Halifax Guide to Local International Food Stores

vLife Blog. Halifax Guide: Small Local International Food Stores. Written by Sarah van Achte. Globe cut in half with fresh peppers, an avocado, tomatoes, and fresh lettuce in between the two halves.

Hey again! We all have heard of Gateway by now, living in and around Nova Scotia. It is inarguably the most well-known independent grocery store in Nova Scotia. But did you know there are others? Today, I’m going to highlight different independent grocery stores that are focused on international food. For all of you adventurous gourmets!

Why Buy from Local Independent Grocers?

I’m sure you’ve heard how important it is to support small local businesses, but how does this translate to your weekly grocery shopping?

Well, it’s not about never buying at big chains. It’s more about trying to get some of your weekly food from small local grocers and suppliers when you can. Giving some of our grocery purchase dollars to independent grocery stores helps keep their doors open. Plus it reduces your carbon footprint and retains more of your purchase dollars locally.

Here’s how.

Buying locally helps support the local economy, as well as people just like us. People are trying their best every day. Locally owned shops don’t have a big profit margin year-over-year to fall back on like big chain stores do. Sure, chain stores are important as well, but locally-owned shops will funnel more of their revenue money back into the local economy.

Plus international grocers infuse our communities with diversity! Not only do they provide newcomers with the familiar flavors of their countries of origin, but it helps others (like my partner and me) branch out and try delicious food they may not otherwise have tried.

Tangible Benefits of Buying Local

Tacos with fresh local ingredients. International Foods

A lot of the time, independent grocery stores source their produce locally. The fresh produce has to come from somewhere, and a lot of the time that is from local farmers. So, the money spent at these stores helps to support local farmers in their own businesses, something big chain stores like Sobeys don’t always have the freedom to do.

Chain grocery stores have corporate systems they have to follow. Locally owned stores, especially places that sell international food, have more freedom to source their produce locally.

While grocery stores that sell international food will have imported goods, which can be a bit pricier, they are worth it. They’ll have different kinds of snacks and ingredients to try out at home. I love going into international grocery stores, even if it’s just to browse around and see what kinds of new flavours I can enjoy.

Another bonus: talking to locals! I have found that any time I’ve been in an international food grocery store, the owner has been super helpful and super friendly. It’s easy to get tips on which ingredients to use, and what kind of dishes to make. I could get lost for hours just talking to them about the kinds of food they like to make at home, as well as suggestions on what kind of supplies I may need. It’s a much more personal shopping experience than a chain grocery store!

My Top 3 Go-to International Grocers in Halifax

Did you know that there are a lot of independent, international grocery stores around Halifax?

Shahi Grocery is one of my favourites. It’s on Lacewood Drive. It’s an Indian grocer. The store itself is small, but the owners are super nice every time I’ve stopped in! They sell so many interesting snacks to try, as well as ways to source ingredients for making homemade Indian food right in your own kitchen!

International Food shop Shahi Grocery
Shahi Grocery, an Indian, independent grocery store, taken by my partner during a recent visit.

Union Foodmart is another great option! This is one I found recently! There are two locations for this one. One is in Dartmouth, on Wyse Road, and the other one is on Chain Lake Drive. I went to the Chain Lake Drive location and it was fantastic! It was so colorful, with so many different options. There was a wide variety of fresh produce as well as frozen food. The snacks were also plentiful, and I got a few new ideas for snacks. Not only that, I found a new place to get frozen dumplings! There were so many varieties to choose from!

Tian Phat is another favourite, located on the Bedford Highway. It’s a lovely shop with friendly people! I love stopping in here to get ingredients for my next international food meal! It’s a great place to source not only ingredients for Chinese food, but also Thai food.

And for other great international food options in Halifax, be sure to check out the searchable table in fellow writer Tonnette Cunningham’s Newcomers Guide to Halifax blog here.

Why I Love Shopping at International Food Stores

I have been shopping at independent, international grocers for years. It’s comforting knowing that I can walk into a grocery store and get tips on what to make for supper that night! I love getting to know and talk to people in the stores. I have gotten many good suggestions for snacks from different stores just by talking to either the person working the register or other shoppers in the store.

Crowd-sourcing yummy new dinner ideas. How cool is that?

How to Start Cooking International Food

It can feel overwhelming, with so many different ingredient and recipe options out there. I get it. So, where do you start? How do you choose where to shop, and what ingredients to buy?

My best advice is YouTube. I know, there are a lot of different things on YouTube. How do I choose? Well, if you want to learn how to make Chinese food, look up Chinese food recipes and choose one from a Chinese YouTuber. They will have the best options on where to start with ingredients.

If you find a recipe that you think you’d like, make a list of ingredients. Go to an independent Chinese grocer and pick them up. My partner learned how to cook Chinese food from doing this, being educated on the topic by Chinese people—grocers, shoppers, and friends. And she’d become quite accomplished at it. Something we both get to enjoy! Indian Goof Dishes with Naan bread. International Foods

There are other ways to learn as well. Cooking classes! African, Indian, Korean, you name it. You can never go wrong with being taught by professionals! Whether in a group or private class, it’s just a great way to expedite the learning process.

Case in point. Years ago, my aunt learned to cook Indian food from her Indian friend. She took the time to learn how to properly make many Indian dishes—which are known for their complexity of process, and flavors. It has helped her a lot, learning directly from someone from India who grew up cooking this delicious cuisine.

Halifax Local International Food Cooking Classes

How do you find cooking classes if you don’t have access to international chef friends like my aunt did? Check out your local library, community center, and meetup groups. A quick Google search brought up these interesting Halifax area options:

International Cooking Classes Halifax Dartmouth – a Meetup group with over three thousand members.

Indian Cooking Classes, Parties, Team Building & More at Shivani’s Kitchen

Italian Cooking Classes via 211 Nova Scotia – hosted by the Italian Canadian Cultural Association of Nova Scotia

One of My Favourite Chinese Food Recipes

International Food from Union Foodmart
Cabbage and pork dumplings from Union Foodmart!

I love making cabbage and pork dumplings from Union Foodmart! They are absolutely delicious and easy to do. Two things I look for in a dinner recipe.

Add a side of dumpling sauce, which you can also get at Union, as well as some rice, and it’s the perfect meal!

No matter how overwhelming it is to start learning how to cook international food, I promise, it’s possible. It’s easy to find resources online to help make it the best you can get it!

Go For It!

Now that I’ve got your mouth-watering and creative culinary juices flowing, it’s time to start cooking yourself!

Find your closest international food grocery store to get your ingredients—and maybe even some helpful tips from the staff.

Got some favorite local international food grocers and/or recipes? Feel free to share in the comments below, as I’m always on the lookout for more options!

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