Tag Archives: Raley's

Where to find exotic ingredients in the East Bay

A guide for myself

I’m lucky enough to live in the Bay Area, where I have access to lots of stores with lots of international ingredients. And these ingredients have become far easier to find in recent years. Still, finding them can still be a hassle, and often times I forget where I actually found a particular ingredient when I need to buy it again. I’m hoping to use this blog post to remind myself.

Black Truffles I found them at the Berkeley Bowl during truffle season, but I wasn’t too impressed with the flavor.

Candlenuts These large nuts are used as thickeners and flavor enhancers in southeastasian cuisine. I have yet to find them in the East Bay, so I’ve substituted with their cousin, macadamia nuts. The latter are sold in bulk at Sprouts at a reasonable price.

Curry leaves They are regularly sold fresh at Santos Spices in San Leandro.

Dark Soy Sauce is a darker, thicker and slightly sweet soy sauce mostly used to darken dishes. I’ve found it at the 88 Manor Markets. Recipes that call for it include Soy-Glazed Black pepper chicken and Lion’s head meatballs.

Galangal root (also spelled galanga) adds a special flavor to Thai/Indonesian/Malay dishes. I usually find it at the 88 Manor Markets in San Leandro, but it’s often available at the Berkeley Bowl as well. It freezes fairly well.

Indonesian Bay Leaves aka salam leaves. They are different than Indian or western bay leaves, and I haven’t been able to find them locally yet.

Kaffir Lime leaves are an indispensable element for many southeast Asian dishes. I’d seen them at the 88 Manor Markets in the past, but I couldn’t find them last time I needed them, so I bought them off someone on Facebook marketplace who had her own tree. Since then I’ve found that my friends J. & G. have their own tree. The leaves can be frozen, and they seem to retain their flavor well.

Kecap manis is an Indonesian sweet soy sauce. It’s been surprisingly hard to find, but I did find it at the 88 Manor Markets. If you can’t find it, you can make your own.

Light Soy Sauce is the default soy sauce in Chinese cuisine, lighter in color and a bit less salty than the standard Japanese soy sauce. It’s not the same as Kikkoman lite soy sauce. It’s widely available and I found it at the 88 Manor Markets. You can substitute with regular or tamari soy sauce.

Shaoxing wine This cheap, sweet Chinese rice wine is actually not too hard to find, and it’s available at the 88 Manor Markets. Recipes that call for it include Braised Winter Melon, Braised Pork Belly, Walnut chicken and Royal Concubine Chicken wings. You can substitute with sherry.

Palm oil. The small 88 Manor Market in San Leandro carries several brands of African red palm oil.

Palm nut sauce. An ingredient in west African recipes can be found at the small 88 Manor Market in San Leandro.

Palm sugar. Found it at the small 88 Manor Market in San Leandro, but not at the large new one.

Pandan leaves These leaves are used as wrappers and to flavor food. They are listed as available fresh at the Berkeley Bowl and I found them frozen at the small 88 Manor Market in San Leandro (couldn’t find them at the new, larger one nearby).

Rock Sugar Chinese rock sugar consists of large yellow sugar crystals and is used to give shine to glaces as well as a sweetener. It’s easily available at Asian supermarkets and I found it at the 88 Manor Markets in San Leandro. White rock sugar is available at Santos Spices in San Leandro.

Turmeric root. Fresh turmeric root is an ingredient in many Thai and Indonesian dishes. I’ve found it at Raley’s, but it’s also available at supermarkets like Sprouts and the Berkeley Bowl. It freezes well, but don’t defrost it before you peel/use it because it turns to mush. Just peel it frozen.