Hidden treasures: Choku Bai Jo

I’m not alone in enjoying a perv at the contents of someone else’s shopping trolley. Another Outspoken Female has posted her weekly haul from the Vic Markets at confessions of a food nazi and asks what other people’s shopping looks like; Stephanie from Elegant Sufficiency wants to see the receipts.

Choku Bai Jo is, so they tell me, the name of a kind of farmers’ outlet store in Japan. Luckily for me it’s also a fruit and veg shop in nearby North Lyneham (in the inner north suburbs of Canberra), and it’s where I do most of my shopping.

chilliesSome of the varieties of chillies available, clockwise from bottom left: Jalapenos, Harbaneros, Shisotou and that dead ordinary “long” kind you can get everywhere. To the right are delicious baby endives.

Many locals know Glean na Meala produce from the Capital Region Farmers’ Market, and the Pentony family behind Glean na Meala are the driving force here. I’ll post soon about the Canberra Farmers’ Market and the – well, if not out-and-out problems, at least “issues” – they’ve been having. In the meantime, Glean na Meala maintain a stall at the markets but now concentrate most of their energies at Choku Bai Jo.

The store also carries lines from selected other farms and producers; the range has increased dramatically since the store opened in late February. Everything is labelled (even with food miles, if you’re into that kind of thing) and unusual items, like Upland Cress, have informative signs discussing their use. They stock some coffees, honey, flours, oils, and the like, and are very happy to talk to customers. One week ago I asked them to try and stock the tofu sold at the farmers’ markets. Fortunately someone else had just done the same thing and this week they tell me it’s coming soon. The hours are odd but not inconveniently so: 2-7 pm Monday to Friday (to allow morning picking) and 6-12 Saturday mornings.

The store (and the stall, too) are very cleverly marketing authenticity and superior taste – how many prodcuers have you seen display a sign saying “Watch us on Google Earth” and listing their co-ordinates? (This is what you’ll see there.)

It’s not slick, replicating a farmer’s market feel with signs on boxes and veg piled high on trestle tables. It is extremely well priced – the comments at this Elegant Sufficiency post show how very cheap Choku Bai Jo is.

I keep going back because of the range and quality of their produce, the effort taken to inform people about it and the charm of the proprietors and staff. They sell a lot of Japanese veggies hard to find elsewhere – lovely thin skinned lumpy cucumbers, tatsoi, mizuna. I have seen Japanese customers almost swooning (and also shouting out the percussive Japanese names of veggies in excitement – try SHISOTOU!!! on for size).

I’m so in love with this shop that every time I run into a friend I encourage them to go there. Tellingly, the last three people I spoke to said that more than one other person had recently told them the same thing.

$75 worth of fruit and veg

This is my Saturday morning’s shopping, which cost just under $75. There are more photos of the store, and (many!) notes on the items in my haul in this flickr set.


Choku Bai Jo: North Lyneham shops, off Cossington Smith Crescent. 2-7 pm M-F and 6 am until noon on Saturdays, eftpos and cards accepted. Closed on Sundays.

See other posts about Choku Bai Jo by brazen, The Canberra Cook and Ampersand Duck.

I have no connection with the store and am singing their praises out of pure customer satisfaction ; )

12 thoughts on “Hidden treasures: Choku Bai Jo

  1. Loved the flickr photos! What a fantastic store. I adored the food miles, names of farmers and fantastic and exotic looking produce. This is about the only thing I’ve seen of Canberra that would make me want to live there 🙂

    Now what are you going to cook with all those luscious herbs?

  2. It is an outrageously good store, aof. And perhaps some of the other hidden treasures I’ll post over time will show you how at least your stomach could be happy here!

    As for the herbs, they’ll mostly get gobbled up in daily salads or made into Chinese food. Dinner tonight was a Thai-ish beef salad on a huge mound of greens.

  3. Zarquon, they went into a sooky soup – the cold nights are coming much earlier this year. I roasted them with the orange sweet potato and some of those nice organic carrots and cooked them in chicken stock with a can of white beans and some leek and Chinese celery. Grown ups got some Madras curry powder in theirs, and the kids got a big spoon of peanut butter in theirs.

  4. Haven’t seen it there yet, Cristy, but I haven’t been since last weekend.

    And thanks – not that you’re going to like all of it ; ) Keep an eye out for “vegan unfriendly” in the categories under the post title.

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