To Market To Market

Super Cao Nguyen

By Tricia Castro & Chris Castro / Photography By Aaron Snow | July 07, 2015
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Chris with son, Benny, picking out the perfect pomelo

Banh mis, pork belly & bok choy, Oh, My!

We aren't one of those families for whom grocery shopping feels like a chore. It’s more like a fun activity in our house. Every member of our family loves to go the store and explore each aisle, finding different ingredients we’ve never used before and imagining all of the things we can create with them. Of course, this can only happen if you're going to the right grocery stores.

One of our favorite grocery stops in Oklahoma City is Super Cao Nguyen, and we’ve been known to spend a good part of our Saturday morning poking around each aisle with a cart loaded full of exotic produce and ingredients. As soon as you walk through the door you’re greeted by interesting plants and fruit trees, brightly colored decorations hanging from the ceiling and (our favorite part of our Saturday trip), the intoxicating aroma of fresh coconut Pandan waffles baking right at the front of the store.

Our first stop is usually the food counter for one of the best banh mis in town. My five-year-old son has usually requested one before we even pull in the parking lot and it’s become somewhat of a father-son tradition for each of us to order a number 7: the grilled pork sandwich, one with fresh cucumber and jalapeño and one without. My wife usually grabs a package of their fresh spring rolls or a beautiful slab of fried tofu stuffed with fresh lemongrass and chili. We get our ticket and our lunch is made while we shop. We always grab a cold young coconut (my son’s favorite) to drink with our lunch and head to the produce section where I can never resist sticking a few long stalks of aromatic lemongrass in the cart. We always love to check out all of the different shapes and sizes of mushrooms, they have some really incredible varieties of beech and enoki that are practically a work of art. We usually grab some flowering chives and baby bok choy and then head to the fresh noodles.

If you love noodles like our family does, you'll be in heaven when you see the aisle of fresh, refrigerated noodles. I’m not talking the dried pasta aisle of your typical supermarket, but visualize bags upon bags of soft, fresh rice noodles and beautiful egg noodles lightly dusted in flour. After finally deciding on which bag of fresh noodles to try this week (a decision which has been known to take a while) we grab a tub of gochujang paste, our favorite Korean condiment (if you haven’t tried this please do yourself a favor and try some—it magically makes everything more delicious!).

 

Photo 1: beautiful produce
Photo 2: rows & rows of party supplies

We usually make a quick stop by the large meat counter (even if we aren't buying any meat that particular week, it’s always fun to explore). They have a great selection of fresh whole fish, pork belly, rabbit meat, and the most incredible Ora King Salmon that is as delicious as it is hard to find in our area.

After perusing the seemingly endless aisles of cookies, crackers, teas, spices and everything else you can imagine, we stroll down another favorite section full of goods from the Middle East, Indonesia, France, Italy, Japan and many other countries. I always grab a box of Droste cocoa if we’re running low, one of my favorites (although to be completely honest, I initially bought it for the beautiful illustration on the packaging). Some other gems from this aisle are the Darbo rose hip jam and bottles of rose water and orange blossom water, which are great for livening iced tea and cocktails.

No trip is complete without a quick look through all of the kitchen and household items, full of ceramic bowls, soup spoons, cleavers, chopsticks, and bamboo steaming baskets, sticky rice baskets, tea party supplies, bamboo plants. Don’t forget one of those handy coconut punch tools on the aisle’s end-cap so you can open that fresh coconut with your lunch!

By this point I am really ready for my sandwich. At checkout, they give you a ticket to pick up your lunch (this is the way it works if you did not bring cash or if, like us, are saving that cash for a sweet sticky rice-filled coconut waffle on your way out). Hungry with anticipation and for our lunch, we go and pick up our sandwiches and grab a waffle on the way out. I hope you will check out this gem for yourself and enjoy it as much as our family does.

Super Cao Nguyen Market: 2668 N Military Ave., Oklahoma City; 405-525-7650; caonguyen.com

Photo 1: hot deli food
Photo 2: Chris, Tricia and Benny Castro
Chris purchasing Ora King salmon
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