by David Cecelski
One of my favorite places to visit in Greensboro is Fanta City, the fantastic international mall that occupies the old Guilford Mills factory on West Market Street. My son had a soccer tournament in Greensboro this weekend, so one of the other soccer parents and I had the chance to explore this haven for the city’s new immigrants twice in between his games.
Few small cities anywhere have a more vibrant or diverse immigrant population than Greensboro. The old textile town is home to three refugee resettlement agencies. They’ve helped thousands of war and political refugees start new lives there in Guilford County—and lots of them shop at Fanta City.
When we explored Fanta City, we marveled at the bags of yam flour and jars of palm oil in the African food aisle at the Super G Mart., the 36,000-square-foot multiethnic grocery that anchors the mall. Thousands of refugees have recently arrived in Greensboro from Africa, especially from Sudan, Somalia, Morocco, and Central African countries like Burundi and Rwanda.
We tried homemade potato and pea samosas at the Indu Convenience Store, a splendid Indian grocery that specializes in South Asian produce and fresh desserts. They had the samosas at the checkout counter, and they only cost $1.00 each.
At the D&H Tofu Factory, a Vietnamese shop, we bought a hefty tray of creamy, homemade tofu seasoned with lemongrass and chili peppers for only four dollars. The proprietor’s daughter, Quynh Diep, baby in her arms, very kindly gave us advice on how to cook with the tofu. She also introduced us to her mother’s tofu pudding with ginger sauce, a very traditional dessert in Vietnam, she told us.
We also window shopped at a Salvadoran restaurant called Los Cobanos, where the aroma of pupusas frying filled the air and the Sunday special was sopa de pata, cow’s foot soup. We browsed a Japanese place that specialized in sushi, and we peeked into the Dasarang Korean Restaurant, where the menu included a spicy kimchi stew and several kinds of bibimbap, the classic Korean mix of rice, pickled or sauteed veggies, chili pepper paste, and egg or meat.
We also visited a little Vietnamese cafe named Tu Quynh, that’s located inside the Super-G. We toured the Yae Ga Korean Rice Cake shop, too, which makes some 25 kinds of sweet rice cakes. The proprietress gave us samples of the little dumpling-like creations flavored with honey and sesame, and they were delicious. We even found a small Myanmar store, which had a few groceries that are traditional in that South Asian country.
The parking lot in the center of the mall’s three buildings was crowded with cars—it was hard to find a parking space—and the restaurants and groceries catered mostly to immigrants. One, a little Chinese cafe called China Apple, on the inside of the mall, didn’t have English translations for its specials, but most did, and most had photographs of the dishes on their menus, too.