Grenoble Spice

photo credit: u m a m i
Chillis. photo: u m a m i

The French are not known for their love of spices – difficult for Grenoble’s British expats such as Hannah Dee, who comes from multicultural Leeds. Here is her guide to Grenoble Spice: the specialist food stores that hold those treasured, hard to find exotic ingredients.

Coming to Grenoble from a fairly multicultural part of the UK one of the things I found myself missing was the range of foodstuff available. Don’t get me wrong: I think French food is fantastic. The quality of the ingredients here, in particular the vegetables, far outstrips anything you can find in normal shops and markets in the UK. At the local markets you can get truly fresh local produce – cheap, plentiful, and advertising the origin of their produce in terms of département rather than country… Marvellous stuff. No more rooting around Leeds City markets looking at signs saying “Tomatoes (Holland)” or “Beans (Egypt)”.

But what you don’t get is the range of produce, and particularly not the spices. In UK supermarkets you can now get pretty much any vegetable or spice you want, any day of the year. Here in Grenoble, you have to go to a specialist shop (or one of the really HUGE supermarkets) to get fresh chillis and coriander. In urban areas of the UK, they’re in every corner shop. So with that in mind, here is a brief guide to the various specialist food stores I’ve found in Grenoble.

Saïgon Store, 6 Rue Doudart de Lagrée 38000 Grenoble has a range of mostly Vietnamese products – good range of noodles, some fresh exotic vegetables and some frozen stuff, and a huge range of spices. You can get decent hot chillis here and stuff like lemongrass, galangal, and other Southeast Asian vegetables and spices.

Carrefour Asiatique, 88 Cours Berriat, 38000 Grenoble has a similar range to the Saïgon Store, and is handily right next to tram stop St Bruno on the A and B lines.

Rajah Bazar, 15 Avenue Felix Viallet, 38000 Grenoble is a small, packed and friendly store with a huge range of spices and a fairly impressive alcohol selection. They also open late (indeed, there is even a Facebook fan page calling them the “Oasis nocturne de Grenoble“).

World Market, 24 Avenue Felix Viallet, 38000 Grenoble is another small and packed shop, selling food from all over the world. A good range of Pataks curry sauces, Thai and Viet and Japanese and Chinese food, manioc flour, couscous, hummus, falafel… They even have instant “Pão do queijo” packet mixes if you’re after a cheesy Brazilian junkfood snack. And a surprisingly impressive line in hair extensions.

Indian Bazar (Wahey Guru Di Kirpa), Cours Berriat by the junction with Jean Jaures has a small range of Indian foodstuffs – all the dried spices you could want, dried goods, and some chutneys and pickles. This shop doesn’t have the largest range of stock, and isn’t very cheap. But they do have lots of spice!

Supermarché Siam Bangkok, 38, Avenue La Bruyère, 38100 Grenoble is a slightly out of town (on the A tram, stop La Bruyère) supermarket, which claims to be a Thai supermarket but is actually much more international, stocking fufu flour and couscous and a lot of other stuff I don’t know what to do with. The range is similar to that of the World Food Store, but the floorspace is larger and there seems to be an awful lot of dried fish. This one is a little run-down, but still an interesting place to browse.

It’s worth finishing with a mention that the Géant Casino at St Martin d’Heres has a reasonably good section of international food in tins and jars (including Marmite, yeah!) – presumably because of the international nature of the student population.

But what about you? Are there any ingredients you’ve not managed to find? Or any shops that I haven’t mentioned? Do leave a comment if so!

16 thoughts on “Grenoble Spice”

  1. Just the ticket – I’ll be in Grenoble for 2 weeks in December and will need to visit all these places. Big thanks.

  2. The French are not known for their love of spices – difficult for Grenoble’s British expats such as Hannah Dee, who comes from multicultural Leeds. Here is her guide to Grenoble Spice: the specialist food stores that hold those treasured, hard to find exotic ingredients.

    !!!!!!I am so surprised to read that !!!

    you forgot all the little shops in the old city of Grenoble, and which have been selling spices for decades !!

    By the way, I found the hot curry paste Pataks at Intermarché !!

  3. Hi Suzanne,

    I wrote the opening paragraph. I think the French are definitely not as keen on spicey/hot food as the Brits. Southeast Asian and particularly Indian cuisine is much more prevalent in the UK than in France, simply because we have had much more emigration from the subcontinent.

    I think in France the spices and ingredients found, particularly in the Old Town, naturally complement North African (rather than Indian) food – which makes sense of course. The big supermarkets like Carrefour, though fantastic in general comparison to British counterparts, naturally don’t cater as well for this particular style of cooking. As Indian food is probably the most popular ‘foreign’ cooking style in the UK, some of us Brits miss it here.

    To that I should add the Indian restaurants I’ve been to in Grenoble are largely disappointing because the spiciness has been tempered for French tastes – except the Bombay on Cours Jean Jaurès, where the waiters ask you how spicey you like it and food is wonderful.

  4. Hi Suzanne

    Do you mean the cluster of arabic shops around the Place Aux Herbes?
    I have visited a few of those and they are excellent sources for ingredients for some varieties of cuisine. They seemed to be more stocked with dried goods and those marvellous little pastries with pistachios.

    Do you have any particular recommendations? Maybe I just went in the wrong ones! I’d be happy to jump on my bike sometime and write an update:-)

    Yours,

    Hannah.

  5. Thanks a lot. As an Indian, single, vegetarian, poor at the French Language, Neuro-researcher I was ‘at a loss’ to find right ingredients and spices. Now I have this list thanks to your write-up, not just Raja Bazar!

  6. There’s also Epicerie Arax, which has a nice selection of bulk and packaged spices, jars of Pataks and other spicy sauces and condiments, and miscellaneous other not-so-easy-to-find-in-France things like Polish dill pickles. Many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern specialties – I get lavosh bread there.

    Grenoble does offer some nice variety, if you know where to look. These addresses are a great help.

    Thanks, Hannah for the chili pepper lead…I’m off to make chicken enchiladas!

  7. Fantastic post, thanks a lot. Today I was cycling through the city, desperately trying to find some lemongrass. After trying almost every shop in this list, I left home again for on last shot, Saigon Store. Now my beef rendang is bubbeling happily away :)

  8. I gave my French boyfriend some chocolate with chilli in it – despite his constant admissions of loving South American food – he nearly fell of his chair. It is easy to see the influence of North Africa in this city, but in the main I think it’s fair to say that traditional French cuisine does not really utilise alot of spice. Having spent a year training as a sous chef, the tradition mainly calls for herbs such as parsley, tarragon and thyme as additives of flavour.

    Garlic, ginger and pepper seem to have been well recieved here over the centuries, but chilli…not so much.

    Being Australian, chilli was something I used like seasoning. Now however, I have decided if I am going to integrate into the French culture with zeal, I happily prefer to give myself a stomach ulcer from the wine and not overly spiced food. :)

    bon appetite

  9. Hi Nadeen,

    Either French tastes are changing slightly or there are more international residents (like ourselves!) to cater for, as I have started to see fresh chillies at Carrefour Meylan – albeit not every week …

    James

  10. After you wrote this article, at least one new shop has been started which I feel is worth mentioning: it’s a Japanese shop called Ozenya, located at Alexandre 1er de Yougoslavie street, a few streets away from Victor Hugo place.
    You can find ingredients there that I didn’t find elsewhere in Gre, such as dried tofu skins (to make “rice in a tresure bag”) or red bean dough (to make Japanese pastries). Moreover, they also serve tea and sell takeaway food. They also teach Japanese recipes. I really like that place. ^^

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