Foreign brands, foreign ingredients, foreign words and foreign smells.
Sure, your local Seoudi or Metro market might have an international aisle where you can get some of the basics you need for Asian cooking, but no, just no. Why, you ask? Because in terms of variety and price, you, as a food lover (I'm just going to assume that you are), owe it to yourself to brave up and get all the ingredients from an actual Asian market.
You might be wondering what the hell are Asian markets and where does one find them, well, let me enlighten you. These shops are an immigrant’s lifeboat, and they tend to have an array of products that will surely confuse all shoppers. Stores range in size and scope, with some of them having entire aisles dedicated to ramen, and others located inside restaurants. I’ve done my homework and found the best ones so your taste buds could take a little visit to Asia, without ever needing to pack a suitcase. SPOILER ALERT: They’re all in Maadi.
Located on Maadi’s Street 232, Tomato stands quietly next to Metro market with no sign ever indicating that it exists. The restaurant serves classic Korean dishes such as bulgogi and bibimbap, and the store within includes items like kimchi, fish cakes, Korean tea and coffee and so many other options. If you’re planning on ever throwing a Korean BBQ at yours, this is the place for you.
Nestled away on Maadi’s Road 233, Luya offers Chinese products like no other. From an aisle that’s only dedicated to soy sauce, to vegetables like bok choys and daikons that you won’t find anywhere else. Word of advice, however, none of the owners speak English or Arabic so you best know what you’re looking for or bring a friend who speaks a little bit of Standard Mandarin.
You’ll find this Chinese shop behind Maadi’s popular Chinese Dumpling Restaurant. As in you have to literally enter the restaurant and go through the backdoor, or simply take the entrance of the building. Much like Luya, no one speaks English or Arabic, and the smell of the spices and ingredients might be too intense for the untrained person. I recommend going to the frozen section and stocking up on dumplings.
Kabayan, which translates to compatriot or comrade in Tagalog, is a Filipino shop that operates literally next (ish) to the Philippine embassy in Cairo. You might think that would make it stand out and easy to see, but no. Kabayan operates from within Degla Meat, a butcher shop that’s actually next to the embassy. From instant pancit noodles to dried bananas and Mama Sita sauces, the shop will have everything you need for your Filipino cooking. The owners are a lovely Egyptian and Filipina couple who will be more than happy to help you with any recommendations or questions.