London, UK is a Mecca for gourmands the world over and many of these visitors head for China Town in Soho. Having stuffed themselves on shark fin soup, prawn chow mein, sweet and sour prawn balls and sea bass with lemon grass, Londoners and visitors alike often wonder how they can recreate these culinary masterpieces in their own homes.
However, there is a major drawback - where can you find the ingredients for that perfect Chinese dish at an affordable price? Finding the ingredients for Chinese food in London can be a time consuming and expensive task. Help is at hand in the guise of Wing Yips, the cash and carry Chinese food store that is open to the public.
You get there by taking the 316 bus to Staples Corner in north London. Get off by the fly-over and it is a short walk on the same side of the road. The building is yellow with red writing which informs you of the time the shop is closed, not open.
When you walk in, you are hit by the smell of fresh fish. Not the fishmongery, slightly whiffy fish smell, but the clean, crisp, salty and tangy aroma of fish and shell fish recently removed from the water. You can find cod, tuna, eels, whitebait and sea bass in the fresh food section. In the seafood section you'll find live mussels, oysters, crabs, winkles and lobsters. The prices are also about 30% cheaper than high street retailers.
Apart from fish, you'll also find Eastern spices, fruit and vegetables as well as all the ingredients necessary to make those slightly glutinous sauces that can make or break a Chinese meal. You'll also find Chinese crockery, pots, pans and soy sauce plates.
The owners of Wing Yips provide two types of trolley to load your goods onto - the standard shopping trolley and then the open trolley for those buying in bulk. You'll need one of the latter if you are considering buying a 50kg bag of rice, for example. They are also kind enough to provide packers who will not only bag up your groceries but they will also load them into your car.
There is one thing to be wary of when shopping at any of the Wing Yip stores (there are stores in Croydon, Manchester and Birmingham) and that is that many items are priced before VAT has been added. These products are marked with a white label.
All in all, Wing Yips provides the everyday shopper the chance to shop in a genuine Chinese supermarket with members of London's Chinese community. However, unlike the nearby Shri Swaminarayan Mandir and Haveli Hindu store, don't expect any advice on how to use certain herbs and spices. You'll be met with blank stares and an occasional snort of derision.