Sunday, July 26, 2009
The Green House Supermarket
We got an impromptu tour around the amazing complex behind Sharjah’s Green House Supermarket recently. The old supermarket, which used to be off Gamal Abdel Nasser Street, has now been closed down and moved to the front of the Green House Warehouse in the Sharjah Industrial Area. It's not a million miles from the London Dairy Ice Cream factory, in fact.
What do you mean, you thought it came from London? Next you'll be telling me you didn't know it was made with palm oil - cheap saturated vegetable fat used as a substitute for the more expensive cow-derived cream.
The Green House Supermarket is an occasional pleasure for me, a wander around this eclectic collection preparatory to a night's mega-Thai cookup and a freezer-packing session. The Green House stocks the strangest and most amazing variety of things, from extension leads through to mothballs as well as a brilliant array of Asian foods and utensils. From heavy granite pestles and mortars through blue-patterned Thai ceramics, woks and dim-sum steamers to black sticky rice, Thai curry pastes, bean curds, fresh lotus root and frozen frogs, the Green House has got the lot.
But the fresh vegetable section is where this place really wins out – Thai hot basil, peppercorns, chilis, kaffir limes, garlic flowers, pandan leaves, Thai coriander root and crisp, succulent pak choi and banana flowers are laid out in boxes, all air-freighted from Thailand. And they’re all draw-droppingly fresh, vibrant green and crunchy. The pak choi alone is worth the trip.
The Green House is actually the front end of a high quality food distribution organisation that not only supplies the UAE’s Thai restaurants with speciality ingredients, but also supplies supermarkets and hotels with a range of French and European foodstuffs. I hadn’t realised how extensive this side of the business was until we swung by and Sarah got spotted by the lady in the supermarket – who turned out to be the mother of a child Sarah had taught and half of the the husband and wife team (he’s Greek, she’s Thai) behind the operation.
As a consequence, we got treated to an unintended (and delightful) whistle-stop tour ‘round the back’, huge freezer rooms packed with boxes of food, cool rooms stacked with French cheeses, pallets of extra virgin olive oil, yoghurts and creams, milks and sauces, specialty flours and salts in a maze-like succession of rooms, walk-ins, cold stores and freezers.
It’s an impressive operation – but the most impressive bit for me remains the amazing fresh Thai vegetables, herbs and spices. Spinneys can barely manage to keep the fresh local herbs it sells from being a wilted mess and yet Green House brings them in from Thailand and manages to keep them so fresh you could just close your eyes and be in the street markets of Asia.
So if you want to create a Thai dinner party that has everyone gasping at your brilliance, buy great fresh ingredients - and you'll not find fresher than here. People travel from as far away as Al Ain to shop at this odd, poky little emporium of all things Thai.
You can find the Green House Supermarket by driving up Sharjah’s ‘main drag’, Al Wahda Street and turning right directly after the Crystal Palace Showroom – it’s down the road 100 yards or so, just in front of the Alena Warehouse. Alternatively, follow this handy Google Map link or find it here on Wikimapia! If, after all that, you're still lost, call 'em on 06 5332218.
The author asserts he has received no emolument from the proprietors of the establishment eulogised in this piece. Honest.