The Price of Convenience

Shopping ethnic: Chinatown vs. Whole Foods

Long Beans Whole Foods stocks long beans, which are as the name suggests—similar to string beans, but denser and very long. Unfortunately, on a recent visit, they were speckled with brown spots, drying out in their basket, and cost $7.98 per pound. At most Chinatown vegetable stands, like Hung Lee and Shing Hing Trading Corp., a pristine bunch is priced at $2 per pound.

Kaffir Lime Leaves Picked from almost juiceless Kaffir limes, these leaves are used like an herb, adding a bright, citrus flavor to many Thai dishes. They will keep in the fridge for up to a month. Whole Foods only carries organic Kaffir lime Leaves from Jacobs Farm, which come in 0.9-ounce packages for $2.49 (equivalent to almost $40 per pound). At Asia Market Corporation, they are $30 per pound.

Going (closer) to the source: Asia Food Corporation is favored by chefs
photo: Nina Lalli
Going (closer) to the source: Asia Food Corporation is favored by chefs

Lemongrass These tangy stalks are essential to hot and sour soups and curries, either simmered in stock or pounded into a paste. Dried varieties are a poor substitution. They cost $3.98 per pound at Whole Foods, and just $2 per pound at Asia Market Corporation.

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