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Secret KitKat flavours and hidden restaurants - things you only see in a Chinese supermarket

Manchester Evening News logo Manchester Evening News 19/01/2020 Saffron Otter

Heading to your regular supermarket is often a mundane chore.

You buy the same things week in week out, you habitually follow a precise route up and down the aisles, and there’s nothing to look forward to on your way out.

But there are a number of Chinese supermarkets in Manchester that can offer an entirely different shopping experience - and most come with restaurants serving slap-up cuisine right upstairs once you’re done.

From unusual KitKat flavours and aisles of instant noodle flavours, to chicken claws ready and waiting in the freezer section, this is what it's like to shop at a Chinese supermarket in Greater Manchester.

Wing Fat - Faulkner Street, Chinatown

a truck is parked in front of a brick building: Wing Fat Chinese supermarket © Saffron Otter Wing Fat Chinese supermarket

With a prime location situated a stone’s throw away from Chinatown’s iconic archway, it feels like you’ve been transported to China before even stepping inside.

A bright yellow sign with Chinese characters in red dazzles, and at this time of year, New Year lanterns line the building from above.

Items on offer are displayed outside on the street stacked in crates and cardboard boxes, but also presented are bamboo and pomelo plants.

Walking up the steps to the entrance, you’re hit with a strong aroma of spice. You can hear the low hum of chatter in both Mandarin and Cantonese, while two elderly women stop in their tracks in the fresh vegetable section for a catch-up.

a group of people walking on a city street: Outside of Wing Fat supermarket in China town © Saffron Otter Outside of Wing Fat supermarket in China town

While Wing Fat is one of the smallest Chinese supermarkets in Manchester, the cramped space only adds to its charm, making it a firm favourite among locals.

There's a sense of chaos as customers queue up to buy authentic goods well into the aisles, which are so small, there’s only room for one person to walk down them at a time.

No children or families are in sight, with shoppers coming in ones and twos; some with baskets or just picking up the odd item before heading to the checkout.

a person standing in front of a store: Queues down the aisles inside Wing Fat supermarket © Saffron Otter Queues down the aisles inside Wing Fat supermarket

You can grab vacuum sealed Chinese sausage, and pork and duck liver sausage for £4.10; or dried yellow stripe fish in a packet for snacking at £2.80.

In the fridges, there are bottles of lychee and glass jelly drinks for around a £1 or you can treat yourself to a soya drink or milk tea.

Further along to the bottom shelf, you’ll see fish and crab sitting on ice in polystyrene boxes, leaving you confused as to how you pick one of these up to purchase.

a display in a store filled with lots of different types of food: Fresh fish at Wing Fat Chinese supermarket © Saffron Otter Fresh fish at Wing Fat Chinese supermarket a stack of flyers on a table: More fish, anyone? © Saffron Otter More fish, anyone?

Before you leave, you will clock raw chicken thighs in a bowl being prepared behind the counter, alongside a stash of traditional Chinese medicine.

This is definitely one to visit if you’re looking for a traditional, old-school Chinese shopping experience that makes you feel like you’re 6,000 miles away from Manchester.

Hang Won Hong - George Street, Chinatown

A young woman stands at the front of the store offering shoppers a try of their freshly cooked dumplings.

You head down the flight of stairs to be greeted with a shrine at the back of the store, with two male figures displayed in a mahogany cabinet alongside candles and oranges. 

In the aisles beside it are bottles and bottles of oil and sauces, with the adjoining aisle stacked with tub upon tub of instant noodle flavours; hot spicy beef, spicy chicken, sauerkraut, spicy pork, extra spicy fiery curry, Tom Yam, chilli crab, shrimp, kimchi noodle soup - to name a few.

a store filled with lots of food: Which is your go-to flavour? © Saffron Otter Which is your go-to flavour?

There are different types of mushrooms vacuum sealed at a cost of £3.35; Japan’s own version of mayonnaise - KEWPIE - for £4.20; fresh quail eggs for £1.50; small pea eggplant for £1.60; and vacuum sealed cuttlefish balls for £3.40. 

Choco banana Pocky sticks are 70p; there are green tea cookies at a mystery price with an unmarked tag; mung bean rice cakes for £2.85; and 13 per cent alcohol Korean wine for a bargain at £3.65.

Like in all Chinese supermarkets, there's a section with every possible frying pan you could imagine, along with traditional pots, spoons, and plates for a couple of quid.

a box filled with different types of food: Dried mushrooms also vacuum sealed © Saffron Otter Dried mushrooms also vacuum sealed a bottle of beer: A range of Korean wines and spirits © Saffron Otter A range of Korean wines and spirits

Woo Sang and Hunan restaurant - George Street, Chinatown

a group of people walking down the street in front of a store: Woo Sang supermarket and Hunan restaurant © Saffron Otter Woo Sang supermarket and Hunan restaurant

When you approach Woo Sang, you notice a different type of atmosphere. It’s less inviting and there are a lot less customers at just a handful.

While other supermarkets had background noise from staff and shoppers, this one has a radio station blaring pop music in the doorway. Hairy-looking, little red balls of fresh lychee immediately catch your eye but at £6.50 a portion, it’s easy to keep on walking.

Towards the back of the store, the deserted aisles become darker and almost haunting, but then you see you can take home fortune cookies for 99p, which makes everything seem better.

a plastic container of food: Exotic imported fruit is a bit pricey © Saffron Otter Exotic imported fruit is a bit pricey a blender filled with food: Fortune cookies on offer at Woo Sang supermarket © Saffron Otter Fortune cookies on offer at Woo Sang supermarket

Just upstairs of the supermarket is Hunan Restaurant, which serves traditional cuisine from Hunan province in mainland China - with signature flavours consisting of fresh chilli and garlic. 

And it’s not just the only Hunan restaurant in Manchester, but in the North West, according to manager Hanni. 

Clientele include a lot of westerners who have visited China before, who commonly opt for ‘Chairman Mao’s red braised pork’, ‘Spicy crayfish’ ‘Green chilli stir fry pork, and ‘Special Hunan bacon’, adds Hanni.

The restaurant is rated four stars on TripAdvisor from 209 reviews.

Wing Yip Superstore and Glamorous Restaurant - Oldham Road

a building that has a sign on the side of a road: Wing Yip Chinese supermarket © Saffron Otter Wing Yip Chinese supermarket

Wing Yip is probably the most well-known Chinese supermarket in Manchester, mainly because you can't miss its striking exterior, but also because of its massive megastore offering - stocking 4,500 products, including Vietnamese, Thai, and Indian ranges.

They have four stores across the UK, and currently two generations of the Wing Yip family are involved in the day-to day running of the stores.

In the Manchester chain, there's a Chinese newsagent, Ho's Bakery, along with a fresh fish counter.

It’s more clinical than the others and most similar to a western-owned supermarket with bright, white lights and huge aisles.

Nearly all shoppers are families pushing large trolleys; some made up of three generations, with children playing with their parents as grandparents watch on laughing. 

There a lot more westerners here as you pass a number of couples discussing which ingredients to pick up as they follow a recipe list.

Alongside the rows of packeted food as seen in Chinatown stores, there’s a much bigger selection of freezer food at Wing Yip, making it an ideal place for a big shop to stock up on items.

'Chicken paws and large duck feet paws' © Saffron Otter 'Chicken paws and large duck feet paws'

You discover a lot of different kinds of meats, with huge cuts of pork and beef, to smaller items such as duck feet for £6.99.  The supermarket is loud as calls echo through the building, and upstairs is just the same. 

The company’s restaurant, Glamorous, is conveniently located on the floor above, serving traditional Cantonese food.

As their website states, Tommy Hung together with his family, have travelled the Far East to bring over some of the best chefs from China, Hong Kong and Thailand.

Just like the store beneath, there's loads of choice with more than 300 dishes to choose from.

The restaurant is rated 3.5 stars on TripAdvisor from 395 reviews.

WH Lung Cash & Carry and Tai Pan Restaurant - Upper Brook Street

a person is walking down the street: WH Lung Cash & Carry and TaiPan © Saffron Otter WH Lung Cash & Carry and TaiPan

Located at the back of the University of Manchester, this supermarket is a hotspot for Chinese students.

But there's also a number of families shopping here who can't quite face the extent of Wing Yip's offering with little-ones clinging to their side.

It's a store that feels in between Wing Yip and Chinatown, with medium-sized aisles, a manageable selection of produce to work through, and a more relaxed setting.

a close up of a bottle: Price slash for chilli oil at only 99p © Saffron Otter Price slash for chilli oil at only 99p a tray of food: Beef rolls will set you back nearly £7 © Saffron Otter Beef rolls will set you back nearly £7

While Laoganma chilli oil is on special offer at just 99p, neatly rolled slices of beef will set you back nearly £7.

The fruit on display is triple packed for protection, but it's the unique flavours of crisps that really catch your attention.

Not only this, you can try three flavours of KitKat that aren't sold in UK supermarkets - including chestnut, sweet potato, and matcha.

But for something so extraordinary, picking up a bag will cost you nearly a fiver, but it's surely worth it?

a bunch of different types of food: Fortune cookies on offer at Woo Sang supermarket © Saffron Otter Fortune cookies on offer at Woo Sang supermarket a store filled with lots of food: Pizza and chilli crab flavour crisps © Saffron Otter Pizza and chilli crab flavour crisps a store filled with lots of food: Which unique flavour would you try? © Saffron Otter Which unique flavour would you try?

Just upstairs is Tai Pan restaurant, rated four stars from 416 reviews on TripAdvisor, selling a range of traditional Chinese and Cantonese dishes.

Duty manager, George, says his customers are '50/50' native Chinese or British, who have usually visited China before.

"Visitors to the restaurant are usually adventurous with the meals they order, and will often order chicken feet as a bit of a laugh," he smiles.

With this many supermarkets available and more selling authentic and out-of-the-ordinary Chinese goods - and even boasting their own eateries - it just adds to the list of reasons why Manchester is one of the best multicultural cities to live in the UK.

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