Granny has recently blogged about her visit to the Falcon supermarket in Leicester, and we thought it sounded so excellent, Oscar and I persuaded granny and grandad to let us tag along on our next trip.
Falcon is an Asian supermarket, so although you can buy stuff like Heinz tomato ketchup and washing powder, what you are really going for is the enormous, and I mean enormous, variety of herbs and spices, fruit and veg that you might not be able to get in a regular supermarket. There are vast tables full of boxes of mangos and aubergines, chills and sweet potatoes that you can pick through. Great towering boxes of bunches of fresh herbs are stacked high above your heads, and pallets and pallets of onions and garlic of every kind. There are also numerous boxes of fruit and veg I simply couldn’t recognise if my life depended on it. Things that look like fat, round gooseberries, but with no prickles on. Things that look like mutant cucumbers, covered in spines and bumps, four or five different types of mango, bananas of every shape, size and variety.
You can buy herbs and spices loose in big drums which you scoop your required amount into bag, or by the sack load, or in kilo or two kilo bags. I found out that cloves are called ‘lovely’. I found out that there are about three hundred spices I have no clue about and which all looked intriguing and slightly needful.
I highly recommend a trip if you’re interested in Indian cookery and you’re trying to source some hard to find ingredients. There was everything you could possibly want from huge cones of jaggery (sugar, basically), to tamarind paste, black cardamons, to amchor powder and everything in between. All the items I’ve either paid through the nose for or found impossible to source in mainstream shops were there in bucket loads.
My top buy had to be a huge bag of star anise for about three quid. Which is what I usually pay for around three or four heads in a jar from Ocado. I also got a bag of about twenty cinnamon sticks for about £2.50, which is insanely good value.
Everything tends to be sold in vast quantities, making it much cheaper, but it also means you have to know what to do with a kilo of gram flour, for example. We found what worked best was to share the shop, and split everything down when we got home. That way ten limes for a quid becomes much more manageable, because you can share them out.
We had an absolutely fantastic time there, and will definitely be visiting again soon.
Be warned though:
The car park is small, crammed, and terrifying. You have to have nerves of steel to park. If I were driving I would have skipped the car park, parked in a nearby street and walked.
The shop is pretty chaotic. When we went it was absolutely heaving with people and there was no order at all. If you like everything in neat lines, looking sanitary and wrapped in cling film, do not bother. You will probably faint within thirty seconds.
You need to be patient. The till staff are massively over worked, and as lots of people there are buying in bulk (it has a section that is basically a massive cash and carry where you can buy giant sacks and drums of stuff), it is not a place you can really pop into in a hurry.
English is not the first language for the majority of people there. The labels on the packaging, the labels for the fruit and veg and spices, are not always in English, and you have to know a bit about what you want and what it looks like/might be called, to make the most of your visit there if you are looking for more obscure items. Staff are very willing to help when they are not rushing about doing trillions of other jobs, but they may not know the name of what you are looking for in English if they have always referred to it by one of its other names.
If you are prepared for an adventure, you love ethnic foods and you don’t mind being a bit experimental, it is huge fun.