When you’re an expat, you end up craving the oddest things. And these things are usually the items that you cannot run down to the store and purchase. It requires a lot of forethought and coordination. Funny thing is that it’s not necessarily about consuming the item itself that stems the homesickness, it’s the connection to the past, to what is familiar and missed.
After a conversation the other day with a new expat, I realised that I have become a relative expert on where to find Aussie (and antipodean food) in the Bay Area. I feel that this info should really be shared with my fellow expats and locals who have international tastes, so here’s my favourite places to find the staples I adore from my ‘original’ home:
Australia Fair is one of my favourite shops to buy sweets from, and it helps they’re only a stones-throw from my place. They sell Uggs, Drizabones and Blunnies, but they also have a selection of sweet and savory favourites from the homeland.
What’s great at Australia Fair:
- Cherry Ripes, Flakes and Fry’s Turkish Delight ($2.50 each)
- Uggs/Blunnies/Drizabone can come in handy for those times you need a nice ‘homegrown’ gift for friends and colleagues, but don’t have time to arrange for your Mum to send something over
1017 Bush Street, San Francisco, CA 94109.
Cost Plus World Market
Cost Plus World Market has the cheapest price hands down for Vegemite in the Bay Area. I like to get mine from the location right by the ferry in Jack London Square in Oakland. They also carry some other British/Antipodean favourites and have a great selection of interesting wine, beer and cider. A ‘happy place’ for any homesick antipodean!
What’s great at CostPlusWorldMarket:
- Vegemite: A smallish jar (about 220g) runs at $9
- Marmite: A smallish jar is $6
- Twinings English Breakfast Tea (loose 200g or 100 tea bags) : $10
- Darrell Lea Strawberry Licorice: $3.29
- Buderim Ginger Marmalade: $4
- Tim Tams: $4
- Other items of note: PG Tips, Barry’s Tea, HP Sauce, Branston Pickle, Walkers Shortbread, Cadbury Chocolate Digestives, Hobnobs, Bundaberg Ginger Beer, Patak’s Curry Sauces, Heinz Baked Beans, English Clotted Cream, Horlicks, Arnott’s Crowns.
101 Clay Street Oakland, CA 94607 (right near the Alameda-Oakland-SF ferry at Jack London Square).
2552 Taylor Street, San Francisco, CA 94133 (Fisherman’s Wharf area).
This is the only entry that is a little vague, because there are a bunch of Chinese grocery stores that carry Aussie staples in Chinatown. My favourite of all of these stores is Khong Guan at the intersection of Stockton and Broadway. It’s more spacious and logically arranged than some of the other stores I’ve been to, and they have a great selection of products. Plus the cute little lady behind the counter thinks my Cantonese pronunciation is very good — golf clap for me!
What’s great in Chinatown:
- Large tins of Milo (1.5kg): $11
- Small tins of Milo (440g): $3.25
- Other items of note: Horlicks, Ovaltine, Ribena, Kopiko coffee flavoured lollies, Curry Sauce, Japanese Soba Noodles, Mae Ploy Sweet Chili Sauce, Ferrero Rocher, Moon Cakes.
Khong Guan Grocery, 1308-1310 Stockton (at Broadway), San Francisco, CA 94133
Wing Scene Grocery, 898 Stockton (at Clay), San Francisco, CA 94108
Apparently they have closed their physical storefront on Stevens Creek Boulevard in San Jose, but they still sell everything online (which is great to know, particularly if you’re not living in the Bay Area).
Sometimes, all you need to do is buy some overpriced Vita-Weets and make worms, slather them in butter and Vegemite, and make worms!
What’s great about AussieProducts.com:
- Twisties: $4.95
- Vitaweets: $6.95
- Capilano Honey (340g) : $12.95
- Tea: they have a selection of the great Aussie teas including Dilmah, Bushell’s, Lanchoo
- Other items of note: Fantales, Aeroguard, Chicken Salt, Cottee’s Cordial, Pavlova Magic eggs, Burger Rings, Summer Rolls, Barbecue Shapes, Jaffas, Saos, Minties, Musk Sticks, Licorice Allsorts, Weet Bix, and Butter Menthols.
When I first moved to the US, my care packages from my family were always choc full of Tim Tams. In recent times, Safeway (the equivalent of Woollies) has started carrying Pepperidge Farm Tim Tams with the slogan “Australia’s favourite cookie”. The word ‘biscuit’ doesn’t have the same translation here, but the term cookie just doesn’t quite fit… TimTamSlams still rule, however.
What’s great about Safeway:
- Tim Tams are about $4 a pack
- They have some REALLY cheap booze. I have scored 1.5L of vodka for around $10 a few times before. You’re welcome, Australia.
145 Jackson Street, San Francisco, CA 94111
BevMo is short for Beverages and More, but most folks round these here parts call it BevMo. It’s cheap grog, and gets even better when they have their twice yearly 5c sale: buy one bottle for the stickered price, get a second for 5c. You can’t beat that!
What’s great about BevMo!:
- Bundaberg Ginger Beer $7
- Coopers Pale Ale $11
- Jacob’s Creek Moscato $9
1301 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94109
525 Embarcadero, Oakland, CA 94607
It helps to build up a network of expats in the city you live in because there’s always family/friends/people coming and going. It makes a lot of sense on numerous levels, but none more so when all of the expat women request your friend’s dad to bring a whole pile of tampons when he comes to visit!
What are the items that you have missed most from your original home?