Travel the world through food at Talin Market

When Talin Market opens on Saturday in Santa Fe, customers won’t be able to find 50 varieties of New Mexican salsa. They may, however, have a choice of a couple dozen Jamaican salsas. And five different kinds of bananas. And wild-caught, oily fish, rich in flavor as if it were bought from the nearest the coast.

The market, originally started in Albuquerque, will specialize in all international food, with aisles named after countries like Beijing, Bangkok, Saigon and Hong Kong. Those same aisles will be filled with shelf after shelf of soy sauces, snacks and a variety of ingredients authentic to each location.

William Long, assistant store manager at the Albuquerque location, said before he started working at Talin Market a year and a half ago, he’d only heard of one type of banana. Now, he’s tasted at least four different kinds, including baby and burro, and they all have different textures and flavors. He’s also never seen avocados bigger than a baseball, but at Talin, they come in small, medium and large sizes.

Then there is the jackfruit, which can weigh between 40 and 50 pounds, he said. And the durian, a smelly, spikey monster of a fruit that originates from Thailand.

“It grows on trees, so if you’re underneath, that’s a bad thing,” Long says, referring to the spikes and size of the durian. “It’s a very popular fruit in Asia. It smells really bad, but the fruit inside is really delicious.”

Victor Limary, director of operations for Talin Market, said his business caters to immigrants, people who travel and those who have lived on the East or West coasts of the United States and are used to having a variety of authentic foreign foods.

Since 1978, Talin Market has specialized in bringing international groceries to Albuquerque, and after several years of customers’ inquiries, Limary said they finally decided to expand to Santa Fe so more people in Northern New Mexico can buy food they can’t get anywhere else.

“We say that we have food from every continent except Antarctica and that’s true,” Limary said. “So, we started out with primarily Asian food and then not too long after, it became Asian and Latin American food, and with our new store in Albuquerque, we added a lot more European food.”

The Santa Fe location will be very similar to the Albuquerque store with its ramen bar and variety of unique produce, Limary said, but the store itself will be smaller. According to Long, the Talin Market in Santa Fe won’t have tanks of live lobster, tilapia and Dungeness crabs, but it will have fish.

The ramen bar, which is unique to Talin Market, allows customers to order fresh or instant noodles cooked in a few different types of broths. They can also choose vegetables and toppings — such as Chinese broccoli, called kai-lan, enoki mushrooms or fish cakes — to be cooked with their meal, Long said. Everything is made fresh in front of the customers and can be supplemented with green tea mojitos, Thai tea or coffee, or other unique drinks, which are freshly brewed.

Since Talin Market first opened, the business has outgrown three spaces, and its current Albuquerque location on Louisiana Boulevard opened in 2005. It was around that time, Limary said, that customers from Santa Fe and Taos really started pushing them to open another location. Talin’s customer base continues to grow, in part, Limary said, because people are traveling more, moving more and watching cable food channels like never before.

Although Limary grew up cooking with his grandma and watching celebrity chefs such as Julia Child, he said for most people, there just wasn’t the interest there is today in televised food shows.

“Since the Food Channel, the Food Network, has really taken off in the last 10 years, it’s really opened up a lot of avenues for us because now people are really interested in something that is more exotic and items that we have,” Limary said. “Ten years ago, we offered truffle oil, and I don’t think most people know what it is, but now these celebrity chefs are using it and specialty balsamic vinegars, so there’s really a lot of people asking for these items.”

Limary said he tries to offer authentic ingredients that customers could buy from grocery store shelves in Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. He’s not too interested in offering an Americanized version of anything.

“If you were to travel to these respective countries, the food that we have, you would expect to find the same brands, the same items on those shelves,” he said. “That’s very important for us, because especially for the immigrants, they want something that they know. If somebody wanted to make sushi or something Italian, they know that the ingredients they are buying from us wasn’t created just for an American market. It’s really something that’s going to give them the taste they are expecting.”

Many of Talin Market customers grew up around water in tropical parts of the world, Limary said, and they often have a hard time finding fresh seafood that isn’t too ordinary like shrimp or catfish. So, Talin tries to offer something more fresh, receiving shipments of fish and other products two or three times a week. They also sell a variety of tropical fruits and pepper sauces. According to Limary, 80 percent to 90 percent of their products come from outside the United States.

While the building next to Ohori’s Coffee on Cerrillos Road is still under construction, Limary plans to have everything up and running Saturday, the day before Chinese New Year. There is a planned celebration with a Chinese dance at 2:30 p.m. Once Talin Market is open, regular store hours will be 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Talin Market will be located at 505 Cerrillos Road, Suite B-101. For more information or to check on employment opportunities, call the Albuquerque store at 505-268-0206.

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