Review: Lung Wah Supermarket, Hythe Bridge St, Oxford
You may be wondering by now: “Where can I buy my own Headless Ching Chang?” “Where can I shop and also light incense before Confucius?” “Where oh where can I find the preserved, blacken skins of Assam fruit?”
Of course the world abounds in HCC and Assam Skin; but there’s only one supermarket in Oxford where a giant red Confucius stares you down whilst wielding a pike (see the banner image of this website); and that is Lung Wah.
Lung Wah carries far more than exotic grocery items however; they carry their own cutlery, their own bowls, plates, and pots; all specially imported from China (though there is little to distinguish them from anything in Boswell’s save the packaging). It is this area of Lung Wah that I like the best. The mixing bowls and steel plates live above a cavernous freezer full of fish and a lonely box of frog’s legs that worries me every week. Lung Wah even offers tin cutlery; there is simply no need to buy *anything* for your kitchen outside of Lung Wah.
The bowls and cutlery are perhaps so prominent because they contribute to the myth that Chinese grocery stores are cultural outposts– they do not merely trade in food stuffs, they outfit, they prepare intrepid Chinese and Asian visitors for the lean months or years of life in England. They do not sell steel bowls and cutlery– they sell the necessary accoutrements of loneliness. Here are the impermanent, pale imitations of the homewares you enjoyed in your own country– as you might expect, they are lighter, dustier, and meant to be discarded upon leaving. There are also emergency birthday presents and New Year’s decorations– never enough to really please anyone, but just enough to make some gesture towards the real seat of life (Home, away from the outpost). In solidarity, they offer some African, some Pakistani and some Japanese ingredients– but these too are presented as rations to sustain nostalgia.
When we visit Lung Wah, we may mistakenly imagine it to be rather dim, brooding, or unpleasant– but the true harsh conditions are always outside. Lung Wah is only ever that much more pleasant than the rest of Oxford for its authentic customers.