Friday, 25 March 2011


The Great Mall of China aka Cho Mee may not have been around since the 5th century BC but  its 20 years of trading make it a veritable ancient monument around these parts.  Here on Cambridge's Mill Road shops open and shut quicker than you can say Ghenghis Khan, but Cho Mee is an emporium built for longevity. Having hit upon the word emporium I realise it is exactly the right term for Cho Mee: it's a cavernous, old-fashioned  kind of place selling a wide variety of far eastern food. Here you can find everything you need to make authentic dishes whether Szechuan, Hunan or Thai is your thing. You can find pickled mustard greens, Shaoxing wine, Chinkiang vinegar, 100 year old eggs (more about them soon!), silken or smoked tofu; certainly there are no concessions to the Western palate here and some may find a few of the foodstuffs a tad recherché ... pig uteri anyone? 

At weekends it's crammed with families loading up with produce for what can only be gargantuan feasts sizzled and steamed in woks. There are more varieties of noodles you can shake a chopstick at and piled high  in a dimly lit corner are great white sacks of rice - sticky, Thai, jasmine - you name it they have it. And of course there's the smell, unmistakeable and indefinable - fishy, sweet and pungent with undertones of what can only be called putrefaction - if anyone is familiar with food markets in Hong Kong  you'll know what I mean.

At Chinese New Year Cho Mee really comes into its own, scarlet streamers garland the aisles and boxes of live crab and razor clams are shipped in along with stinky durian fruit and pomelos.  The husband and wife team who run Cho Mee  know their stuff - they can advise on the best rice cooker to buy, how to prepare a good tofu dish and may even have  a few good pig's uteri recipes up their sleeves -...
Cho Mee  108–110 Mill Road

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