10500 SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy, 643-4512
One of my favorite things to do on a cold wet Portland winter day is to make the trek to Beaverton for a little exotic shopping at the awe inspiring Uwajimaya. More like an Asian Albertson's than a hole in the wall grocery, this is the Tokyo Disneyland of Asian grocery stores, housing vast amounts of never-before-seen food items under one gigantic roof. This is THE place to buy great cheap tofu and amazing seafood. Plus they have an entire cooler of Kim Chee, varying in brand, spiciness, and ingredients--school your palette on the varieties of this fermented cabbage staple of the Korean diet. And then there's the "wall of ramen." Even if you burned yourself out on the weak American version in college, it's time to try the real deal. The variety here is mind-blowing, and if you're into creative packaging, this will be a treat for the eyes as well as the stomach. As a last stop, I always cruise the candy and cookies aisle and load up on brightly packaged bags and containers of questionable content. Where else can you gorge on green tea candies and strawberry cookie sticks?
7000 N Interstate, 978-8178
Owner Jesus has been on hand every time I've gone to Jesusito Market. His helpful suggestions about which Cuban Espresso to buy or what kind of cheese to serve with guava paste are part of why I keep going back. But of course the real reason is the goods, like the De Mi Terra, the spiced and nicely priced traditional Colombian chorizo. Jesusito also carries instant paella from Vigo, which I can't find anywhere else, and is a wonderfully flavored and extremely easy-to-make version of the Spanish staple. Also tops on my list is the Materva Yerba Mate Soda, a wonderfully crisp and sweet beverage that has the flavor of a tangy cream soda, but the kick of a Jolt Cola.
7814 N. Interstate, 240-2768
Are you crazy about cooking your own Indian food, but sick of being limited to the spices offered at New Seasons? Fiji Emporium has a full aisle of Indian, Pakistani, and Fijian spices that will rock your little world and give your cookbook a workout. And if you're into nontraditional meats, Fiji Emporium boasts New Zealand lamb chops and imported goat meat. Also in ample varieties is incense, most of which are not labeled in English, so you have to use your nose to choose. And strangely enough, they sell the best British tea cookies ever, Hob Nobs, which have a hearty oaty texture and a brown sugar sweetness that make a perfect compliment to a cup of Chai.
Fotis Greek Deli
1740 E Burnside, 232-0274
Fotis has one of the best gyros in town, and the Greek salad is really something special. But what keeps bringing me back is the odd assortment of Greek and Croatian groceries shelved behind the seating area. I've fallen in love with the Greek olive oils and Croatian cookies that fill the shelves-- but mostly I love to look at the packaging and try to guess what's inside. They have a nice selection of espressos and coffees, and more jarred preserved fruits than you would ever know what to do with. It's also a great place to pick up tasty Greek or Croatian beer to spice up your next party.