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It's A Small World Market 

Spotted dick, anyone?

The shelves at international markets are fascinating. After all, where else will you find monkey gland sauce, frozen sea lettuce or spotted dick pudding? Or a multi-syllabic unpronounceable root which I'm still not sure whether I should brew, grind or hang in my closet? The key to a positive experience in an international market is a savvy proprietor who is keenly aware that an ethnic market serves a dual function: providing home foods for expats and out of the ordinary ingredients for the home cook.

One such proprietor is Jeremy Dreyer at The South African Food Shop. He claims to carry "the largest selection on the East Coast." I go for Mrs. Balls chutney : yeah, the name is funny : and monkey gland sauce, which is a popular South African barbecue sauce. You can also find Rooibos tea, a South African red herbal tea that Dreyer swears will make you younger, help with allergies and treat diaper rash. My favorite product is their Afrikaner Boerewors, a beef and pork sausage in the freezer section. This flavorful sausage is perfect for grilling. Another sausage product worthy of note is Biltong, which is a distant cousin to American beef jerky.

The South African Food Shop, 11229 East Independence Boulevard in the Fullwood Plaza Shopping Center, Matthews. 704-849-2660.

Sometimes what makes an international shop popular with the expats is the particular brand of an item. Such is the case at C.C.A. British Foods, where owner Cathy Jones has a supply of Heinz's baked beans, HP sauces, and Yorkshire Gold, PG Tips and Typhoo teas. Sure, you can get treacle elsewhere, but you'll need to go to Cathy's place for spotted dick pudding, a favorite sponge cake and raisin dessert. The freezer and refrigerated compartments are packed with steak and kidney pies, shepherd pies, chicken curry pastries, meat birdies, pork and beef bangers, Irish back bacon (rashers), cheese, and clotted and double cream. There's also frozen Scottish Haggis. You'll also find an assortment of Cadbury's candies, pickled onions, tinned (canned) and powdered soups, curry pastes and Indian sauces.

C.C.A. British Foods, 2438 Park Road. 704-376-1515.

One of my frequent stops is at the Oriental Market on Central. With an aisle devoted to soy and ponzu sauces, and the side wall devoted to noodles and large bags of rice, how can you go wrong? Here you can buy large bags of frozen kiffer lime leaves and fresh durian.

Oriental Market, 4816 Central Avenue. 704-537-4281

Mexicans prefer meats thinly sliced and enjoy different cuts (Seven Steak is a popular cutlet in Mexico). Celestino Hernandez' Carniceria La Mexicana, Butcher Shops (there are four now) is a popular place for Mexican cuts of steak and pork, as well as chicken, Chorizo sausage and cold cuts. Most of the displays are labeled in Spanish and English, but in the offal section, it's Spanish only: beef and pig feet, beef tongue, heart and more. The most interesting items in this section are the two types of tripe. Cows have four-compartmented stomachs and two kinds, the larger Caltito and the popular honeycombed Paralita, are sold here. Goat and lamb are also available. This shop also has a large produce section and one aisle devoted to various brands of tortillas.

Carniceria La Mexicana, Butcher Shop, 4412 Central Avenue. 704-568-4810.

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