Buenos Aires’ Barrio Chino may only comprise two city streets, but it’s a bustling commercial area packed with people, restaurants, small shops, and, most notably, supermarkets that sell many of the items those with adventurous palettes long to encounter but have failed to find at major grocery chains such as Disco and Carrefour.
Shopping highlights of Barrio Chino:
Slippers, Cookware, Art Supplies and lots of 保定健身
The typical trinkets that can be found in Chinatowns scattered across the globe – incense, baoding balls, little Buddhas – are in Buenos Aires’ iteration as well, displayed on shelves inside unnamed shops. These locales, which are easy to browse quickly, are crammed with touristy items like Chinese nameplates as well as seemingly random cast offs, like old makeup. There are some good finds if you search around though.
There’s a nice selection of detailed Chinese slippers in the back of Regalaría Ruyi (Arribenos at Juramento) for 30-35 pesos, as well as knockoffs of TOMS shoes. Further down, at Arribenos 2217, a store marked simply as ‘Fábrica’ (Factory) on the top of the door, has an impressive selection of kitchenware. Barrio Chino is also a good place for bargain art supplies, from paintbrushes of all sizes to little sets of gouaches and watercolors.
Far and away the best shopping to be found in Barrio Chino is in its supermarkets. The crown jewel of the bunch and also the oldest in the neighborhood is Casa China, stocking Asian, macrobiotic, organic, and dietary products.
Casa China is expat heaven, with its multitude of otherwise difficult-to-find ingredients that provide a break from the meat and carbohydrate diet of Argentina. Porteños are known for shunning spices and have little tolerance for anything hot. Thankfully, Casa China, exists for the rest of us: there are shelves of different spices and a lot of sauce options too, including various types of mustard and soy sauce (a 5-liter jug is available, if you’re looking for a lifetime supply), as well as standout Thai Sriracha hot sauce, made from sun-dried chilies. Casa China also stocks peanut butter, which is a reason to visit in and of itself.
Other items at Casa China include a variety of grains and legumes, such as black beans and lentils, and soy products, like tofu and soy milanesas (breaded patties). There are also shelves of rice noodles, as well as different types of instant ramen. As for frozen foods, Casa China sells frozen wontons and dumplings filled with pork and vegetables. There’s also a decent selection of imported teas, dietary and nutritional powders to stir in drinks for a morning energy boost.
Lastly, if you get hungry while shopping, you can pick up a sushi roll or a nigiri for a bargain price. There’s not much variety with the sushi – each roll seems to be a variation on the Philly Roll or the Salmon Roll – but it is fresh and tasty.
Another longtime supermarket that warrants a mention is Asia Oriental. What sets Asia Oriental apart is its fish market. Located at the back of the store, the fish market sells fresh trout, sole, calamari, and a variety of other seafood at decent prices. Pre-packaged fish, such as a salmon filet, is available as well. Asia Oriental is an enormous store with a reception desk and small counter for ordering Chinese food on the spot. Almost all the products are labeled in Chinese but, besides the fresh fish and Chinese fast food, Asia Oriental sells more or less the same items as Casa China.
The latest market to the scene, Tina & Co. a ‘bio market and cafe,’ brings a more upscale flavor to Barrio Chino with three floors of specialty food items, including items for celiacs, sauces from around the world, a wide variety of teas, organic wine and imported alcohol. On the upper floors are home decor and beauty products. The third floor features a sunny and comfortable ‘gourmet’ cafe serving up lunch items such as sushi, salad, tartas, and empanadas.
—by Elizabeth Kester
Arribenos 2173 and 2257
• Hours: Tues.-Sunday 8:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m.
•Hours: 9:00 a.m. -9:00 p.m.
Tina & Co.
Hours: 9:00 a. m. -8:30 p.m