In Asian supermarkets, in the Netherlands known as toko, you have to choose from different types and brands of a product, that you often do not know well. The only way to discover which brand suits your taste is by trying.
In the past my parents traveled to Amsterdam for these groceries where, since our arrival in the Netherlands in 1977, were Asian supermarkets. The offer was not large at that time and consisted mainly of rice, fish sauce and noodles. My father and uncle once transported fish sauce in the train and accidentally dropped a bottle of fish sauce. You can imagine what the reactions of the passengers were like.
Later, delivery vans with Asian products (a kind of mobile Asian supermarkets) were available, so my mother could buy a big amount of Asian products. Today, Asian shops lack nothing and specialty stores offer fresh basic ingredients. Because of her long ‘preliminary study’, I follow my mother’s advice about Asian products convincely.
The bottles, jars and spices that I spot in my mother’s kitchen, I find in my own kitchen now. Perhaps I have developed the same preference for brands through upbringing, but nostalgia for the parental home also plays a role. Because the Nuoc cham doesn’t dip the same anywhere like it does at home (see Dips and dressings and Features of Vietnamese cuisine).
Most major cities in the Netherlands have Asian supermarkets. They are convenient to get fresh or supplementary products. I prefer to visit wholesale markets, often located on industrial sites, to store large quantities. Most products are long lasting, so you can at any time respond to the desire for a particular dish. The Vietnamese cuisine has also conquered Asian supermarkets. Although you can buy numerous ready-made Vietnamese products, such as broths for noodle soups, dough for pancakes, fish sauce dippings, instant Pho, these products never reach the quality of freshly made dips and other commodities. But you can always try them, because with the increase of competition, the quality also rises.
For many Vietnamese recipes the products below are handy to keep at home and you can store them for a long time:
- fish sauce, indispensable to the Vietnamese cuisine
- white rice, jasmine or pandan rice, for rice tables
- rice noodles, for noodle soups
- rice vermicelli, for noodle soups and salads
- cellophane Noodles, for salads and spring roll fillings
- rice paper, for fondue, salad, fresh salad rolls, fried spring rolls
- rice flour, for Vietnamese pancakes
- spring roll sheets, for mini spring rolls (125 x 125) and Vietnamese spring rolls (215 x 215), multi-applicable
- peanuts, to roast for garnishing salads and dippings
- dried tree ears/black mushrooms, for meat fillings and soups
- chili Sauce, often of the brand Sriracha, as seasoning for various dishes at the dinner table
- hoisin sauce, as a flavor enhancer and to make sauces
- MAGGI aroma, for dressing in Vietnamese sandwiches, marinades or fried eggs for breakfast/lunch
- oyster sauce for stir-fries
- soy sauce, for (salad) dressings