The search for Pandan Leaves and Lemongrass in Rome

So far in Italy, there are a couple of Asian foodstuff that I could get, such as Thai rice, star anise, coconut milk and others. These are sold in kiosks. There will always be one or two in each market.

Lemongrass and Pandan leaves are among the basic ingredients for Malay food. To me, Nasi Lemak and Ayam Masak Merah doesn’t taste complete without them. And as of now, I have yet to find them here in Rome.

Through friends, Cart found out that there could be a possibility of getting the stuff that we need from a place called Mercato Esquillino.

A Subway in Rome

As Cart and I were a little concerned about searching for parking for the car, we decided to take the subway instead.

A couple of the subways here are interesting. They were painted with so much graffiti that it even looks like an artwork! We dropped down to the Termini station and had a walk.

Dilapilated buildings in Esquilino

Going down the street, it is an interesting looking, but rather rough looking area here. A couple of the buildings look dilapilated and just sad. It made me wonder why anyone would live there.

Chinese Shops in Rome

We also passed by quite a number of chinese owned shops selling bags, shoes and clothes.

Mercato Esquilino

At length we reached Mercato Esquillino. It was a large place. that was divided into two areas. One for foodstuff and the other was for apparels.

When we entered, I was really surprised at what was in front of me.

A kiosk in Esquilino

I didn’t feel like I was in Rome as I found so many different kiosks with owners of different nationalities selling various types of foodstuff – Items from Vietnam, Korea, Thailand, Africa and others.

I found an Indian man selling Indian spices. I could detect him talking in Tamil to his customers. There were a Chinese lady speaking Italian-accented Mandarin. This was a very interesting place indeed and it was almost ironic that there were only a handful of Caucasian sellers.

After going a few rounds the market, asking for Pandan Leaves and Lemongrass, we were faced with the unfortunate news that there were none. We were advised to try our luck the next time by going there again very early.

A kiosk in Esquilino

We then headed to the other part of the mercato where there were bales of bling cloths, waiting to be made. This reminded me of Geylang and Sultan Mosque Street. Back in Singapore, my seamstress Mum and I would be there every now and then to buy cloth to be made into Baju Kurong.

A kiosk selling bling clothes in Esquilino

I felt sad as this will be the first year that I’d be celebrating Hari Raya without the family.

After exploring the market, walking out, one of the first thing that I spotted was this :

Indian Fast Food restaurant in Esquilino, Rome

As I love Indian food, I nudged Cart to enter. We were both very hungry from our recce. We ordered a plate of rice each with gravy and a couple of fried snacks.

Indian Fast Food restaurant in Esquilino, Rome

Indian Fast Food restaurant in Esquilino, Rome

Granted that it was not really what you’d get in Little India in Singapore, it was still decent. It eased the feeling of homesickness a little bit.

Esquilino is an interesting place. Its a bit far for Cart and I to be doing our weekly grocery shopping, but I think that we’ll visit again.

The mysterious Lemongrass and Pandan leaves

For our quest in search of Lemongrass and Pandan Leaves.

16 Replies to “The search for Pandan Leaves and Lemongrass in Rome”

  1. CC

    I honestly dont think so. In Rome there are so much graffiti that its ridiculous! On walls, on houses, on vans even. Most of them are really ugly but a number of them are nice.


    I think it could be frozen and reused as needed? What do you think?

  2. my auntie who lives in Canada, managed to ‘smuggle’ a pandan plant in an empty pringles container, in her check-in luggage.. it is growing successfully as in indoor plant in her home in Canada!!! Necessity is the mother of invention….. hehehe

  3. Those trains remind me of some of the trains in the US. You see that especially on freight trains in the countryside.

    It’s funny that you mentioned Geylang because that’s exactly what I was thinking.

    Finding a spot like that in Rome is great! It immediately had me envisioning ancient Rome when there were vendors from all over the Roman empire selling exotic goods and spices. ^_^

    And, somehow you blogged about something I was thinking the other day… longing for food from home. I know it sounds odd, but I spent a lot of time recently trying to find canned pork & beans. No luck so far.

  4. It seems that in Europe, at least from all my previous travels, it seemed most Asian and/or Middle Eastern immigrants or shops are in somewhat “gray” areas. Not sure why exactly. But they have tons of ingredients that you need, for Asian/Middle-Eastern based dishes. The restaurants, even though not as authentic as here or from country of origin, the dishes they provide can be said to be sufficient to satisfy your home-cooked/local-dishes cravings. 🙂

    When I was in Stockholm in March’07, I stumbled upon this Chinese-Malaysian shop that sold different types of food items in frozen form! Canggih babe! They had kaffir lime leaves, pandan leaves, daun sop, daun bawang, Dodo fishballs, squid and prawn balls and believe it, FROZEN DURIAN! D24 some more! Mata terbeliak berberapa kali. Lol. Surprisingly, the frozen leaves looked fresh and so were the durian. Lol.

    But I didn’t buy any of those frozen items lah. Cos prior to our departure, my mum and I packedsmuggled all essential items for our Malay dishes, in 1 cabin-sized luggage. Kicap manis, kari ayam, kari ikan, chilli kering, udang kering, ikan bilis, daun kari, daun limau, serai, halia, kunyit… Maggi mee curry. LOL. Penuh satu luggage. I was nervous if it would make pass thru’ the customs in Heathrow. Luckily, we survived! ^_^

    I think, other essential items in Asian cooking like dried chillies, lemongrass and galangal, are relatively rare. BUT! You can definitely try looking for these precious items at Vietnamese and Thai based grocery. And when you do, buy them by the “cekak”. And freeze any precious items if you don’t intend to use them. If it worked for that Chinese-Malaysian shop I found, I’m pretty sure it’ll work the same for you. 🙂

    P.S I did the same thing as what Clare’s aunt did in Canada. I s/m/u/g/g/l/e/d a few young pandan plants in my bf’s orchid box meant for his mum back in 2006. That lucky pandan plants grew big for over a year! Then mati. Sebab dia taruk dalam vase penuh air ajer. Jarang dapat sinaran matahari, sebab lokasi dia ni… sejuk beku kot.

  5. Clare

    Are you serious??? LOL! I’ll do that! For both Pandan and Lemongrass the next trip to Singapore! Thank you for the tip 🙂

    Maybe I’ll open up a black market next year *evil look*


    Have you been? Of course you have been, if not, how would you tell that it looks similar … hahaha!

    The food is really nice at the Geylang Serai market. I enjoy eating there 🙂

    As for canned pork and beans … why not try luncheon meat? Granted it might not be the actual item that you are searching for, maybe it could be close?

    As for me, I’ll try keep on trying to find my spices 🙂


    Woah woah woah! FROZEN DURIAN??? A D24 at that even?! Wah! Bestnyer! Kenapa tak ada macam gitu kat sini?

    I think that I would like to do the same thing as you do, to pack a lot of things in the luggage so that I can ration and eat it during the year next year. But like you, I worry that they will confiscate it. That part is a bit scary since the customs ALWAYS check my bag.

    Maklumlah, saya ini terlalu anggun 😛

    Anyway, as of now, I have yet to find the spices and herbs. Will continue to do so anyways and I’ll follow like Clare’s technique. Bringing pandan and lemongrass and grow it myself! Hehehehe! 🙂


    And frozen durian too?? Hehehe

  6. Muahahaha! Anggun eh. Pandang lah lihat lah. Tiru macam andaaaaaa. Ahakz.

    I ada dengar jugak cerita, memang Central Europe nyer customs dahsyat lah. Yang popular tu French ngan Italian customs kan. Main amik jer orang nyer barang. Eh, tapi kan Rinaz, you boleh vacuum-packed-sealed daun dan rempah ratus, pastu sembunyi dalam checked-in luggage. Ah, pakai Ziploc bag ke Reynolds ke Glad ke. Hehehehe… Last year, my mum and I sumbat benda2 tu semua dalam cabin luggage. Pat SG customs, ok, takde apa2. Dah sampai London, gelisah betul. Tapi, kita doa banyak2. Lol. Nasib baik lepas.

    Hmmm… kat Roma… lepas dah retrieve luggage, ade customs check tak? Macam… declare and nothing-to-declare?

  7. Kynne

    Lagu itu lah! Hahaha! Saloma kan?

    Di Roma, selalu bila lalu kastam, pekerja di sana selalu periksa. Selalu kalau orang putih, dia buat tak endah sahaja. Bila masa Rinaz lalu sahaja, mulalah dia tanya, “Dari mana? Passport mana? Mari sini saya periksa beg. Woooi! Jauh ni! Apasal datang Roma? Dei Antonio! Meh tengok passport awek ni”



    I’ve never seen! Serious! Nevermind lah, I’ll buy some when I am in Singapore and try to bring in and grow it myself 🙂


    Yes! In December! You want to have a Media Club meeting? 😛

  8. Media club meeting?!? LOL. December? I tot u coming back for hari raya puasa! Then i thought i’ll drop by and collect my duit raya :DD

  9. Hi, i was searching for chinatown in rome and came upon your blog. Interesting one. I am visiting rome on 12 nov 09, and if you still need your pandan and lemongrass, i could pack some for you!

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