…Grocery Stores

In the US, when you want to buy a 12-pack of soda, or a last minute pot-luck contribution, you head to the grocery store, a paradise of 30 grand aisles, gleaming floors, bountiful produce, abundant options…. but here in Dhaka, space and variety are at a premium. Each grocery store is about the size of tennis court at most (and those are the nicest ones, where the expats shop), and you have to shuttle around to the various different markets if you want to get a variety of items. They’re also notorious for high turnaround and unreliable product availability: buy it now or abandon all hope of ever seeing it again.

There is always the local open market (the closest is a warren of dark alleys and strange smells, another one in upper Baridhara is smaller, but less stinky), but that won’t help you if you want soy sauce, noodles or a box of cereal. They’re for fruits, vegetables, meat and fish only.

Where do the expats shop?

Lavendar: Closest to the embassy area is Lavendar, behind the highrises in the NW corner of Gulshan 2 circle. It’s a 2 story shop which has groceries on the first floor and toys, gift supplies, children’s quality art supplies and oddities on the second floor. Their produce selection is small, but includes some imported grapes occasionally. You have to have your selection bagged and weighed by the produce attendant before you bring it to the check-out. Lavendar has a decent variety of products, including Nutella, cereals, baby formula, cleaning supplies, etc. but it’s a very tight space, and therefore hard to get around. It’s always busy. There is a meat counter, but relatively small. They’re also one of the primary bread makers in town, and sell their breads at many outlets.

Agora: Agora is about half-way between Gulshan 1 and 2 circles, on the west side of the street. Parking is available in the subterranean garage, but it’s a squeeze, and I’d only try it with a good turning radius. There’s also a hardware store next door which sells mosquito rackets and decent tools. Agora is bright and open compared to Lavendar, and has an extensive and well-displayed range of imported lotions, creams and soaps. They have a meat, chicken and fish counter, as well as produce. They have some tasty fried chicken and a seasonal pastry selection, as well as a good selection of beverages.

Meena Bazaar: On Road 11 in Banani, driving towards Gulshan, just before the bridge over Banani lake is Meena Bazaar and another, smaller market. Between the two of them, they seem to have a wide variety of cereals and slightly different selection of goods. I only shopped at Meena when I was there this weekend, but loved how bright and clean the store was. The staff were also very friendly. They had some instant sauce mixes I haven’t seen elsewhere in Dhaka (predominantly Indian foods), some bottled sauces and a larger produce section than I’ve seen elsewhere. There are very clean looking meat, chicken and fish counters. With the second market in the same building, I think this is a good place for one stop shopping. There is parking on the street in front, or the neighboring streets.

The Korean Mart: Also in Banani (on a cross street off road 11 near the Meena Bazaar and the bread paradise of DuMiok, which everyone raves about), is the Korean Mart. This is the place to go for tofu, East Asian vegetables, teas, sesame oil, condiments, and Japanese curry. They also carry a variety of ramens and kelp. If you’re desperate for twee Japanese-style stationary and office supplies they have some here, as well as a selection of plastic storage containers and kitchen ware. The food selection is small, but very specialized, and hugely expanded the range of meals I could produce.

DCC 2 Market: The DCC is actually a mini-mall, with a variety of shops intended to appeal to visitors and expats. Way back in the day, it was the only place to shop for anything imported. Now, there are 2 grocers here, as well as stores selling pearls, sports equipment, picture framing, antiques, baked goods, pet supplies and hardware, among other things. The two grocery stores are in the opposite corners of the first floor. I have not been in the southernmost one, even though it is the larger and more advertised of the two. The northern corner’s little market, down a dark hallway between a fabric store and a dry cleaners, has an extended selection of canned goods, imported cheese, pet supplies, chinese candies and a freezer full of frozen meat.

Other recommendations from expats?

The German Butcher, for your sausage and cut meat needs. He’s near the Gulshan Ladies Park.
The British Sausage Shop, near the ARA, also a variety of meats and sausages.
The Pork Shop, on road 13 in Baridhara, across from another decent, but small market,ย  looks a bit shady, but has good pork, supposedly.
The Pic-N-Pay, in Baridhara DOHS, on the DOHS road, supposedly has a decent selection, but the lighting is bad. There is also a new market in/near Baridhara DOHS on Progoti Sharani, but I haven’t been there yet, and it’s a bit of a trek, given the insanity that is Progoti Sharani Road.
Southwest Gardens,
carries organic produce shipped in from fields near the Sundarbans. I like their selection, and the place is serenely quiet, compared to shopping for produce in the open market. They also carry giant, frozen organic chickens, fish, and unusual meats (quail and lamb, for example). It’s on Road 99, House 23, in Gulshan, in a house with a blue gate. They’ll do a delivery service for you too, with a minimum purchase. Go in the morning for the best selection, or expect mostly empty bins.
The Guy Outside the ARA runs a vegetable stand with a changing selection of seasonal goods, and Doritos, Pringles, and boxed juice. It’s very convenient to shop here, and he often has something unusual that you might not see elsewhere, particularly if you generally have your housekeeper/cook shop for basic veggies and fruits.
The American Commissary, if you’re lucky enough to qualify for membership has alcohol, imported cheeses, frozen foods and American junk foods, as well as 3 kinds of capers. Surprisingly, nearly every grocery store in this list has capers, tahini and Nutella. Expats are a strange bunch.

The large supermarket Nandan closed just before we arrived in Dhaka, and is supposedly moving. However, I have read some local articles about how they operated without proper permits, and may not be returning to the Gulshan area. There is another one down in Dhamondi, so you can do your variety shopping there, if you’re outside the diplomatic area.

EDITED TO ADD:
Apparently one of the two grocery stores in DIT 2 has expanded its offerings and now has a fresh meat counter, direct from Australia. It also sells rice paper skins for egg rolls or wantons. I haven’t bought either, but people really recommend it.

Also, the Nandan on Gulshan Ave is open. It’s right across the street from the Agora, and has an illegible neon sign in Bangla out front. Do not try to self-drive there, as there is only one parking spot for the store and it’s down in the 3rd basement, they triple park it, and it’s a complete PITA because they run up to pull you away from your shopping to shuffle your car. Dumb system.

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17 thoughts on “…Grocery Stores

  1. Great summary of your post’s grocery shopping opportunities! It sounds like you have the hunt and gather there pretty well under control. I hope that you sponsor a few families, if you can, and share with them all their options. You would make a wonderful first contact for a new arrival.

  2. I just heard from some austrians that the german butcher in Beijing had been an east German diplomat and when the wall fell he just didnt go home! Maybe that is what they all are?!

  3. Great post, and I have to check out Meena! Oh, Nandan’s is open, just really hard to know it’s there. It’s on the opposite side of the drag as Agora. They had a good fish selection and a few other things, similar to Agora. Not sure about the permit thing though.

    You WILL be a great sponsor ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. I saw that Nandan’s sign over there, but when I looked in to the store, it seemed like it wasn’t a grocery. They must be QUITE clever at disguising themselves. I’ll have to check it out.

  5. Dhaka is the greatest city in the world, man! I have visited a number of major cities of the world (Seoul, Kathmandu, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Jedda, London, NY, Houston, Boston, Atlanta, Denver, Dallas and more) but there is nothing like Dhaka!
    If you wanna enjoy, Bangladesh, come out of the confinement of the diplomatic area. Go to old dhaka, mirpur, magabazar etc. And certainly go the the countryside, like Barisal or Sylhet. Bangladesh holds almost all of its warmth in the villages.
    Alas! There is not an iota of greenery here in Lubbock, TX!!:((

    1. That’s been my experience of Texas as well. I’ll admit I’m most partial to cities that are walkable. I spend most of my time here in Dhaka dodging crazy drivers. There are many beautiful places in Bangladesh, and I’d agree that anyone who came here should get outside Dhaka.

  6. Sorry, I don’t have the contact number of the German Butcher, nor the exact address.
    I also found out recently that the Southwest Gardens has apparently closed down.

  7. I was searching for “Korean supermarket in Dhaka” and your post came up! Very helpful info. I’m headed to Dhk in abt a month for a long trip (I’m from there but moved to NY a while ago) and was wondering where can I get Brown rice! Not the White rice that was colored Brown..the real thing. By any chance did you happen to see any in one of the markets you mentioned? Thnx!

    1. Sorry, I’ve never heard of dying rice brown… so I might not be the best judge of the rice available. They do have a lot of things at the Korean market, but the selection varies with the delivery schedules, and isn’t consistent. Even if they have what you want, you might not find it the next time. Good luck!

  8. I went to Southwest Gardens this morning. It must have been a temporary closure in July. I have been told that there are no vegetables to be had toward the end of summer. Today there were plenty of very fresh vegetables and some fruit.

  9. My deep thanks for posting this! I’d found Ko-Mart while exploring in Gulshan/Banani 2007, and felt like a kid in a candy store. But, when I was back in Dhaka in early 2010, I couldn’t find the place or any good information about where it was–I’d remembered it as being somewhere along Kemal Ataturk (on the north side of the road?), but if it was there certainly managed to miss it. Your posting confirms that it is indeed still alive (or at least was a year ago), and gives me an idea of where to find it.

    I did think I should see if I can pin down the location a bit more–we hope to be back in Dhaka for a while in the near future. The photo at this link seems to be geotagged to a location on Kemal Ataturk. Is that location approximately correct? This site gives a different address that seems to fit your description:

    House 114, Road 12
    Block E
    Banani
    Dhaka, Bangladesh.

    Per Google Maps (I’m not that familiar w/ the Gulshan/Banani area), Road 12 in Banani is a north/south road perpendicular to 11, a block away from the lake.

    Again, thanks much–even if you don’t have more specific info at the moment, your post gives me hope of finding Japanese groceries in Dhaka, and a general idea of where to go. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. I think it is Road 12. However, the picture you posted is not the building, they’ve either moved, or it’s a different store. However, it’s right around the corner from DuMiOk, which is on Road 11 at house 154. (Korean restuarant and bakery)

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