle.
Around here, the Grand Asia Market in Cary is hands down the biggest and best. I love to cook what they sell me. But of course, Grand Asia Market isn't the most convenient for folks in Durham and Orange Counties.
Last week in Durham, I was happy to run into Shilla Oriental Food & Gifts near the southeast corner of Highways 55 and 54. Shilla has been in business for just over a year and I sure hope they'll stick around. Korean items are at the core of their offerings, but they have plenty of goods from Japan, China, and elsewhere.
The store is small and crowded (count on backtracking at least once or twice when you find yourself sharing an aisle with another customer), but you may be surprised at just how comprehensive their selection is: with everything from cookbooks, to a half-dozen fish sauces (including my favorite: Rufina from the Philippines), to a five-pound container of chili paste. Their are eight or ten doors worth of frozen goods with some items I haven't seen elsewhere and look forward to trying. Unfortunately, their selection of fresh vegetables and other produce is very small, but hey -- you can't have everything. The staff are friendly and English-friendly. If you have questions, I suspect you'll get the advice you need.
Shilla Oriental Food & Gifts
2107 Allendown Dr.
Durham NC 27713
From the corner of 55 and 54 (aka "Indigestion Intersection") heading south, Allendown Dr. is the first road to your left.
photo from the Shilla website.
Awesome store review, Phil! Now I want to visit. And have you cook for me! :)
Posted by: Lisa | Aug 16, 2007 2:33:30 AM
Lisa -- you're on! But you better come quick if you want to catch a Durham Bulls game this season...
Posted by: Phil | Aug 17, 2007 2:13:40 AM
Love all the cute pink packaging! I go to the store on 15-501, which I love (potstickers!) but that one looks awesome.
Posted by: Marianne | Aug 17, 2007 10:39:00 AM
Ooo, I am on it. Korean is my favorite Asian food, mmm.
Posted by: | Aug 19, 2007 12:19:51 AM
you know the former winn-dixie in heritage square has been turned into an international market. More Korean than Chinese brands. Also a smattering of Japanese stuffs.
And the produce is cheap. very cheap.
Posted by: Natalie | Sep 6, 2007 3:50:12 PM
I wonder if you're a Giant Robot subscriber?
After a while living in Pacific countries we also got the food store hunting bug, too. When we first got to Japan I bribed a nisei friend to walk through the Daiei just to understand why they had an entire aisle of peanut butter.
It warn't peanut butter.
Anyhow--I've had good luck with jlist.com for Japanese food and there are similar for Korean, Philippines, Indonesia food.
Except that darn special version Maeda-en green tea ice cream. That's about hard to find...
Posted by: Chap | Sep 7, 2007 4:07:57 PM