S&A West Indian Grocery

west indian grocery view of store looking back

A lot of countries are packed in there.

By Kalyn Belsha

S&A West Indian Grocery is everything you want an ethnic market to be -- not too big, and filled to the brim with tasty, yet hard-to-find items.

Tucked away off Central Avenue, the store specializes in African and Hispanic Caribbean products. It looks pretty tiny from the outside, but inside you'll find everything from Ghanian yams to Jamaican ginger beer to oxtails and cow feet.

west indian grocery tubers veggies flags

When you first walk into S&A you might be distracted by the proud display of flags that line the edges of the ceiling -- every nation from St. Kits to Haiti to Grenada is represented and Bob Marley's face smiles down from one.

The aisle closest to the entrance is dedicated to Caribbean fruits and vegetables. You'll find okra, fresh ginger, loose coconuts and chayote, a green gourd that can be cooked like summer squash or diced and added to salsa. In the wooden baskets are a wide range of tropical roots and tubers for Caribbean cooking, including Ghanian yams, cassava (yuca), eddoes and yautía (coco yam). You'll also find whole aloe vera leaves, if you're in the market for a natural moisturizer.

west indian grocery spices rubs sauces beans

The spice aisle is filled with anything you could ever need to season your oxtails or goat meat and there's a variety of masalas, jerk seasoning, natural molasses, chutneys, sofrito and achar, which has a pickled taste. The spice aisle also has some great exotic teas, including Jamaican gingermint, cerasee (a bitter melon flavor), mauby (kind of like root beer) and bissy, which is made with an extract from the kola nut.

west indian grocery Flours and breakfast mixes

In the last aisle you'll find all different kinds of flours and breakfast mixes including banana and peanut porridge, plantain flour, cinnamon cornmeal, and Foska oats, which is a kind of Jamaican oatmeal. I couldn't resist buying some banana peanut porridge, though the peanut taste was a little jarring with my morning tea.

west indian grocery cold colas

Along the wall near the cashier are refrigerated beverages and cold stuffs you won't find in many other supermarkets. There's a ton of foreign colas, including Jamaican ginger beer, champagne cola, grape soda and cream soda and some canned Irish Moss, a thick Jamaican drink made with red algae, milk, spices and either peanut or vanilla for a protein-rich treat.

In the back of the store there's a takeaway counter that sells meals to go like oxtail curry, stewed chicken with rice, roti and goat curry (all meals priced at about $7 for a small portion, or $9 for a large). There's also dried bacalao and Jamaican spice bun in the shelves toward the back.

On your way out, for more exotic ingredients you can hit the large refrigerator and freezer chest for fish and meats. When I checked it out there was a ton of frozen fish (butterfish, King fish, parrot fish, tilapia, porgies) in addition to cow feet, cow skin, chicken feet, pigtail and kenkey, which is a popular food in Ghana made from fermented maize or yuca wrapped in dough and often served with stew or soup. S&A's inventory changes on a weekly basis, the owner told me, so you might want to call ahead if you're looking for a specific item.

west indian grocery exterior sign

Earlier on AOA: Capital Region Ethnic Market Map

Find It

S&A West Indian Grocery
350 Elk Street
Albany, NY 12206

(518) 427-1933

Comments

Great place to shop. Never considered any of those sodas (or any other items, for that matter) to be "foreign," since I've been buying them in corner stores in Brooklyn and Queens all my life.

Any idea if they sell any East African spices/foods? I've been looking for injera (Ethiopian/Eritrean bread) for years now and I have always had to go to NYC to get it.

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