See Woo Chinese supermarket Chinatown

I don’t often do a weekly supermarket shop. Not because I am particularly virtuous, but because I live bang in the middle of Camden, and anything I might want to eat or cook with from, say, agave syrup to avocados, egg whites to eggplants is on sale within five minutes of my front door.

But f I am taking meetings in Soho, then I often walk down two blocks to pop into See Woo on Lisle Street, right off Leicester Square, and in the middle of Chinatown, and do my equivalent of a weekly shop: I come out laden with carrier bags filled with greens, cellophane noodles, tofu and at least three types of mushrooms, so I can make huge bowls of healthy soup.

I don’t think anyone would describe Lisle Street as glamorous, but it is filled with Chinese restaurants…

Lisle Street Chinatown

I’ve been eschewing the Chinese supermarkets on Gerrard Street around the corner, and shopping at See Woo since I moved to London over ten years ago, because the gawping tourists in the Gerrard Street stores make shopping a nightmare: I was forever bashing my basket into the back of someone’s legs, or twitching in line behind people staring blankly at handfuls of  unfamiliar change.

I am usually the only non Asian face in See Woo, but I never feel excluded: when asked nicely the shop staff kindly if brusquely guide me to the right produce.  (SeeWoo claims to stock over 8000 authentic Chinese, Thai, Malaysian, Vietnamese, Indian, Korean, and Japanese fresh, frozen, live, dry and canned products in its stores.)

See Woo Chinese supermarket Chinatown

Mainly I shop for fresh produce: There is every single possible type of Asian green on offer. Do check the prices carefully, because there are some that are quite rare and correspondingly expensive. (But a lovely big bag of pak choy should set you back about £2.50.)  I also buy choy sum, tightly furled baby Chinese leaves, big fat spring onions, heads of broccoli, long beans, garlic shoots, and great chunks of ginger for pennies for juicing.

See Woo Chinese supermarket Chinatown

If bulk buying chili is your thing, then you are in luck.

See Woo Chinese supermarket Chinatown

And the prices! These boxes of oyster mushrooms are £2.85 and are far fresher, meatier and larger than the ones in Western supermarkets. I also buy fresh shitake mushrooms, tinned straw mushrooms, won ton wrappers, bags of fried tofu, miniature cans of coconut milk, (which I can’t seem to buy anywhere else and are handy if you live alone), dried and fresh noodles, and bottles of sesame oil and good soy sauce.

See Woo Chinese supermarket Chinatown

My only tip would be to bring a clothes peg during Durian season.

If you’d like to watch my short film guide to what I buy in Chinese supermarkets, it’s here.

8-20 Lisle Street, London, WC2H 7BE

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14 comments

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I shop in See Woo too – also good for black rice etc. I was recently told that Thursday is the best day to buy fruit & veg there as that’s when they get deliveries.

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@Wonderlusting: oh GREAT tip! Thank you. LLGxx

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You are so lucky to have access to a Chinese supermarket. I used to live in London and miss it a lot in my curent home of the Isle of Wight! Of course a lot like wonton wrappers can be bought online but the range of fresh produce is fab! I am all for buying your veg in other places than supermarkets.

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@Elizabeth: Yes, I agree. Of course supermarkets have their place, but I do try to spread out my shopping into as many places as possible, and I certainly get huge pleasure from buying my Parmesan in a small deli, much of my veg in Inverness Street Market, my Chinese food in See Woo, my flowers from the local stall in Camden and so on… LLGxx

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This is so helpful. I have three Asian Supermarkets near me in town (Dublin) that I love to venture into but have no idea what to buy as it can be sooverwhelming. I usually end up buying almond Pocky!

Louise

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I always see that supermarket when I’m in London because one of my favourite restaurants is just a few meters away! Never bought anything there, though!

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UGH, I adore China Town and Chinese supermarkets and you may have just convinced me to go a few more stops on the train and pay See Woo a visit this weekend. I can’t promise I won’t make a really crap joke, point and say ‘See? Woo!’ and like always, I’m sure I will take a wrong turning and end up outside a sex shop (I always do this accidentally in China Town).

Lovely post!

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Hi Sasha,
My husband is Chinese and we always go to See Woo when in London although we do have our own local supermarket too which we use.
Whenever we are somewhere new and looking for somewhere good to eat/buy supplies, we always work on the theory of going to where the locals go as they know better than us.
I have always found everyone so helpful and friendly and never feel like the odd one out, even if I am the only white person in the room.
Hannah x

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I’m going to have to check this place out – I was really put off London’s Chinatown by the vast number of tourists but I suppose that is the peril of being so close to Leicester Square. Does it have a decent Japanese/Korean candy and dessert selection? I’m a sucker for jelly cups and caramel Pocky.

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I always find your posts interesting and informative. However I have been wondering how ‘Aurora’ is doing. Has life been kinder to her in the last 6 months? I do hope so. Please pass on to her that her blog followers are thinking of her and wishing her well.

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Almost spit tea over my keyboard while reading your comment about durian 🙂 Thanks for the giggle.

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