SINGAPORE (BUSINESS TIMES) - Very soon, it won't be easy to impress your fellow food geeks with your stash of exotic ingredients carefully lugged in from overseas, or sourced from some cranky artisan who limits how much home-brewed, probiotic-laced, double-aged soy sauce he will sell to you. There's a new store in town that might just beat you to it.
Going by first impressions, the new COMO Marketplace looks set to take away the hassle and tears of broken sauce bottles and overweight luggage with a solid range of Asian-centric ingredients from Thai chilli pastes to even Chinese sausages from Canada.
The store - located at the new COMO Dempsey food-retail enclave that currently houses Candlenut and Ippoh Tempura restaurants - soft-opened a week ago and is still waiting for more products to come in to boost its current, promising collection. The idea behind COMO Marketplace, says its spokesman, is to be the Asian equivalent of its sister company Culina, which specialises in premium Western ingredients. Curated by foodies for foodies, the merchandise at COMO Marketplace reflects the kitchen cupboards of many a resourceful home cook.
For those who've put up with the minimum $30 order for delivery from local artisanal sauce maker Kwong Woh Hing, it's reassuring to know you can buy just a single bottle of its premium range here. "They only sell it to us," says the spokesman, adding that they are still waiting for their stocks of organic dried mushrooms, famous Ghee Hiang sesame oil from Penang and salted egg paste from Malaysia. Also coming in from Vietnam are rice flour and rice paper.
Block 17, Dempsey Road
One of its biggest 'coups', says the spokesman, is in snaring the import of Chinese sausages from Canadian manufacturer Wing Wing. "It uses Canadian pork, and those who like it say it's juicy and less fatty than what we get here."
Even staples like Thailand's Mae Pranom range - one of the better commercial brands that are a devil to find in local supermarkets - can be found here without making a trek to Golden Mile's Thai supermarket. It was a surprise to find Aroy-D coconut milk too - the best tetrapack coconut milk we've tried that's a good substitute for the fresh or chilled version. Now all we need is fish and oyster sauce from Megachef - a premium, all-natural Thai brand to complete our marketing.
But there's always Red Boat fish sauce to turn to. While relatively easy to find, COMO Marketplace goes one up by stocking the kosher version - where only pure anchovies are selected to meet Jewish standards. There's also the N30 or N50 version, which indicates the protein content. There's Red Boat salt too, made from the crystallised dregs of fish sauce making. And pure fish sauce made from bonito from Taiwan.
New-to-market products include Cambodian kampot pepper produced by a Singaporean who moved to Cambodia to grow and harvest his own peppercorns; and Pique Tea - a US tea brand started by Simon Cheng, son of ex-Zouk founder Lincoln Cheng. There's also a pretty range of tableware and clay pots
While it's hard to say that the products are exclusive to COMO Marketplace, we say convenience - not to mention airfare savings - puts this on our must-shop list.