Paris Chinatown

Chinatown Loot

Saturday was the first day of my vacation, and Maxence and I decided to take a little trip to Asia : all it took was a twenty-minute motorcycle ride to the Parisian Chinatown where I had, for reasons I cannot fathom, never been before.

We sat down at a Vietnamese restaurant for a bo-bun (a delicious salads of noodles and beef with lemongrass, soy sprouts, mint and ground peanuts), then did a little shopping at Tang Frères, a gigantic Asian grocery store — so huge and busy they’ve even built a private railroad track that leads to their warehouse.

There, we marvelled at all those unusual and unknown fruits and vegetables, but since we were leaving just the next day, we couldn’t get too much fresh produce. We did get two big Kent mangoes, sweet and juicy. We adore mangoes, and it seems to be a really good year for them : they are everywhere these days, excellent and very affordable. We also got a few ears of fresh corn, which are nowhere to be found in regular stores : in France, corn is eaten mostly from a can and used in salads, so corn still in its husk is a rarity. Corn on the cob, here we come!

We went on to browse the aisles, and got a package of soba noodles, to replace the one the little grain mites had feasted on recently, wasabi peas and a bag of mixed Japanese crackers, two cans of flavored sparkling water in starfruit and lychee flavors, and a package of sultana biscuits, those thin rectangular cookies with raisins which I used to love when I was little, but seem to have disappeared from the shelves since.

In addition to that, I got a package of Chinese dried globe amaranth (tiny purple flowers), a package of palmtree sugarloaves, and a package of bright green flattened sweet rice. I have no idea what to do with either of these, but I figured I would just ask you! Any suggestion?

I also love Asian bakeries, so we visited a few until we found a small one where everything looked terribly tempting, and where we got a little assortment of cakes. Luckily Maxence was there to stop me from buying the whole store, I so wanted to sample everything, but we still ended up with : a cream-filled rolled cake, a slice of pistachio and coconut steamed cake, a lemon and almond chiffon cake, two steamed coconut balls (one filled with soy paste, the other with a peanut and sesame paste), and two little flaky papery cakes filled with soy paste and lotus paste.

All of these we shared with our neighbors in a large-scale tasting session, and all of them were delicious, moist and tasty, with interesting flavors and textures that surprised our tastebuds. My favorites were the steamed coconut balls (especially the peanut-sesame one) and the steamed pistachio cake. I have never ventured into the wonderful land of steamed cakes myself, but I think I really need to look into it!

Tang Frères
48 avenue d’Ivry
75013 Paris
01 45 70 80 00

Pâtisserie de saison
2 rue Simone Weil
75013 Paris
01 45 84 37 70

  • Hi Clotilde,
    Sounding like it was a BIG shopping day :)
    I would have wanted to see you buy that whole bakery!

    Are you heading somewhere on vacation? Have a good one!

  • Thea

    Without seeing the packages you bought, I can only offer vague suggestions for your goodies. Palmtree sugarloaves are probably a dark brown sugar made from the sap of palm trees, which comes in solid blocks. Basically use it where you would use soft brown sugar, especially in Asian foods – I use palm sugar typically in Thai foods where the balance of sweet, sour, salty & hot is vital. Just shave off the amount you need. The bright green rice could be flavoured with Pandanus or Screwpine leaf, which has a sort of coconut flavour. If this is so, try making a breakfast dish of warm rice topped with coconut milk sweetened with a simple syrup made from the palm sugar. Or use the palm sugar to make a caramel to pour over fresh or baked fruit for a dessert in keeping with an Asian meal. And I think the little flowers can be brewed as a tea. I hope this helps with some ideas

  • We try to make a trip – no, a pilgrimage – to Tang Frères every two months or so… We buy ginormous bags of rice and all sorts of delicious sauces, condiments and goodies that one can’t normally find in the stores here in Paris, including bok choy, fresh udon noodles and corn on the cob ;)
    Then we pack the car and make our way to one of our favourite restaurants in the quartier and eat enough delicious things to last us for at least 24 hours.
    Ahh, it’s a magical part of the city!

  • If you need a supply of those sultana biscuits, they are available in the UK (garibaldi biscuits, i believe they’re called). No, hang on, they have currants, not sultanas, in them. Anyway, if you’re desperate, I’d be happy to post them over to you!

  • Great minds think alike … I was walking through SF’s Chinatown yesterday and marvelling at the odd stuff. I stayed out of the bakeries, though, as I was on a mission to go to North Beach (Italian neighborhood) for pastries.

  • caroline

    just a suggestion: i love corn on the cob on the grill. It’s quite simple, you just put one layer of husk tied aruond the cob after it’s been cleaned up (remove the silk), it can be a sloppy job with some kernels showing and throw it on any kind of grill (though charcoal gives a nice flavor)–turn every 3 minutes until it has darkened to a brighter yellow and a good amount is burnt/carmelized. it will take 10-15 minutes, usually towards 10, do it at medium high or high heat.

    better than broiling it, and this way those of us from the midwest don’t feel the need to put sugar on it, because of the carmelization. a little butter and voila!

  • Clotilde, I stumbled upon your blog by accident (a google search for soba noodles) and i’m so very glad to have discovered it. i’m also a food entusiast, and it’s so exciting to find there’s a blogging world full of them! out of curiosity, what do you constantly keep in your pantry? i’m fascinated by the types of food different chefs consider staples, and as i’ve just moved from atlanta, ga up to chicago, il, my kitchen and pantry are a clean slate and i’m seeking inspiration before i properly stock them. thanks for sharing your thoughts on food and your lovely recipes!

  • Glad that you’ve discovered the joys of Asian pastries!

    In Singapore, we have a huge variety of such pastries. There’s this steam cake which is one of my favourites called a “Nine-layer cake” because it has many layers made up of different colours. It’s very pretty, and the top layer’s always red.

    The little flaky papery cakes that you bought are also traditional Chinese pastries which are given away to friends and relatives when someone’s getting married.

  • June

    It seems to me that corn on the cob is becoming much more popular now in the UK (where I am) and in Europe. It’s just not for the horses! I hope the different kinds will evolve like I grew up with in the States. The white corn is sweetest and best. Oh, I’m salivating.

  • Salut Clotilde!
    I am a personal chef in San Rafael, California (11 miles north of San Francisco in lovely Marin County). A friend of mine recommended that I stop by your blog. I am delighted to see that the love of food is alive and well!

    Last year, I grew blue Aztec corn in my organic garden. The plants reached 12-13 feet into the air, and the ears of corn averaged 1 foot in length. They are too starchy to eat off the cob, but they make great blue corn tortillas and excellent decorations. I have grown white and yellow corn as well, which was delicious!

    I used to have a Singaporian roommate who had a vast knowledge about various Asian condiments, cuisine, etc. Even a well-known author on the subject of Asian cuisine used to drop by our house to pick her brain about the lastest exotic delicacy….

    I have started a blog of my own ( I look forward to more postings! Keep up the good work!

  • I was wondering when you would start talking about Chinese food.

    It certainly is different from the Western cuisine, and much better for your health.

    I recently got into it, and am now making jellyfish soup with water chestnuts, (dried jellyfish are easy to find in chinatown and are very cheap) for my mother, who suffers from high blood pressure. It is a Chinese food cure for this problem

    On top of this, they have dried fruit as candy that are just fun, if not delicious – such as hawthorn (great for your heart and circulation by the way), dried jujube, and something called dragon’s eyes (longyan) which are kind of like raisins.

    With so many different types of fruits – like winter melon (like watermelon but white) and different seafood and spices and vegetables, it’s fun and healthy.

    Click the link above to see what fascinating recipes you can make in Chinese cooking. Maybe one day I can afford to go to Hong Kong.

  • Michelle
  • pipstar

    I love using shaved fragments of palm sugar in thai recipes such as green curry. It adds such a delicious flavour. I’m sure you will have a lot of fun exploring with all these new flavours! i can’t wait to hear all about your experiences :-)

  • akiko

    Hello, Clotilde!

    I am happy that you have the access to Asian ingredients in Paris. I am not sure about those chinese stuff, but I can talk about Japanese food if you have any questions.

  • Katie

    Sounds like a fun adventure! Have you tried dim sum before? I’m addicted to it! :)

  • HI… I was wondering when you would talk about Chinese food. Living in china, you really miss the great variety of foods that you can find in places like Singapore, Paris and so on. Just a little nugget of information, i see a package of Khong Guan biscuits in your picture. This is one of the few products that Singapore blessed the world with! Vive La Singapour!

  • Chai Hiock

    I’m writing from Singapore and a fan of your blog.
    Amused by your fascination with Oriental food:). I think the same could be said with my fascination by the variety of cheese.
    The sultana biscuit is definitely KGB
    ( Kong Guan Biscuits) from the packaging.
    The palmtree sugar is great if melted and used as sweetener for asian desserts, especially malay and peranakan.
    The green flattend rice cakes are probably from green-dye and artificial screwpine/pandan-flavoured ( can never compare to the real thing!). Frankly , have not seen green flattened rice cakes in Singapore or Malaysia.
    Pandan has a very distinct fragrance. Usually a few leaves ( long and luscious green) are frequently used to enhance fragrance of desserts and sugar-syrup or even added to rice while been cooked. Wonderful fragrance will fill your kitchen! In the olden days before artiificial dyes are so readily available, pandan leaves are pounded and the juice used as natural green dye for use in food , esp desserts like the steam cakes you mentioned.
    It also has other interesting uses- bunch of pandan leaves are tied together to keep away coackroach.
    Oh.. I am trying to start a food blog but more on Asian food, esp from Singapore and Malaysia..Clotilde,..if only I have your energy…:)

  • catherine

    here, the buckwheat vermicelli among assortment of asian stuffs is made by Korea.
    I can see korean mark and korean word.
    Normally, korean and japanese eat oftenh buckwheat noodles during summer time because this kind of food such as cold noodle takes away the heat from the people.
    Eating it, they can forget a sticky and hot summer

  • Sharon

    Greetings from Singapour! An easy recipie suggestion for the palm sugar. Melt it down in a pot with some water (adjust to taste) – I think one disc will give you a fairly substantial amount. It can be used as a great caramel-y topping on vanila ice cream, or even better, coconut ice cream!
    You could try to see how it would combine with various French desserts too….

  • Thanks a lot for all the suggestions on how to use these goodies! I’ll keep you posted about my attempts…

  • gluhtzee

    have to make a suggestion ~ 55+ years after cooking my first pot of rice on a stove, when i next visit Paris, may we visit Tang Frères and Pâtisserie de saison togther, then allow me to cook a simple Cantonese home meal for you and Maxence with tlc = and some of the skills acquired from my elders, then using chopsticks to savour ;-p

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