We in the 068 are lucky to live in a melting pot of cultures. Our area’s rich tapestry of countless heritages and traditions frames the considerable access we have to exceptional foods and cuisines that we can explore and savor. So don’t worry too much about that overseas trip you’ve been meaning to book – instead, take a drive around the 068 area and visit some of the region’s most popular international markets.
Scandinavian Butik, located in Norwalk, embodies a Nordic sensibility with its blond wood interior and treasure trove of traditional Scandinavian foods. Owners Marianne Beresford and Doris Levene have been passionate about selling goods from Denmark, Sweden, and Norway for over twelve years. Their offerings range from pickled vegetables, chocolates, and coffee and teas to lingonberry and cloudberry preserves and baking ingredients. For the canned-fish aficionado, they carry senapssill and skärgårdssill (herring in cream and mustard sauces), Norwegian fish balls, and Kalles creamed fish roe from Sweden.
Beresford and Levene also make their own leverpostej, a liver paté made fresh every week, Danish meatballs, and cardamom and rugbrød (rye) breads. While the butik’s busiest time is at Christmas, they offer interesting year-round foods and ingredients to savor and experiment with. “We have the best and most loyal customers, for whom we work really hard to bring both traditional foods and new products from Scandinavia. It is a joy being able to serve the thousands of Scandinavians living in this area and around the country,” says Beresford.
Few cuisines pack the intense, complex flavors of South Asian cooking. To make the most authentic dishes, a visit to Zaytuna Grocery in Danbury is in order. Jahid Mal, a partner and store manager of this well-stocked market, aims to supply his customers with authentic, hard-to-find ingredients. “We carry traditional South Asian food and unique products that you can’t find outside New York City, and we also always welcome customers’ suggestions for new items to bring into the store,” says Mal.
Foremost among their offerings is halal meat, a designation that ensures a clean, humane preparation according to Islamic law. They carry beef, lamb, and goat, and antibiotic- and hormone-free chicken. Zaytuna stocks an impressive number of hard-to-find fish as well, including spiny eel, burrowing goby, and hilsha, a type of Indian herring. Along with their rices, spices, fresh vegetables, and fresh and frozen breads and sweets, a trip here guarantees the home cook will find everything they need to make a delectable dinner.
KK Asian Market
Located in Danbury, KK Asian Market is owned by Amphone Sisen and Kingkeo Khemvisay. They load their shelves with bags of rice (red cargo, Thai sweet, hom mali); pickled goods (pak tew, banana blossom, cassia leaves); and a multitude of fish products – sauces, brines, dried, frozen. “We work to get the products our customers want so they don’t have to go to the city to find them,” says Sisen. To that end, they bring items from NYC like fresh lotus paste rolls and black bean pies. Also on the sweets side, they carry bánh hanh nhân (almond cake), bánh men (coconut yeast cookies), and mochi desserts. In the back, they have seasonal fruit and fresh vegetables, which pair perfectly with their different tofus, rice noodles, and frozen fish to make stir-fries, soups, and noodle dishes. For a quick but flavorful dinner, chá lua (Vietnamese pork sausage) or frozen seafood dumplings, cakes, and balls can be sautéed with one of the shop’s many marinades and sauces.
Alternatively, Patel Brothers is located at the other end of the 068 area, in Norwalk, and also focuses on Indian and South Asian foods. One of nearly fifty Patel stores in the United States, it is overseen by one of the chain’s partners, Pratik Patel, who stocks everything you need to cook an impressive meal. Among other vital South Asian ingredients, they have an abundance of tamarind products, including dry, paste, and pickled, as well as myriad flavorings, spices, seasonings, and different types of rice. They carry fresh produce, including hard-to-find green chana and dragonfruit. The market stocks quintessential fresh and frozen breads like tawa roti, methi thepla, paratha, and puri. Frozen dishes are another great way to experience South Asian cuisine; favorites here include palak paneer, eggplant bhartas, and samosas.
For Lisa and Nigel Whitmore, the proprietors of UK Gourmet in Bethel, their store is more than a place to get the best UK brands, it’s also been a community-gathering place for expats since they opened in 2003. “We are so blessed not only to be surrounded by delicious treats but also by the customers we meet. Everyone who shops in the store is a close friend,” says Lisa. This market’s number one seller are bangers, British- and Irish-style sausages whose name comes from the sizzle and bang they make when fried in a pan. The second favorite for customers is UK Gourmet’s wide selection of creamy chocolates, including Butlers, Fry’s, and of course an array of Cadbury offerings. And it wouldn’t be a British and Irish food market without two aisles of tea, savory pies and puddings, and frozen scones made by the local bakery Daily Fare! •