by Brian Clarey

The residents of Guilford County speak more than 100 languages among them. That fact alone is astounding, and a little hard to believe.

But it’s true: We’ve got Montagnards, Koreans and Thais from Southeast Asia; a pantheon of citizens of Middle Eastern descent; a flourishing Eastern European contingent; Africans from the west, north and central parts of the continent; Latinos flying every flag.

And they all come together at the Super G.

The international grocery anchors the FantaCity pedestrian mall on West Market Street, itself designed as a hub for the city’s growing international community a decade ago. Turnover has been high in some of the storefronts — current residents include Bollywood Fashions, a taquería and carnicería, a Vietnamese coffee shop and places with signs in Korean and, I think, Hindi, that I am unable to meaningfully translate. Many have come and gone, but Super G remains.

That’s because it may be the best grocery store I’ve ever been to: a kinetic storeroom for everything you can’t find anywhere else — or if you can, it’s cheaper and more plentiful. I have never seen so many dragonfruit at once in my life as I did on my last stop, a bushel of the scaly succulent, sitting right there with a dozen varieties of plums.

The produce section is a lesson in exotic flora: a wall of yam varieties, two different kinds of fresh taro, dozens of peppers, a score of herbs I’ve never heard of. There are whole fish, live crabs, a row dedicated to seaweed and like a dozen varieties of that aloe drink I’ve been buying. Japanese candy. Congolese snack food. Mexican sodas.

A visit to the Super G is a trip around the world. The aisles teem with families speaking French Creole, Farsi and other tongues I cannot discern.

And if you’re cooking something international, this is the place to go for supplies.

I was of a mind for pho, the Vietnamese noodle soup with fresh herbs that I usually get in restaurants. Previous efforts to recreate the experience at home have been… inadequate.

Then I started going to Super G. I get the sprouts, jalapeños, Thai basil, cilantro and other veggies for a fraction of what I’d been paying in the mainstream grocery. As for noodles, I can choose from a whole wall of them. I stick with rice noodles, though my technique with them still sucks.

And at Super G, I learned the secret of the broth.

Pho is a beef soup, and if my vegetarian wife weren’t eating it I’d get down with the oxtail, simmer it down all day and have at it. For this recipe I used a Thai beef base. But pho broth has a unique flavor profile. I’d been using a bullion-cube spice blend made specifically for pho, added directly to standard broth. But I discovered another product that has elevated the final result to meet my own standards, at least.

It’s a spice blend that comes in a teabag: star anise, cloves, cinnamon and ginger, giving the broth a lot of its heat. I bubble it in the stock for 20 minutes.

I’ve got the broth down. My next hurdle is the noodle, adapting the technique for a family-style dinner. Rice noodles get sticky.

Maybe I need to try a different kind of noodle. And while I’m at it, I should probably pick up a couple dragonfruit.

Join the First Amendment Society, a membership that goes directly to funding TCB‘s newsroom.

We believe that reporting can save the world.

The TCB First Amendment Society recognizes the vital role of a free, unfettered press with a bundling of local experiences designed to build community, and unique engagements with our newsroom that will help you understand, and shape, local journalism’s critical role in uplifting the people in our cities.

All revenue goes directly into the newsroom as reporters’ salaries and freelance commissions.

🗲 Join The Society 🗲