If you’ve ever wanted to make your own maki sushi or pad thai, then Dong Fang, otherwise known as Extremo Oriente, otherwise known as 'the Chinese supermarket' should be your first stop. Located right behind the Triangle shopping centre in Plaça Catalunya, it opened in the Eighties and is Barcelona’s oldest and largest Asian speciality shop.
They stock Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Filipino, Vietnamese and Korean food products on their heaving shelves as well as a small selection of cooking equipment, including mats for rolling sushi, serving bowls, chopsticks and soup spoons.
There are lockers at the entrance for stashing any large bags and this area is always crowded with Asian faces scanning the enormous mulitlingual noticeboards for jobs and flats. Inside, it’s a little dingy and spartan with the usual Asian market disdain for any form of interior decor but those packed shelves hold all manner of colourful goodies, from shark fin to dried bean curd. If you can’t find something, there’s a very helpful guy at the back who can usually help you track things down. If he’s not too busy and you tell him, for example, that you want to make gỏi cuốn (Vietnamese salad rolls), he’ll even help you get all the ingredients together and give you a few tips on making your dipping sauce from scratch.
Of the perishables, quantities can be quite large—rubber-banded fistfuls of coriander or sweet Thai basil, refrigerated sacks of golden needle mushrooms and bean sprouts, brick-sized slabs of tofu—so make sure you’ve got a few people coming round to use it all up. Other fresh produce is laid out at the back for you to help yourself: bok choi, long heads of fresh peppercorns, bird’s eye chilis, lemon grass, meandering hunks of ginger root (the cheapest in town), and more unusual knobbly roots such as finger roots (used in some Thai fish dishes).
Prepackaged goods, pastes, sauces and snacks are all pretty competitively priced and there’s plenty of variety: if you want a mainstream product like soy sauce, nam pla or curry paste, for example, there are at least 15 different brands to choose from, while anyone searching for flavoured instant noodles has almost an infinity of options.
Extremo Oriente, C/ Balmes 6 (Eixample), tel. 93 301 2587; Open 10am to 2pm, 4 to 8.45pm, Mon – Sat.