November 30, 2003
Less than two minutes drive from where I live in North West London is a little known shopping centre called Oriental City. When I first moved into my neighbourhood in the mid-nineties this shopping mall used to be called Yaohan Plaza - and boasted being the largest covered Japanese shopping mall outside Japan - but over the years it seems to have evolved to form a melting pot of Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, and Thai etc. in terms of customers as well as retail influences.
My neighbourhood has an unusually unproportionately large Japanese community and I can never figure out any obvious reasons why - e.g. local Japanese school or diplomatic residences etc. Perhaps it’s because of the shopping centre? That might not be such a silly explanation - as I am reliably informed by a few of my Chinese and Japanese friends that people travel from awfully far away to spend the day here. Given that it’s just around the corner from where I live - I do go there quite often - and it’s conveniently sited right next door to an Asda that’s bigger than than the entire Oriental City itself!
Anyway - I never did quite understand the claim to be the largest covered oriental shopping centre outside the far East - because it’s not at all very big - but I can see why people come to spend the day here. There are around a dozen “boutique” style shops selling all sorts of things from crockery (piled high but not sold cheap) to books, magazines, curiosity items. Then there are several top-class “formal” restuarants. There is also a massive “Sega Centre” - which is a haven for teenagers and their Dads - with all the latest in state of the art video gaming. And the Food Court; this is very special indeed - it’s at this point you begin to realise one of the best things about this place. Forget everything you’ve ever had from your local Chinese takeaway - and forget everything you’ve ever had at the authentic-looking chinese buffet at your normal shopping centre food court. Entering the food court at Oriental City is like entering into a totally different country - and you could spend the entire day just watching what and how people eat here. The shopping centre management also seem to organise cultural weeks and events at weekends too - for example there appears to be a Malaysian food and crafts showcase during the early part of December.
I’m saving what I think is the best thing about Oriental City to last - and that’s the supermarket. Yep - tucked away in one corner of the shopping mall - adjacent to the food court - is an oriental supermarket. Unlike the stores that you typically find in places like your local Chinatown - this supermarket is more “conventionally” laid out; the format being very much like a Safeway or Tesco - with wide aisles and a row of checkouts to one side. However - if you thought you could spend an entire day browsing a few shops and a food court - be prepared to spend even longer in this supermarket! Practically everything from fish, meat and perishables to tins, dried goods and sauces carries an exotic sort of curiosity value the first time you shop here. For more regularly ad-hoc customers like me - it’s knowing that you can get here practically everything that you need to cook any form of Eastern dish - whether it be Indian, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean etc. And the pricing indicates great value.
I was reminded to go there today by a little mental note that I made to myself about cooking up a dish that Lisa from Burnt Toast mentioned the other day. (And Lisa - do make time for daytrip to Oriental City at some point - because I think you will really like it.)
Photo montage: Ms.79 examining the receipt of the stuff we bought
as I took a pic of the ingredients in our kitchen when we got home:
Large bag of cinnamon sticks from China (60p). 750ml bottle of fish sauce from Thailand (£1)
and a small box of “Himalayan Masala - Exotic Spice Mixture” from Nepal (£3.50) -
“Prepared after ancient Ayurvedic Principle” (Finished off in Photoshop Elements!)
In fact - I would recommend that anybody who’s set aside some time in their diaries for doing something “London” or something “culture” to visit Oriental City. It’s a real gem - and has the advantage of not being in Central London.
Posted by jag at November 30, 2003 03:59 PM
Hmmmmmm! Tht’s quite a nice description. Well jag, has anybody ever told u that u wud make a good travel writer? If not well i am, man u write such posts well.….…!
Thanks very much Shobha! In return: you make a fantastic political journalist! If I could, I, for one, would vote for you to be a future Prime Minister of India!
Ooh - sounds fantastic! My daughter would love it as well. What a great idea for a day out!
…and, now I look at a map - it’s midway between central London and Elstree where we’re off to week after next.
Hey - nice one! I think you’ll really enjoy it - especially if you save up your hunger for lunch-time: the food-court is amazing! I suspect that many (non-oriental) people visiting this place will be really disappointed - but if you like all things Far-East - then you will love it!
Enjoy! (And I would love to join-you/chaperone-you - but I am tied up on family business for the next three weekends!)
Aw, that’s so sweet! Thanks anyway!
hey jag! awww… thanks for tht compliment!
Nice one Jag. Haven’t heard of that while in London. Would try to visit the place when I head to London for my grocery purchase..
Hi Chakra: If you do visit Oriental City - I am sure you will find it extremely fascinating.
I am a regular visitor to Wing Yip and love Thai cooking, I havn’t, as yet, visited Oriental City, but with the excellent recommendations of you good people, and only being a mile away in Cricklewood, I think I may well become a regular face there! I shall post my findings next week!
Am going to Oriental City tonight - that’s how I found this page! I’m originally from Sydney where there is a large SE Asian population and I’m half Indonesian myself so I’m looking forward to seeing it. I usually go to Wing Yip for my groceries - maybe i’ll end up going to Oriental City instead!
Hi Shane and Kim, many thanks for your comments - and please do share your experiences of Oriental City right here. For example - is the supermarket in Oriental City bigger/smaller/better/worse than Wing Yip (I have never been to Wing Yip in Cricklewood so I cannot compare.) Look forward to your return!
Im from South Africa and absolutely love oriental city. My favourite to eat is the crispy duck in the food court-its delicious and I loooove the real lemonade with mint that you can get from one of the stalls in the food court.
Well, I have been, but where do I start??? First of all, the size of the place is amazing, it is huge! Myself and my wife parked on the huge multi story carpark (free) then made our way in past two very grand Marble Lions.
Once inside we checked out the many stores, and the staff were so friendly, it is easy to believe that we were no longer in rude London but in Asia.
After much browsing we headed for the main food hall, where we loved the fact that we could pick from two seperate (and very reasonably priced) food outlets, yet sit together in the seating area. (for those who enjoy a drink, the draught Stella is fantastic too!)
Very happy on full tums, we went to the supermarket area, In answer to Jags question, I think the Wing Yip supermarket just edges it in this department, I found that it was slightly more expensive and price labeling was confusing and absent, but with the rest of complex to back it up, I am going to find it very hard to return to Wing Yip.
All in all, my expectations were exceeded, and I shall be a regular face around Oriental City, that is for sure!
Hi Shane - many thanks for coming back to tell us what you thought. Glad you enjoyed it!
Hi Joanne: I would have to agree with you - the crispy duck is simply delicious! Haven’t tried the mint lemonade yet though.
I have now upped my visits to a minimum twice a week, this is mainly due to the discovery of Thai Spicy beef curry, which has quite a kick to it, and the same stall sells a nice draught Stella to wash it down! mmm mmm
I have made a mental note of that Shane - for next time I visit! Sounds tasty.
man i love that place been there loads but went there again today. i love the arcade specially the dance dance machines the people that a good on them blow my mind. me in more of a shotgun guy house of the dead lol only ever beat once. today by a girl wearing a school girl uniform O_o why i ask why. however she was cool. the food court! WOoo! i pig out there i really shouldnt because i live quite a way away but the foods just so nice and it smells so nice too. unfortunately today the supermarket was rather empty but we bought some nice stuff none the less. regards Rai
Hi Dj Rai - glad you liked the place! That girl sure does sound cool. Shame!
all the stuff we boughts gone!!! we had a party and it all got eaten :’( we now only have the remnants of tofu and some green tea. bugger. need to go back there soon :D (traffic is always really bad going there :S)
Hi DJ: Pity you don’t live so near. I am just a few minutes walk away!
damn you (in the most freindly way possible) probs goin there gain in a week or so, hope so if not i’ll get withdrawal symptons
Does anyone know if you can by kuih there? I’m desperate for some!
I share your passion for all things oriental and, being a local of Collindale myself, often visit Oriental City to stock up on Sushi and Asahi.
Who the hell are DJ Rai, Jag and Shobha anyway? Your all victims of oppresive and delinquent conformity!!!!!
Hi Thomas - many thanks for your comment! Asahi (Super Dry) is excellent beer! Glad you like Oriental City.
Oh - and by the way - I am “Jag” - I am the owner of this journal - and I’m not sure what you meant by “victims of oppresive and delinquent conformity” ?
Greebos rule! Oriental City sucks!
Oriental City rules!
Who’s that weirdo Thomas Clements?
What the hell is he takin about?
Sega park rocks!!!!
Greebos rule as does the kick-ass sega park. Keep rockin baby!!!!
Greebos rule as does the KICK-ASS sega park!!
Sorry, last E-mail sent by imature brother. Anyway,rockin it down to the Sega Park with my mates today. WICKED!!!
i luv reece, he is sexy!
he got dumped by rufus
Hi, do you know if Oriental City sell Samba ingredients please.
i went for the first time before the xmas hols
i bought a emily strange bag my mtaes love it as theyre all obseesed w/ oriental stuff and my one of mates is malaysian
its such a cool place and i think your right on some things and i didnt have time to check out the food courts :S