It has happened to most of us. You get a new cookbook, you get pretty jazzed about expanding your culinary horizons, and then you realize the list of ingredients has put you in a pickle.
You want to go Persian, but lack sumac. You want Korean, but it feels so wrong with no gochujang. You want your pad Thai to be boss, but you're missing fish sauce.
Well fret not SCENE reader, because below is a list of stores that will bring the exotic to your pantry, that will spice up your spice rack, that will make your kitchen know what it's been missing.
Dino's Grocery Mart
What started as rather small spot that specialized in East Indian spices 31 years ago has expanded to 10,000-square-feet of almost every exotic ingredient you could imagine. Owner DinoTailor along with manager Rajan Varma have been listening to their community for years and have packed the place with everything representing the Caribbean, most of Africa, the Middle East, and now even Latin America (and that includes hair care products and music). The smells alone are worth the trip; the air permeates with turmeric, cumin and coriander, making it an ideal oasis from Winnipeg's scentless winters.
When Jung Sik Yang moved from Seoul to Winnipeg over four years ago he had a culinary dilemma; nowhere could he get his beloved Chongga brand kimchi. This just would not do, so Jung opened up 88 Mart which has become my choice for the best in Korean and Japanese products. They have a vast selection of Korean staples like gochujang and doenjang, along with some unique items like king oyster mushrooms, and an embarrassingly large selection of miso and nori. Plus, there is butcher counter in the store that sells beautifully marbled cuts of bulgogi (thinly sliced Korean style beef typically cut from short ribs) that will absolutely embarrass your friend's beef on the barbeque this summer (and at a fraction of the price).El Izalco
Salvadorian owner Sarah Esperanza should open up a food truck, so Winnipeg can taste what the flavours of Latin America are really all about. Until then, shoppers at her tiny Sargent store will have to be satisfied with her take-home pupusas and chili rellenos. This is they spot for all things Latin, be it Lizano Salsa from Costa Rica, ultra thin corn tortillas, whole ancho chiles, cactus (Sarah removes the spines herself and will teach you how to cook it), and creamy pungent queso fresco. Plus, the lady is an absolute gem and will tell you all you need to know about making your spicy dishes sing.
Xao Wong, better known simply as Ms. Wong, holds court over this bastion of all things South East Asian, and lord love her for it. Aside from the near endless isles of fish sauce, coconut milk, red and green curry pastes, and rice wine vinegars, Dong Thai also boasts a super tight produce section. It is one of the few spots where you can actually get green papayas and bird's eye chillies (that aren't mangled), to make real papaya salad, while their fresh herbs like Thai basil, mint and cilantro are second to none.
This little hole in the wall on south on Pembina is fanatic when it comes to those hard to find Middle Eastern items. If you are looking for some tartness to round out your dishes then this is the spot, with a fresh supply of sumac and barberry that will complete your Halal cooking. You can also buy some interesting cooking supplies, like those flat, sword-like-skewers for proper Persian kabobs, along with ground lamb and beef to go with it. They also have a sweet selection of Iranian jams and nuts that you won't find anywhere else.