Update: Sadly, Tienda Nueva is now closed. If you're looking for Colombian goods, however, there's a new shop selling Latin American goods just a block from there. It's called Mercatienda Latina, and it's at 78 rue de Dunkerque in the 9th (01 45 26 11 80).
Isn't it amazing how you can still discover new things right in your neighborhood, even after living there for two and a half years and spending a large part of your free time walking around and exploring?
Case in point: a small Colombian grocery store on rue Rodier, literally three blocks from me in the 9th (and facing the restaurant called Radis Rose -- "pink radish" -- which I haven't yet tested but have heard good things about. Also, they have a huge pink Smeg fridge just behind the door.)
The store is called Tienda Nueva (I speak no Spanish but Babelfish tells me this means "new store") and we found it by pure serendipity as we were taking a little stroll last Sunday. It was closed then, but I made a mental note to go back, sooner rather than later. Why? The jars of Dulce de Leche in the window, and the mention of the magic word "tamales" on their take-out menu.
I paid them a visit on my way home from work on Tuesday night, and discovered a bigger store than I thought it would be from the outside, selling all manner of goods from Colombia -- mostly shelf-stable products as can be expected. Innumerable kinds of corn flour, salsas and sauces, jams and spices, jarred cactus, candy, but also a range of convenience products, things that looked like soap and cleaning supplies, CDs and DVDs. I browsed around, but most of the food products were pretty cryptic for me as I know very little about Columbian cooking: I will have to read up a bit and go back!
I chatted with one of the two smiling Colombian guys with the cool accent who were minding the store, learned that they have been operating the business for some 11 years and that they import all of their products directly. And when I complained about the lack of quality Mexican restaurants here in Paris, he recommended Ay Caramba in the 19th, which was instantly added very near the top of my to-try list.
They also have a bar area with stools, on which you can sit to eat some of the Colombian specialties that they make: fajitas, empenadas, tamales, and even a Colombian burger. And since this is what I had been dreaming about, I asked if I could buy a tamale to go. He was surprised that I knew about tamales: I said that it was one of my favorite things to order in Mexican restaurants in the US, and he explained that Colombian tamales are wrapped in banana leaves, not corn husks. He put a fat foil-wrapped package in a bag, gave instructions to boil it in water for ten to fifteen minutes, threw in a small cup of a spicy pepper condiment and an arepa (a flat, round corn cake, a bit thicker than a tortilla), while I fished out the 8 euros.
Later that night I followed his advice, boiled, unwrapped and thoroughly enjoyed my tamale: it was stuffed with chicken meat, potatoes, peas and carrots -- I don't know if it is the traditional recipe, but it was delicious and oh-so-satisfying, especially when you get home from work, ravenous. The meat was flavorful and juicy, the vegetables well-seasoned and not mushy, the masa casing tender and tasty, and all this was wonderfully brought to life by that spicy condiment.
They are open on weekdays until 9pm, but on Fridays and Saturdays they don't close until 10pm, so I will definitely go back with Maxence to grab dinner there and try more of their cooking!
57 rue Rodier
01 45 26 11 80
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