It inevitably happens just when you’ve finally adapted to the traditional Catalan life of tapas and late dinners — the yearning for a quiet night in and your favorite comfort dish from home hits hard. The recipe though calls for an ingredient not readily found at Mercadona or any of the local mercats. An online search also fails, leading you to briefly think (hope?) that maybe Google doesn’t know everything. Fortunately, specialty groceries in Barcelona may be found at these stores to help you recreate your favorite comfort food so well that even your mom would approve.
If I was going to have the Pope visit, I’d make my crowd-pleasing Thai shrimp soup. The recipe calls for fresh lemongrass though, a rarity in Barcelona, until Dong Fang started to carry it. Hard to miss on Carrer de Balmes thanks to its big red doors and signs with bright lettering, Dong Fang has fresh and frozen lemongrass and so much more. A section of fresh vegetables, including chayote squash and bitter gourd, a huge frozen food section, Vietnamese pho ingredients, tom kha paste, specialty beverages, and many other foods in mysterious packages that surely contain the most delicious ingredients of the stew pot of cuisines across the vast Asian continent and Indian subcontinent.
JK Asian Food Store – Carrer de Sant Pau, 25
It’s easy to walk past this corner store down a Raval alleyway. (Hint: it’s just across from the Wok to Walk.) JK Asian packs a lot into their little space, and not always in an organized way, so be prepared to wander. Although the name implies “Asian” groceries, most items are related to dishes from the Indian subcontinent — masala powders, spices, frozen food, dried legumes, flour (wheat, rice, chickpea, lentil), sauces, pickles, and chutneys, plus a small section of fresh vegetables, including, green chilies. The freezer, inevitably blocked by a pile of boxes, contains many types of stuffed parathas, naans, and rotis good enough to make the effort to shove aside everything on top to open the freezer case. The store also offers some Indian cosmetics and beauty products, including coconut oil.
Yueng Tong – Carrer de Napols, 177 bajos
What Yueng Tong offers in ingredients, it matches in kitchen appliances, and it offers quite a bit. If you’re looking for a large wok for stir fries or you’re up to the challenge of making your own dumplings in traditional bamboo steamers, Yueng Tong is your one stop shop. The store also carries typical Asian pantry staples of rice, noodles, and sauces, but also…could it be…yes it is…Skippy peanut butter (creamy AND crunchy!). A colorful section of ramen soups in more varieties than could be counted will ensure that you will never, ever eat plain Yatekomo ever again.
Yang Kuang – Passeig de Sant Joan, 12, 14
A stone’s throw from the Arc de Triomf, Yang Kuang sprawls across two store fronts. In the first area, there is fresh meat, a large produce section, and the pantry staples of rice and sauces. When you pass through to their other section, Yang Kuang has a massive section of Asian snacks both savory and sweet, yogurt drinks and frozen foods, including gyozas and empanadillas.
AfroLatino – Via Laietana, 9
While Barcelona has some up-to-snuff Mexican restaurants, making your own authentic (or as authentic as this Texan knows) Mexican food comes down to where to find quality, real ingredients. One thing I have been searching high and low for is sour cream – the Spanish version just simply doesn’t cut it, but AfroLatino has it! Looking for queso fresco for your enchiladas or you can’t be bothered to make mole from scratch? They’ve got it! They also carry a large variety of pre-made tortillas, including hard taco shells, refried beans, and they have a panaderia at their storefront filled with fresh baked goods.
Abarrotes Dona Cuna – Passatge de Font, 4
Abarrotes Dona Cuna is easy to miss given its unassuming location off of a side street in Eixample. Of note, the small store has a tub filled to the brim with dried chili peppers. While the store is smaller than others and offers fewer ingredients, they do carry masa and corn husks for making tamales – and did I mention a TUB full of dried chilis? Abarrotes also carries a wide range of Mexican candies and fresh tortillas.
Pacifico Latin Food Market – Carrer de Valencia, 462
Also in the field of Latin specialty groceries in Barcelona, the petite Pacifico Latin Food Market packs a punch with their offerings of the best of the best. If you’re a kitchen rockstar who likes to make your own tortillas or arepas, Pacifico has all the ingredients, including the traditional pans and flours. The tiny store also carries a large selection of the alcohol needed for your favorite Latin adult beverage.
Finding specialty groceries in Barcelona is no longer the barrier it used to be. So go. It’s a delicious world out there. Spice up your culinary repertoire and cook up something new.