The good gourmet: Oriental Emporium
Over the years, I've become a regular visitor to Asian shops, in particular the Oriental Emporium on South Great George's Street. I find the staff most helpful and full of great ideas. I've always been a big fan of some of their snacks, such as the plain sunflower seeds (€2.20) -- even better are the roasted ones, which I adore.
Oriental Emporium sells regular nuts in the shells all year round (large bag, €2.50). On a hot day, if we ever have one, these are delicious with a beer. Fortune cookies are another favourite purchase -- €1.30 will buy a good-size bag.
I love to browse this shop, especially all the packaging and labels. There is a small section at the back selling some really colourful paper lanterns for €1 each; a cheap way to decorate a child's room. My purchase of the year was from here: a genuine carborundum sharpening stone for €4.20; you pay at least three times that price in a kitchen shop.
If you are planning a festive Chinese feast, dumplings are ideal. They come frozen and all you do is steam them. We have had some great dinners sampling these. Buy a mix: Fresh pork and chive, pork and dill or chicken and mushroom (all €3.95); lamb and fennel or beef and spring onion (€4.80) and spinach (€4.95). Each pack contains about 20 -- dipped in a little soya sauce they make for a fun meal. In fact, I am surprised at how much the kids like them. I guess it's the element of dipping a dumpling then trying to eat it with chopsticks.
Speaking of which, Yo Sushi restaurants have child-friendly chopsticks that are easy for little ones to use. Ask nicely and they might give you an extra pair to take home.
Although the Emporium sells ready-made frozen spring rolls, last summer Míla and I made our own using some minced pork, peas, grated carrot, vermicelli noodles, ginger and soy sauce. I bought some spring roll pastry (40 sheets, €2.30) and made a little flour paste to stick the edges together. We then shallow-fried them in the wok and they were delicious.
The shop also sells frozen soya beans (€1.85) -- these make a really good snack in lunch boxes, and for adults inclined to a little something between meals.
Oriental Emporium stocks a wide selection of vegetables and fresh herbs. If you are planning an Asian meal then bring the recipe along as they have it all. It's the only place I have ever found holy basil (€11.50 per kg), sweet basil (€11.50 per kg), banana leaves and straw mushrooms. In general, items such as oyster mushrooms and shiitake mushrooms are cheaper, too.
If you are fond of stir-fries then I definitely recommend Chinese Kai-lan (€3) or green pak choi (€2.31), as both of these vegetables make for a tasty stir-fry.
They also have a wide selection of frozen fish including a box of squid tentacles (€3.50) and seafood cocktail (500g €4.20), which I find terrific value and great for soups.
Oriental Emporium, 25 South Great George's Street, Dublin 2 . Tel: 01-677 8985