Taranaki winters are known for their cold, blustery breezes that make every day a good occasion for warming up with something cosy, filling, and comforting. And while comfort food isn’t reserved exclusively for this time of year, it tends to be the time when we crave it the most.
We’re fortunate in our region to have many incredible places to find lots of the mouth-watering, go-to dishes that people find comfort in – lasagne, risotto, hot chips, and tasty curries galore! But for the many immigrants here like myself, what we consider comfort food is not often something you can find on the menu of a local restaurant. Luckily, we have a variety of specialty grocery shops that are places where you can find many of the ingredients needed to make comfort foods from countries and cultures all over the world.
In Waitara you’ll find whole foods shop, Bin Inn. While they’ve always been known as a place where you can buy pantry staples in bulk, they also carry a wide variety of organic products that are suited for keto and gluten-free diets. With over 120 spices available, the possibility of creating global flavours is nothing short of certain. And if Dutch food is what brings you the feeling of home, look no further. They have the greatest variety of Dutch foodstuffs in this region with heaps of sweets, sauces, soups, and a massive variety of liquorice. Met Stukjes Appel, anyone?
Closer to New Plymouth in Waiwhakaiho is authentic Indian grocery, Taranaki Fresh. It is a one-stop-shop for meals with Indian, Fijian, and Middle Eastern flair. Filled with everything you need to make exceptional curries, fragrant biriyanis, and a fine feast complete with breads, chutneys, and entrees – this is the place you must visit if your comfort food is full of spice and flavour! There’s also a great range of imported snacks and lollies if you’re simply in the mood for a ready-to-eat treat. This is my go-to place for paratha, spicy pickles, and fresh okra and kerala.
If a taste of the Mediterranean is what takes you home, then Vetro is the specialty shop for you! They boast a unique range of premium food items for preparing healthy delicious meals, allowing you to make comfort food at its finest. You’ll find most everything needed to create gourmet Italian, French, and Spanish dishes that will pair beautifully with a bottle from their selection of wines. They also have an assortment of meats, European cheeses, wholefood items, and every little bit and bob you can think of to put together a gorgeous hamper or picnic basket. And my fellow Americans, your Taco Tuesday will appreciate their “muy sabrosa” tex-mex section.
To take your tastebuds on a trip to the Philippines, head to Pinoy Food Shop on Lemon Street. There you can find all sorts of Filipino imported goods to stock your cupboard with. From seasonings and snacks to beverages and beauty products, they have a little bit of everything and are always bringing in new items that customers request. However, their best and most popular items are made right here in Taranaki – Christie’s fresh baked mini buko (baby coconut) pies, Spanish bread, and cheese rolls. These sweet and savoury treats sell out quickly, so go early if you want to try them for yourself.
For our locals who find that familiar flavour of home in a steaming bowl of ramen or a Szechuan stir-fry, Fresh World has the largest variety of Asian groceries and produce you’ll find in Taranaki. You can find a huge assortment of noodles, all types of sauces and seasonings, dumplings and wontons, and lots of teas and sweets that you won’t find anywhere else. This is where I go to get everything I need to make hot and sour soup and I can never resist the novelty of grabbing a fortune cookie at the till.
And for all of our South African expats and anyone else who loves biltong and hosting the most delicious barbecue in town, we have the Bok Shop. Not only do they carry a wide range of South African groceries, but they have a butchery that specializes in braai – meat that’s cooked over fire. Customers can’t get enough of their juicy boerewors and dry aged cuts of meat. Their biltong comes in traditional cuts, wheels, sticks, and chips. They even have a teething biltong for tiny tots. And don’t forget to grab koeksister for dessert. I can’t get enough of this honey-soaked pastry plait!
So, if you find yourself craving a taste of comfort from some place far away, let the wonderful people in these specialty food stores help you find all the elements needed to tuck into the warm embrace of your favourite comfort food.
And that, my friends, is what’s Tasty in Taranaki!