The best international food markets in Canada for your global foodie fix

June 01, 2021

This past year has required those of us with a penchant for travel to become creative. I’ve travelled through Iran, Africa and Central Asia through novels and memoirs, learned about various food cultures on YouTube, and even attempted to learn the basics of the Russian language. However, the most powerful transportations (if only in my mind) have been during visits to international food markets. Strolling through the aisles can trigger memories from past travels, inspire a new recipe, or make available those special items from abroad. While we wait for global travel to resume, these Canadian international food markets provide the perfect pandemic escape. After all, as Rick Steves said, “This virus can stop our travel plans, but it cannot stop our travel dreams.”

Vancouver

1. Jasmine Halal Meats and Mediterranean Produce

4323 Main St

The fragrant smell of spices will surely draw you into this market, which regularly stocks halva, tahini, za’atar and olive oil from Lebanon. Beyond shiny hookah pipes and Turkish coffee cups, the deli offers endless choices: harissa hummus, red pepper feta spread, dolmas, flatbreads, and samosas—the perfect fare for a picnic at nearby Queen Elizabeth Park. Don’t leave without a bag of apricot and rose nougat candies.

2. Le Marché St. George

4393 St. George Street

This quaint Riley Park-Little Mountain marché is more boutique café than market, serving up crêpes, coffees, ice cream and quintessential French pastries. They do sell a good variety of dry goods and beauty products, as well as tins of Kusmi tea straight from Paris. With bikes parked out front and outdoor bistro table seating, you won’t have to travel far to feel like you’re enjoying a buttery croissant and espresso in France.

3. Crystal Mall Market

4500 A Kingsway

Less glitzy than the neighboring Metrotown, the Crystal Mall Market whisks visitors east with its fresh produce, Chinese herbal shops and wide variety of stalls. Head upstairs to the food court and practice your Mandarin or Cantonese while ordering the Bayulan steamed mini pork buns, pan-fried pork buns or soup dumplings from the Shanghai Dim Sum House. Grab a bubble tea from Comebuy before heading to nearby Deer Lake Park for an afternoon stroll.

4. Konbiniya Japan Centre

1238 Robson St

Located in Vancouver’s West End, this Japanese market and crêpe shop makes on-point green tea soft serve (add red bean paste and a dollop of whipped cream), chewy crêpes and onigiri to go (options include salmon, tuna mayo or ume). Konbiniya also stocks nearly ready-to-eat frozen ramen made by local chef Shogo Takenaka. Crack open a bottle of Pocari Sweat and you’re ready for that bike ride around Stanley Park.

5. Kim’s Mart

519 E Broadway

Located in Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, this Korean market lures locals with its excellent selection of hot pot meats and a variety of Korean and Japanese items. The kimchi, tofu and pickled ginger are made in house, while the deli offers to-go items such as spicy pork, tuna or tofu Kimbap, and lotus root, acorn jelly and rice cake side dishes. Top it all off with a pack of green tea flavoured Japanese Kit Kat bars.

Kimbaps

Calgary

6. T&T Supermarket

3 Locations: 25 Heritage Meadows Way SE; 999 36 St NE; 9650 Harvest Hills Blvd N

From vibrant bok choy and gai lan to boxes of Brown Sugar Pearl Milk Ice Bars, chances are T&T will have what you’re looking for—and more. Want something to go? The hot bar, deli and in-house dim sum restaurant are a good bet for barbeque chicken, steamed pork buns or sushi. Be sure to stop at Xing Fu Tang on the way out for their Signature Brown Sugar Pearl Milk boba.

7. Unimarket Latin Foods

2 locations: 2405 Edmonton Trail; 128 50 Ave SE

If you’ve ever travelled to Latin America, this market will give you nostalgia for days. Practice your Spanish with the friendly staff while ordering the Bandeja Paisa (Colombian plate), tortilla soup, spicy pork tamales or tostadas with all the fixings. A slice of Tres Leches cake from the bakery should tide you over while you browse the market’s excellent selection of hand-made corn tortillas, hot sauces and Mexican Coca Cola.

8. Kalinka European Food Market and Ukrainian Deli

8-7400 Macleod Trail SE

This Eastern European food market contains gems such as home-made perogies, cabbage rolls and borscht that taste just like Baba’s. Locals swear by the slices of honey cake made by the in-house Ukrainian baker, while shelves are stacked with a wide variety of herbal teas, sweets and tangy sauerkraut. Kalinka’s is also well-known for its customer service, and patrons will often find a friendly handwritten note accompanying their order.

9. Italian Centre Shop Ltd.

9919 Fairmount Dr SE

The fragrant waft of pizza dough and pastries will tempt you to the bakery, where pizzas are made the traditional way—thin and crispy. While you’re waiting, peruse the imported cheese section, grab a bag of local arugula and some fresh basil and then take your pizza to go with a can of sparkling limonata San Pellegrino. Prefer to make your own pizza? The deli stocks pre-made dough, eager to be paired with one of the shop's many sauces imported from Italy.

Crispy Pizza

Montréal

10. Rela Marché Africain

925 Decarie Blvd

This unique grocer in Montréal’s Saint Laurent neighbourhood is well known for its specialty plate of flavourful rotisserie chicken with a side of fried plantains. Whether you’re seeking dried hibiscus leaves to make bissap (Senegal’s national drink), okra, ginger or soumara (a spice from the seeds of the Néré fruit), this African market won’t disappoint. Head to the hair and beauty section before you go for a jar of African shea butter.

11. Boucherie Atlantique

5060 Chemin de la Côte-des-Neiges

This family-owned German/Austrian delicatessen near Montréal’s Saint Joseph’s Oratory offers a good selection of both imported and freshly made European and German food items. Rye bread, sausages, cheeses, jellies and jams are popular with the locals, while German expats living in the city swear by the deli’s sandwiches, freshly baked pretzels and homemade apple strudel. Take the Schnitzel sandwich to go for a picnic at the nearby Jean Brillant Park.

12. L’Española

3811 St Laurent Blvd

Housed in a brick building within Montréal’s Little Portugal neighbourhood, this market offers a great selection of products from Spain and South America. Yerba maté fans will be pleased to find a wide variety of teas, bombilla straws and gourds, while those itching for paella can choose from burner kits to Valencian rice. Don’t miss the colourful display of hand-made espadrilles at the back of the shop.

13. La Vieille Europe

3855 St Laurent Blvd

With a vast selection of European specialties, this shop draws patrons with its extensive collection of cheeses, cured meats and hard-to-find items from across the pond. Truffle brie, savoie raw milk cheese and smoked gruyère are a few of the many cheeses found here, but the staff offer samples so you can try before you buy. Coffee lovers can choose between 40 different types of beans, courtesy of the shop’s giant coffee roaster.

La Vieille Europe

Halifax

14. Pete’s Frootique & Fine Foods

Two locations: 1515 Dresden Row; 1595 Bedford Highway

With a nod to the English market scene, founder Pete Luckett opened this grocery in Halifax in 1992, and it’s been a local favourite ever since. The salads, smoothies and Gluten-Free Eatery are popular. But the collection of British imports is what makes this market really stand out. Whether you’re jonesing for an Irn-Bru from Scotland, a pack of sweet Jammy Dodgers or a bag of Walkers Crisps, Pete’s is the place to go.

15. Tian Phat Asian Grocery

209 Bedford Hwy

A stone’s throw from the Bedford Basin, this little market is literally packed from floor to ceiling with a good selection of Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Korean and Filipino ingredients, including hot sauces, curry pastes, seaweeds, hard to find spices, tamarind paste, fresh veggies and dried shiitake mushrooms. Another plus: this is one of the only groceries in the city that sells quail eggs.

16. Mid East Food Centre

2595 Agricola St

Located on hip Agricola Street in Halifax’s North End, this family-run shop has been in business for more than 50 years. After a visit to the excellent bulk spice section, head to the deli counter and you’ll find an ample menu with an array of boreks (spinach and feta, walnut, or tahini), wraps, kebabs and daily specials. Can’t decide? The combo platter allows you to choose from a display case of hummus, tabouleh, kibbeh, samosas and more.

17. Indian Groceries

2585 Robie St

Within walking distance of the Halifax Citadel, this unassuming market is filled to the brim with an assortment of spices, beans and legumes, masalas and a special section dedicated to papadums. The takeaway menu includes tiffin meals and weekend specials such as Samosa Chat and Northern India-inspired Chole Bhature. It would be a mistake to pass up the sweets section before leaving, as the gulab jamun is a lovely homemade treat.

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