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Need help grocery shopping... please!

Hi,
I'm new to HoChiMinh City District 11 so I grocery shop across the street at CitiMart or Lotte Mart (spelling?). Where do you buy your veggies and meat? Are those grocery stores safe to buy veggies or meat from? Thank you for any advice you can provide... I'm tired of ordering in :/

You will find Lotte Mart about 10% higher than any other expensive supermarket.

I get quality vegetables from Giants Supermarket at the Crescent Mall (in the basement) in Quan 7.

If you buy vegetables from local (street) markets often they are grown in less than wholesome conditions. (And the bugs stay with them until cooked at very high temperature.)

Co-op Mart is very well priced but their fish, meat and vegetable counter selections are not the greatest. They have an affinity program that pays big money. My wife just picked up over VND4,300,000 is cash, coupons and gifts as her annual credit.

Good potatoes are hard to find (no Idaho around here) so I use rice - so easy to cook in the microwave and cheap, too.

Jaitch :

Good potatoes are hard to find (no Idaho around here) so I use rice - so easy to cook in the microwave and cheap, too.

Potatoes planted in Idaho tast better? I saw red potatoes imported from the US in Co.opmart. This type of rice is very good.   
http://nt9.upanh.com/b4.s33.d2/5597384093c65fb3ecac39f347ada0ac_51589929.img1802.jpg

Since you live in the "wrong" side of the town, it is difficult to recommend. By "wrong", I mean not D1, D7, An Phu where many of the foreigners live.

I shop at VgFood, a small shop in Hai Ba Trung in D1, Organik and Metro in Thao Dien and occasionally in Giants in D7. The first two shops are known to provide the high quality vegetables.

It all depends on whether you have access to a bike/car or not.
Not far from where you live, there is a Maximark which I find provide surprisingly good selection of vegetables (and other things). It is near the CMT 8 and 3 thang 2 section, so you can ride a bus if you don't have a bike.

LotteMart gives good selection as well.

There is several home-delivery services of good quality food. One of them is http://vietnamfoods.com.vn/homepage. If you buy more than 250KVND, they will deliver free. I have not used them, so can't comment.

Otherwise, I know a couple of good vegetable stores near the airport.

LoveLife :

This type of rice is very good.

There are many types of purple rice.
If you want the best quality of this kind of rice, try the organic version.
http://vienphugreenfarm.com/vn/San-Pham/gao-huu-co/

I have posted about them earlier.

I buy my veggies and meat from Co.opmart. I think it's safe to eat veggies and meat bought in supermarkets.

Travel12 :

Hi,
I'm new to HoChiMinh City District 11 so I grocery shop across the street at CitiMart or Lotte Mart (spelling?). Where do you buy your veggies and meat? Are those grocery stores safe to buy veggies or meat from? Thank you for any advice you can provide... I'm tired of ordering in :/

LoveLife :

I buy my veggies and meat from Co-Op Mart. I think it's safe to eat veggies and meat bought in supermarkets.

I never mentioned safety with regard to Co-Op, but I have seen meat delivered in open baskets on the back of motorcycles to Co-Ops. Besides, most Co-op Mart fish and meat departments stink.

The best supermarket for meat/fish is without doubt the Lotte in Q10. Smells sweet, well lit, well presented and very decent prices. The live fish actually swim (not in Giants).

Jaitch :

If you buy vegetables from local (street) markets often they are grown in less than wholesome conditions. (And the bugs stay with them until cooked at very high temperature.)

That's not strictly true. Washing will generally minimise the risks (30-60 seconds under running water removes over 98% of bacteria), and so long as you don't buy vegetables that have been spattered with fish blood (which I've certainly seen), you should be fine. I've eaten plenty of salad veg from local markets without a problem, but I'm meticulous about proper washing.

One exception to this is bean sprouts - they're troublesome, and I gather it's generally safest to steep them in boiled water before using. Not as crunchy, but at least they won't make you sick.

As for meat, that can vary quite a bit, but don't expect that a plastic wrap from Lotte Mart makes it any safer than the local markets. Cook thoroughly, regardless of the source.

Quite off-topic, but there's some evidence that shrink-wrapped meat and vegetables have generally higher levels of pathogens, usually introduced during processing. You still need to wash and thoroughly cook such items.

MatthiasB :

... Washing will generally minimise the risks (30-60 seconds under running water removes over 98% of bacteria), and so long as you don't buy vegetables that have been spattered with fish blood (which I've certainly seen), you should be fine. I've eaten plenty of salad veg from local markets without a problem, but I'm meticulous about proper washing.

One exception to this is bean sprouts - they're troublesome, and I gather it's generally safest to steep them in boiled water before using. Not as crunchy, but at least they won't make you sick.

As for meat, that can vary quite a bit, but don't expect that a plastic wrap from Lotte Mart makes it any safer than the local markets. Cook thoroughly, regardless of the source....

Good input.

As for meat, a quick eyeball of the Giants and Lotte Q10 meat departments shows the difference between the counter (non-wrapped) meat.

The Giants meat is essentially 'undressed', that is to say that it looks as if it had just been hacked off an animal. Chicken is sourced from an Australian-owned venture in VietNam, who also supply KFC. I guess there is not enough meat on your average scraggy looking VN chicken other than to use it for soup.

Bean sprouts are a problem in many countries as they are ideal for hydroponic processing. (A quick aside, a bean sprout grower, in downtown Toronto, whose operation was in the basement of a huge warehouse, was raided by the Toronto Police Service a while back who thought they had discovered a marijuana grow operation!)

Your quick dip in hot water, properly called 'blanching' is necessary although in Chinese cooking this is looked after in the wok.

Vegetables can be a problem since many, in the local cho, are grown in less than ideal conditions. If you roam the streets of the city (HCM) you will see 'local' inspected food being transported in small trucks and on motorcycles.

Many of these vegetables are grown on the banks of rivers and, as we all know, rivers are polluted. See: < http://vietnamnews.vn/Environment/19887 … river.html >.

A Taiwanese company, Vedan, has been polluting rivers for years (see: < http://www.monre.gov.vn/v35/default.asp … FKLF377611 >) and the protest reached such a crescendo that even the Co-Op Mart snd 3C, amongst others, even removed product from shelves. Remember, Co-Op is owned by TP HCM, indirectly.

The pollution directly affected vegetable production as some vegetables are grown on the banks of rivers, whilst others are grown on platforms actually floating in the water, like shipping pallets covered with green leaves.

So the pollution I am concerned about is actually inside the plant.

Much of the commercial vegetable market, including 'vegetarian' stores, is sourced from Da Lat where commercial practices rule. No 'night soil' for them, only the genuine bagged fertiliser!

Invasive listeriosis, an infection caused by Listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium transmitted by contaminated meat, dairy products, and produce is one to watch for. It causes bacterial meningitis which, like anything meningitis, is to be avoided. (Read: < http://www.motherjones.com/environment/ … -out-lunch >.)

One good thing is that imported food, through the Port of SaiGon, is well inspected. Rejected food has to be exported out of the country and you will see an occasional Cong An setting up his mobile office (motorcycle and chair) alongside segregated containers containing bad food.

As for plastic wrap contamination, I think PET (polyethylene terephthalate) should be a bigger concern, About half a kilometre from my home in DakLak there is a natural spring. The land is reserved by the city. Notices say, in VNese, no washing, no polluting, no animals, etc. We love the taste of water unprocessed by man, the food tastes better, too.

PET is everywhere. In bottles, the lining in cans of food, etc. (See: < http://earth911.com/recycling/plastic/p … c-bottles/ >, < http://www.treehugger.com/clean-water/t … rshed.html >.)

I don't eat sushi, either!

I bought some fruit one day. Put it in a plastic bag. Put the plastic bag in my back pack. Forgot about it over night. Opened my back pack, and saw worms crawling all over it. Gross.

Yeah be careful where you buy your fruit especially at fruit stalls and cho.

At least I know whats a good test to weed out bugs in fruit. But, hey, it's protein right? :P

MatthiasB :

That's not strictly true. Washing will generally minimise the risks (30-60 seconds under running water removes over 98% of bacteria), and so long as you don't buy vegetables that have been spattered with fish blood (which I've certainly seen), you should be fine. I've eaten plenty of salad veg from local markets without a problem, but I'm meticulous about proper washing.

I assume you are quoting from US research studies. The thing I constantly remind myself that those studies were carried using US/Western samples which were grown under the strict regulation, so even if they were correctly done, they may not apply for Vietnamese conditions. Besides, the main problem is not germs. It is the chemicals used. Let me elaborate those points:

1. Other researches disputing the same conclusion:

Here another research by the USDA refuting the conclusion you quoted.
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2001611/posts

2. Situation not necessary applying for Vietnam:

Vegetables and fruits are grown and handled in much more sanitized environments than in Vietnam. Therefore, you need much stronger stuff. I don't need research to see that a couple of minutes washing is not enough since the water is still dark with dirt and whatever (and I buy vegetables from the best sources I know of).

3. The worst danger is the chemicals used:

Problem with germs is that they, worst case, give you a bad stomach for one or two days. I can live with that.

Here, the vegetables and fruits are sprayed, watered, fertilized sometime with dangerous chemicals long banned elsewhere (mostly produced by unscrupulous Chinese producers).

Popular vegetables like cucumbers, beans, bean sprouts, bok choy, just to mention a few examples, are sprayed generously with them. Now, getting chemicals in your food is a reality of modern food industry. There is no avoiding it, even you eat only organic buying from the Harrods supermarket. The question is how much and what stuff. Buying in those wet markets increases your chance of getting the wrong stuff with the wrong quantity. For them, no amount of washing can help you get rid of them.

Phi Long :

I bought some fruit one day. Put it in a plastic bag. Put the plastic bag in my back pack. Forgot about it over night. Opened my back pack, and saw worms crawling all over it. Gross.

Yeah be careful where you buy your fruit especially at fruit stalls and cho.

At least I know whats a good test to weed out bugs in fruit. But, hey, it's protein right? :P

Phi Long

I would be more afraid of the opposite, i.e., the famous fruits that stay the same after months exposed to the sun. No rotting, no worms. They are so inundated with chemicals that they seem indestructible.

Here is a graphic demonstration: The one from the left is sprayed with cancer-causing preservatives.

http://a8.vietbao.vn/images/vn888/hot/v2011/20120418-092048-1-ca-chua-su-dung-chat-bao-quan-va-ca-chua-de-tu-nhien.JPG.jpeg

Travel12, unless you have a Vietnamese (or in my case, Chinese) significant other, who knows the ins and outs of shopping at street markets, to do the food shopping for you, you need to follow the advice of Jaitch and others here and stick to shopping in the large supermarkets they recommend. (And only those they recommend.)

My wife used to buy most of our meat at Co-op Mart. One day she brought home some that smelled rancid right out of the bag. (was hard to smell in the store due to all the other smells lingering about) I later saw a post here from Jaitch stating not to buy meats from Co-op Mart. That sealed the deal for me. All our meat now comes from either Metro, or Lotte Mart.

So, buy at the recommended places, and prepare accordingly at home, and you should have no problems.

Thank you all for the info!! All of it is much appreciated! Based on my address I guess I'm going to pay a higher price grocery shopping at Lotte Mart, that's fine so long as it keeps me healthy. Occasionally I will try to visit Metro, Giants supermarket and Saigon Pearl.... yes I will be one of those people ;) Boy do I miss Safeway and Trader Joes already!!

Anatta :

Besides, the main problem is not germs. It is the chemicals used.

That is a good point. I just read an article about some of the chemicals applied just before harvesting in the market gardens in D12. It's not that they're known to be dangerous to humans, it's more that nobody knows what effect, if any, they'll have. High risk, without a doubt.

Now I know why my better half always insist I buy stuff ONLY from Giants Lotte Mart and sometimes, Citimart too. She also mentioned to thoroughly overcook vegetables. From now, I really also should omit sashimi and sushi from my diet! The supply of unknown chemicals from China is an ongoing process so it's really very true what -Anatta said and all the rest. Jaitch had mentioned something about an organic farm somewhere in the blogs. How's that coming along? Seems that living in HCM is not as economical as one thinks. Other than rice, almost nothing is that cheap if you go for imported cereals and stuffs and even avoiding the local jams! BTW what kinds of vegetables do you people buy? Care to share the VN names and how to cook these?Thanks

Sploke77

The question is not what you buy but more where you buy them.
In the shops (VGFood/Organik mostly) I mentioned, you can buy whatever and cook to your preference. Other supermarkets: look for stuff with proper package with branded growers and VietGap certification.

For me:
"xà lách xoong"/Cresson, rau càng cua/Peperomia pellucida, various salad, bean sprouts/gía, rau mầm/sprouts to eat raw.

Cooking:rau dền/Chinese Spinach, rau muống/morning glory

Frying: various beans: đậu đũa, đậu cô ve, đậu Hà lan, đậu ván, mostly organic since beans are known to be sprayed with insecticides.

In short, whatever they sell which I feel I can eat.

I don't feel you need to import food stuff, not everything anyway, but you must be willing to pay extra (at least more than twice) for safe(r) food and know where to buy as well as avoiding food that tend to have bad stuff independent of where they are produced. Case in point: (Chinese/Vietnamese (lạp xưởng)/Western) sausage  is full of preservatives/bad fat/leftover stuff, no matter where you buy them, no matter which brand.

Thank you so much Anatta, I just threw away my lap xuong  instantly. You see it's knowledge like that that keeps one away from those 'stomach pains'. I cannot be eating pho every morning as I am more used to eating stuff like muesli and weetabix etc. plus not sure of those plastic bottled milk so go for long life NZ milk and  so that accounts for the higher pricing breakfasts. The prices are just as much as in Singapore and sometimes even slightly more! For chicken, as advised by Jaitch, I only go for either the Vissan or CP brands, hope that is good enough. Will get on to try getting those Vegas you mentioned. Cam on

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