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East Village Stores, International Flavor - The Local East Village Blog - NYTimes.com


East Village Stores, International Flavor


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The corner bodega serves as the perfect pit stop for milk, eggs, bread, and, O.K., cigarettes. Beyond the staples, several East Village stores stock basics and treats in international flavors for gastro-curious locals as well as expats in search of a taste of home.

Holyland MarketCarolyn Stanley Holyland Market, 122 St. Marks Place.
Inside Holyland

Holyland Market
122 St. Marks Place
Holyland Market packs its modest space with dozens of Israeli goods. One popular item is Krembo, an air-light marshmallow fluff candy coated in chocolate. “Every kid in Israel grows up eating these,” says Omri Rosen, an employee of the store. The front shelves are filled with all manner of snacks, sweets and cookies, including Bamba — Cheetos-like peanut puffs—and specialty halvah in flavors like pistachio and coffee. Other Hebrew-labeled goods include jarred pickles and olives, couscous, and even cleaning products like sponges and mops. In addition to dry goods, Holyland carries fresh-baked burekas, savory pastries filled with mushroom, spinach or cheese.

A few unexpected items evoke a nostalgic response. “People get so excited when they see we carry OCB cigarette papers,” says Mr. Rosen. And Tim Tams, an Australian-brand cookie that’s very popular in Israel, has devotees from all over. Other than at the Tuck Shop, an Aussie cafe across St. Marks, the hollow, chocolate-coated treats are difficult to find, short of ordering them on eBay. “A couple of girls came in here yesterday and left with maybe seven boxes each,” Mr. Rosen says.


Johnny Air MartCarolyn Stanley Johnny Air Mart, 214 Avenue A.
Inside Johnny Air MartCarolyn Stanley

Johnny Air Mart
214 Avenue A
A few blocks north, the year-old Johnny Air Mart fills another geographic niche with its Filipino specialties. Glass cases near the entrance display dumplings, bamboo-wrapped sticky rice, and bangus, or milkfish, the Philippines’ national fish, marinated in vinegar and garlic and deep-fried. The freezer case is filled with ice cream flavors unfamiliar to Western palates: purple yam, avocado, even cheese. And every other Saturday the market serves lechón, a whole pig, spit-roasted over charcoal and then sold for $13 a pound. “It doesn’t last long,” says Mark Ocampo, one of the store’s employees. “It’s gone in an hour and a half.”

For the holidays, the market sells a star-shaped Christmas lantern called a parol, an important cultural symbol, analogous to the Christmas tree. The store draws Filipinos from Queens and New Jersey as well as locals. As Mr. Ocampo explains it, “As long as they taste it and it’s good, they come back.”


Sunrise MartCarolyn Stanley Sunrise Mart, 4 Stuyvesant Street, No. 2.

Sunrise Mart
4 Stuyvesant Street, No. 2
Japanese restaurants line the blocks where Stuyvesant and Ninth Street meet, and one story above is a market to match: Sunrise Mart, nestled above Saint Mark’s Bookshop. A popular item is Pocky, chocolate-dipped biscuit sticks in a myriad of flavors including strawberry, and coconut. In addition to numerous other candies and snacks, many emblazoned with smiling cartoon mascots, there are noodles, seaweed, pickled vegetables, and dozens of types of soy sauce and tofu.

The refrigerated section features vegetables like renkon (lotus root) and fresh seafood, including octopus and uni (sea urchin). For those too hungry or impatient to cook, there are house-made bento boxes, filled with dumplings, tempura, and teriyaki. And toward the back is a large collection of Japanese DVDs, available for rental, and an enclave filled with ceramic bowls and teapots.


Dual Specialty StoreCarolyn Stanley Dual Specialty Store, 91 First Avenue.

Dual Specialty Store
91 First Avenue
Next door to the multicolored lights of Milon and Panna 2, the unassuming Dual Specialty Store houses rows upon rows of spices and South Asian specialties. Though the name might suggest to Anglophones a two-fold inventory, it’s actually a transliteration of Bangladesh’s national bird. “This was a Bengali neighborhood 25 years ago,” says Delware Patwary, the manager. Now, Dual is one of the only markets of its kind in downtown Manhattan.

By far the store’s biggest draw is its impressive array of spices. Hundreds of seasonings are imported from all over the world, such fenugreek, sumac, and pink peppercorn. Dual also makes a house blend tikka masala powder, a popular seller. Because Dual carries so many rare spices, it’s a source for local restaurants (including the neighbors). There’s also an impressive selection of teas, including a proprietary loose-leaf chai masala. Mr. Patwary also makes a point to mention that the store carries “the hottest pepper in the world,” also known as naga jolokia or ghost pepper, available pickled, powdered, or as a sauce.