We Can’t Travel Right Now… But We Can Go to the Grocery Store

Life hack: Going to a specialty market safely scratches the travel itch.

I went to Italy last week… basically. This trip didn’t involve an ill-advised international flight or any disappointed looks from Dr. Bonnie: just a car ride to the Bosa Foods at Victoria and Hastings. 

I’m here to share my new lockdown life hack: shopping at regionally specific grocery stores is like micro-dosing on international travel. 

Perhaps it’s just me, but when I travel, visiting grocery stores and corner stores is legitimately my favourite part of the trip. It’s a glimpse into the every day lives (and snacks) of the real people who live there, and an opportunity to stock up on delightfully exotic new chip flavours, whether shrimp tom yum Lays in Bangkok or cheese and onion Walkers in Edinburgh. 

It’s likely going to be a while yet before we can globe-trot our way through the canned goods in far-flung places again, so in the meantime, I’m getting my culture-shock kicks at the markets right here in town. Here’s where to head for a little taste of the world while we wait to visit it again. 

(Mandatory COVID disclaimer: Of course, when you’re doing your shopping, wear a mask, keep your hands to yourself, and don’t get so excited by the olive oil selection that you forget to social distance.)

You’re craving: A trip to Italy 
The destination:
 Bosa Foods562 Victoria Dr. or 1465 Kootenay St
What you’ll find: Aisles of fresh and frozen pastas, Canada’s largest selection of parmesean, and all your favourite little fishes packed in adorable (and giftable!) cans. Plus olives. So many olives.

You’re craving: A week in Tokyo
The destination: Fujiya, 912 Clark Dr. and 112-1050 W. Pender St.
What you’ll find: Sashimi-grade fish, impeccable grab-and-go sushi rolls (California rolls are just $2.95!) and bento boxes. You’ll also find an extensive tea selection — more than 50 brands imported from Japan — and all the Japanese pantry essentials, from miso to Pocky.

You’re craving: The bustling streets of Seoul
The destination: Kim’s Mart, 519 E Broadway
What you’ll find: House-made kimchi and tofu, reams of Korean chili pastes and powders, and an impressive collection of instant meals. Get a couple of hot roasted yams to snack on for the walk home.

You’re craving: A little taste of India
The destination: Super Spice House, 6169 Fraser St.
What you’ll find: Well, spices, of course. But also a roster of excellent snacks (like channa crackers and crunchy ratlami sev), and shelves packed with chutneys, curry pastes and pickle. 

You’re craving: That South-of-the-border heat
The destination: Los Guerreros Latin Foods, 3317 Kingsway
What you’ll find: A tiny shop with stacks of tortillas, bags of chicarron, a supreme selection of hot sauces and moles, a whole wall of chiles and more authentic Latin kitchen staples. Stock up on frozen pre-made goods like arepas and tamales.