Recently I’ve undertaken a thorough reconnaissance of the area to try and find my closest and best places to buy some of my personal staples. These include turkish pide bread (ain’t nothing better for scooping up hommous), fresh vine tomatoes (I can’t eat underripe tomatoes anymore. And I don’t have to cos I’m a grown up. So there.), and – holy of holies – fresh noodles.
There is nothing better than a slippery fresh ho fun and frankly if you’re in any way slightly malaysian then char kway teoh is less a dish and more an obligation. My normal fix is bought in chinatown but I’ll be honest. It’s a bit of a pain in my ladyballs to have to either a) make a special trip* or b) popping in while I’m doing something else, but then wandering around London with fresh ho fun, some weird vegetable and some rapidly defrosting wonton skins in my bag.
I’d seen HuaXia on Lee High Road – it’s on my walk to the station but it’s one of those shops which opens a bit late and closes by 6pm so I’ve invariably always missed the opportunity to sneak a peek inside. But this weekend I was feeling determined to get in there and find out what was going on. I’ve had a hot tip about a place in Catford which I’m planning on hitting next month (FLK chinese groceries is apparently THE BOMB for fresh groceries) and I figured I should see what was on my front doorstep first.
Straight up – I’m a wuss. I know what I want but I’m not the sort of person who can go up to a surly-looking dude and be all “I want laoganma black bean sauce and you look like the kind of knowledgable dude who can make my stir-fry dreams a reality”. Instead I skulk around taking pictures of the things which delight me. While worrying that the dude is thinking “what in hell’s name is she doing with those rice cakes?”
This is one of those stores which has the feel of a place where people know what they want locally and have driven a lot of the stocking decisions. There’s a hell of a lot of dumplings, dim sum and frozen food but a very poor fresh food section. Some lonely-looking and rather old la mian hiding on a shelf next to the whelks and some rather sad-looking live crabs, and a pretty poor showing on the tofu front. I’m not saying I need a whole aisle of tofu, but considering the strong game that HuaXia has got going on vis a vis the pickles, I was expecting more.
Also, not sure I approve of the meat storage here. A cardboard box with sad looking ribs leaking under the live cockles seems less like a food option and more like the start of a terrible, horrible journey to A&E.
That said, there’s a strong showing on the dried goods front, with excellent and usually-tough-to-locate fermented tofu, chilli oils, rock sugar and dried tofu alongside the usual. There’s an excellent amount of korean food hanging about, with both dried and fresh rice cakes available. It’s been a while since I decided I was going to start my adventures in Korean cooking but I reckon that summer 2015 might be the One.
Verdict? A good place for dried goods and a damn fine selection of pickley deliciousness. But my quest for Lewisham Fresh Noodles continues.
*and I always run the risk of getting sidetracked and lost in the Chinese bakery and HAVING to buy a coconut bun to get out