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China Merchandise in Burlington (long)

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China Merchandise in Burlington (long)

Jujubee | Dec 18, 2002 09:38 PM

Last summer there were quite a few posts from desperate folks who had relocated to the Woburn area, myself among them. Now, I still don't have much to report from the restaurant arena, but I did find a pretty packed asian market right around the Burlington/Woburn border that I am very fond of.

The place is China Merchandise at 120 Cambridge St. in Burlington (exit 33 Northbound off I-95/128). This place is pretty tiny, but it is PACKED full of stuff. I was a little disappointed after my first visit because they don't have meat/seafood/produce departments due to their very limited size, but every time I return I am amazed at how much stuff they manage to cram in there. I have managed to find every single asian condiment-type thing I have wanted (well, except for szechwan peppercorns - the owner said "they" had just confiscated his supply a few hours before I was there - this was a couple months ago) and they sell big bags of Indian spices for super cheap. The place always seems to be teeming with South Asian folks (once I heard a South Asian man, upon visiting this store for the first time, exclaim with a mixture of amazement and relief at the selection and prices - quite a improvement over the local mainstream grocery stores), though I mostly shop for Chinese stuff to great success.

The produce situation is better than at first glance. They have a very respectable selection of asian produce at cheap prices (bok choy, cabbages, chinese watercress, long beans, scallions, much better ginger than in supermarkets, big bags of hot peppers, shallots, kholrabi, thai eggplant, really the list goes on and on). For the most part, it is just in unrefridgerated cardboard boxes, but the turnover must be fast because I find the quality to be better than the supermarket. In the refrigerated cases they also have things like curry leaves and chinese egg noodles, and the freezer case has a much more extensive selection of seafoods, dumplings, buns, veggies, etc. than I guessed at first. They even manage to carry asian dishes, gadgets, etc and even a selection of range hoods suitable for asian cooking. (The last time I was there a couple was buying one of them, while lamenting about the wimpy one that was built in to their home.) They also have trays of Indian goodies at the checkout counter (samosas and the like), more prepared refridgerated take-out snacks, and seasonal stuff like moon cakes (in season, of course).

Now, you may be wondering why I am bothering to explain all of this. After all, all Asian markets carry this stuff, right? (Unfortunately, not necessarily in my experience.) I am going into this much detail because my first impression was that since they were so small (and stuff can be hard to find; just ask the guy who seems like the owner if you can't find something - he is very friendly) and did not appear to be a full service market, that they would not carry an extensive selection. But they have yet to disappoint me (excluding fresh meats and seafood - but there is frozen).

If you are in the city, stick to Super 88 and the like. But if you are further out it really is a surprisingly good find out here.

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