Global Food, AshburnWhen I was 22, I left the comfort of everything I knew and loved here in the United States and took a teaching job abroad on the tiny island of Saipan in the Pacific. After four years on a beautiful tropical island I went off to Bogota in the Colombian Andes, and then to Saudi Arabia. Eight years of teaching and traveling around the world later, I came back home to Illinois. I was excited to be close to family again, but I found myself missing the foods I’d come to love while abroad. The small town I was in didn’t have an international market, just a few things in the Mexican aisle at the local grocery store.

When I came to the DC area 1998, I was thrilled to stumble across Grand Mart in Falls Church after a job interview. Their extensive collection of Asian and Hispanic ingredients bowled me over and I filled my cart with many things I had missed, such as Colombian hot chocolate, teas, black bean sauce, several kinds of soy sauce, mirin, noodles.  And they had those famous big-as-your-head rice cakes. It was fantastic to this woman who was still missing good Chinese, Thai, Middle Eastern, and Colombian food.

Thai shrimp pasteTo this day, I still get excited when I spot an international grocery store, which are plentiful around here. The DC area has a mix of people from all over the world, and we are fortunate to have a number of international grocery stores, large and small, that provide an incredible variety of foods. Want some durian? Craving rambutan? Need some fish sauce, shrimp paste, or yuca flour? You’ll probably be able to find them at one or more of the many stores in the DC metro area.

There are several chains of larger stores in the area, including Global Food, H Mart, Grand Mart, and Lotte Plaza. One of my favorite small stores, a market on West Ox Road in Loudoun that sold Thai food and cookware, closed down. Their selection of Thai foods was very good, so I’ve missed them. Fortunately there are four large stores all within driving distance to help keep my pantry stocked.

What is your favorite international store and what international foods do you like to cook with?

Andrea Meyers blogs about food, photography, and edible gardening, and she could eat Thai drunken noodles and Tom Kha Gai any day of the week.