Cousin’s, a Philadelphia institution since 1976, is a very unique supermarket. It has a commendable selection of attractive produce, and aisle upon aisle of fascinating non-perishables from all around the globe. Just to be clear, Cousin’s is not an Asia-focused market like the others generally discussed on this blog–if there was key region for the store I’d say it would be Mexico, but with considerable Caribbean, Central American, and Middle Eastern undertones.
Think about that for a moment to imagine what kind of magic you might find in the vast produce section, and in the many aisles of global non-perishables.
Today I took some time to browse for a while at the Berks St. location near Temple University (There are 3 locations, two in North Philly and one in Camden, NJ, but I like the Berks St location best). I always find surprises in the produce section. Today I found boxes of fresh, green-shell pistachios (I have only ever seen roasted, cracked and salted pistachios), ridiculously perfumed ripe small Thai guavas, and ripe quinces. I also found some Caribbean flat bread made from cassava root. And a decent variety of dates (and date products) from the Middle East.
Near the produce section by the deli counter there is a section of Turkish and Middle Eastern yogurt (labneh) and yogurt drinks. There you can find several cheeses including beyaz peynir (key part of Turkish meze culture), as well as a selection of Turkish sucuk sausages (these are very garlicky and sometimes spicy beef sausages).
If you are shopping for South or Southeast Asian food items, there is a pretty good chance the produce will be covered here, especially with shared food culture between Mexico and Asia. Of particular note, you will find Sawtooth Coriander (aka recao, culantro), fresh tamarind, fresh ripe and unripe guavas, papayas, mangoes, small purple eggplants, and okra. Key punchy flavorings of cilantro, lime, chile (important for Mexican and Thai) will also be abundant. Today I also found long yellow “wild cucumbers”.
Cousin’s (at least the Berks St location anyway) is unique in the way that that it takes halal seriously. The meat section is substantial, and most (if not all?) of the beef, veal, and chicken is halal. I haven’t seen other stores separate meat to the extent that Cousin’s does–pork is sold here, but only from a separate room off to the side of the store. Purchases are made separately there, where most any cut of pork can be found, including neck, ears, snouts, ribs, as well as a selection of Mexican and Central American specialty sausages.
Items from Turkey are not very common in US supermarkets, or even in Middle Eastern-focused markets in Philadelphia… that is one thing that really surprised me with Cousin’s. They carry several imported brands from Turkey (Sera, Mevsim, Ülker, etc) with staple items such as preserved olives, red pepper paste, Turkish pickles, cracked wheat, sucuk sausages, white cheeses, Mehmet Efendi brand Turkish Coffee, just to name a few. They even have a small selection of Turkish Paşabahçe tea and coffee cups.
Items from other places in the Middle East can also be found here. They sell all sorts of beans, peas, tahini, Egyptian ghee (smen), a wide variety of spices and instant soup and seasoning mixes, teas, and some frozen items like kibbeh meat balls and bags of frozen jute (molokheya) leaves. There are also Lebanese flat breads (larger and thinner than supermarket pita). Today I left with some Lebanese cardamom flavored coffee.
All in all, if you are interested in unusual food finds, you owe it to yourself to wander around Cousin’s.