(Updated through July 2013)
It’s easy to find the ingredients to make great Japanese home cooking in Montreal if you know where to look. Here’s where we go:
This isn’t actually an Asian shop at all – the owners are Lebanese – but it’s still crucial to our shopping strategy.
The place sells an amazing variety of fruits and vegetables from all over the world. Tucked away behind weird African roots and exotic South American fruits you can find a wealth of Japanese veggies: your goya (bitter melon), your taro (japanese potatoes), your sasage (yardlong beans) and your daikon (Japanese radish). Oddly, products that are only seasonal in Japan can be found here year round.
The variety on offer is truly astounding: they even have “Salade Nappa” – Japanese style hakusai – which is very nearly (but not quite) the same as Chinese cabbage…which you can pick up just a few feet down the same aisle. Amazing! Prices are very reasonable. They’ve recently added a Poissonerie Sami (fish shop) to most shops.
Somehow every immigrant in town seems to love Sami Fruit, but few pure laine types seem to venture there: I guess it’s a little dizzying to the average montrealer.
A massive Vietnamese/Chinese grocery store with an enormous selection of everything Asian, including live fish. If you want to make Chinese food, you really have to come here – there must be 800 types of noodle on offer!
There are three Kim Phat locations around town, including the simply gigantic flagship store in Brossard, down in the South Shore.
The Japanese section is maybe 3% of the store, but it’s still pretty decent.
You could almost do all your Japanese ingredient shopping here, but not quite: annoyingly, Kim Phat does not stock any kind of cooking sake. And they don’t sell the good quality Korean silken tofu we need for so many recipes. That sucks, because if they did we wouldn’t have to trek all the way to the West Side to finish up our shopping.
To make up for Kim Phat’s inexplicable blindspots, we usually go to one of these three:
Épicerie Coréenne & Japonaise on 2109 Ste. Catherine West
This little store on Ste. Catherine Street, two blocks east of the old Forum, is the place to go for all your basic Japanese ingredients. Miso, sake, dashi, okonomiyaki sauce, tofu, shiitake mushrooms, konyaku, cooking sake…
All the basics are there. They have a decent selection of kitchenware and rice-cookers, too. You can’t always get the more exotic ingredients, though.
Crucially, they stock lovely silken tofu made in Korea, packaged in strange-looking sausage-like round containers – it’s worth making the trip just to buy those. Prices are ok, though not exactly low.
The friendly Korean staff will do what they can to help you find what you’re looking for in English or French.
Marché d’Alimentation Coréenne et Japonaise on Sherbrooke, in NDG
This Korean-run store on 6151 Sherbrooke West has a wider selection of exotic Japanese ingredients than the competition on Sainte Catherine. They go well beyond the basics and into ingredients Japanese people surely miss from home.
To my amazement, I found Sake Kasu here, which is the leftover residue from making Sake: a cherished culinary treat from home I never thought I’d find abroad. They stock that good round-package silken tofu too.
Prices here are lower than in Épicerie Coréene et Japonaise, but the store isn’t as clean. The place seems to be aimed at Korean shoppers, so if you don’t speak Korean you may not get very much help from the staff. Still, considering the prices and variety, this is an excellent address to keep in mind.
A third choice in the Westmount/NDG area is:
Banzai $1.99 at 2120 Boulevard Decarie, in Westmount
Although it bills iself as a kind of Japanese dollar store (well, ok, a $1.99 store), Banzai $1.99 is actually just a Korean/Japanese grocery store that sells cooking utensils and trinkets on the side (not unlike Épicerie Coréene & Japonaise, in fact).
Banzai $1.99 makes for a reasonable compromise between its two rivals in the area. It’s actually physically located in between them, and it falls in between them in terms of price, cleanliness and selection as well!
A final note, we usually skip the only genuinely Japanese (not Korean) grocery store in town: Miyamoto on Victoria St. in Westmount.
Although they have great products, their prices are just stratospheric – way too high. They do speak Japanese, though, so that’ll be one good reason to go there for some readers.