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Shake-up your lockdown with this Suffolk shop’s quirky deliveries - from dragonfruit to super hot noodles

PUBLISHED: 20:00 07 May 2020 | UPDATED: 10:43 13 May 2020

Faraway Foods Picture: Justin Stearn / Faraway Foods

Faraway Foods Picture: Justin Stearn / Faraway Foods

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Much-loved global produce store Faraway Foods is delivering international ingredients and staples across Suffolk

A jerk chicken curry meal box, which includes chicken, coconut milk, rice, peas, beans and plantains Picture: Justin Stearn / Faraway FoodsA jerk chicken curry meal box, which includes chicken, coconut milk, rice, peas, beans and plantains Picture: Justin Stearn / Faraway Foods

Independent food retailers up and down the country have been working hard behind the scenes to make sure their local communities are able to stay well-fed during lockdown, acting as a lifeline to many.

Justin Stearn of Faraway Foods has been providing the people of Suffolk with exotic ingredients and imported foods from far-flung destinations since 2015. With branches located in Bury St. Edmunds and Newmarket, Justin explains how he is keeping his two shops fully stocked during lockdown, how he’s set up a delivery service and what he recommends you try if you’re looking to expand your culinary palate.

Expressing his concerns over the lockdown, Justin said: “It wasn’t the government’s plan for a lockdown which I was worried about to start with – it was made clear that being a food distributor we could carry on trading in some way or another. It was the safety of my family and staff which I had concerns for.”

“There was also the difficulty in obtaining stock,” he added. “The week before lockdown and the first weeks during, panic buying had swept over the country.”

Plantains for sale Picture: Justin Stearn / Faraway FoodsPlantains for sale Picture: Justin Stearn / Faraway Foods

Travelling to London a few times a week in order to purchase from specialist wholesalers, Justin commented how panic buying had made things more difficult. “The suppliers had been picked dry,” he said. “I have never seen anything like it – one supplier had to close for a few weeks as fighting broke out to get in, and another imposed strict limits on what you could buy and the number of people entering. Sometimes I had to queue for up to five hours to have a chance at buying a just a few items.”

Struggling during the first few weeks, Justin was ready to temporarily close Faraway Foods – but it was his regular customers who inspired him to keep going and to set up a delivery service.

“Closing seemed like the easiest and safest thing to do, but the customers kept coming into the shop and thanking us for staying open,” Justin said. “There is a large community of people from the Philippines in Bury St. Edmunds, many working for the NHS at West Suffolk Hospital who are regular customers of ours.

“We realised that they might not be able to get to the shop, so that is how we came up with the idea for a delivery service.”

Justin Stearn and his wife Irene, who runs the shop in Newmarket Picture: Justin Stearn / Faraway FoodsJustin Stearn and his wife Irene, who runs the shop in Newmarket Picture: Justin Stearn / Faraway Foods

Already having access to a van, all Justin and the team had to do was test the waters and see how well-received such a service would be.

“It was just a matter of advertising on social media to see if there was any interest in people wanting deliveries – we had a great response.

“We also had luck in finding a supplier of the most eaten crop on the planet, a crop which it seemed no one else had, not even Tesco – rice. Lots of different rice – basmati, golden sella, long grain, jasmine, sticky, brown basmati even Thai black jasmine rice,” Justin said.

Armed with his rice and a van ready to deliver, Faraway Foods is also adopting a range of practices to ensure they’re operating as safe as possible. “With social distancing measures and hand wash introduced into our two shops in Bury St Edmunds and Newmarket, along with some very early mornings going into London, we were able to keep both shops stocked and safe,” Justin explained.

One of Justin's regular customers, Roger, happy with his purchase Picture: Justin Stearn / Faraway FoodsOne of Justin's regular customers, Roger, happy with his purchase Picture: Justin Stearn / Faraway Foods

Well-known across Suffolk for its range of exotic produce including papaya and dragonfruit, Faraway Foods also stocks traditional fruit and veg. Justin said: “This week we have stated selling watermelon from Marco, which produces some of the best in the world. Some melons weigh in at over 20kg, but they are far superior than what you might find in the supermarket.”

Additional products for available for delivery include a wide range of noodles, spices, fresh herbs, flours, grains, beans, cooking sauces, fresh chilies and pastes. “If you can’t find an ingredient for your recipe in the supermarket, then chances are we will have it,” added Justin.

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“Our best-selling items during lockdown have been rice, lentils, atta, tinned tomatoes and flour, which have all been hard to come by, but we have been able to stock. As stock levels in the supermarkets have come back to normal however, our bestsellers as always include plantain, yam, cassava, fish ball, goat meat, maize meal, green papaya and fish sauce.”

A delivery meal box filled with chicken, okra, Madras, rice and methi rotis Picture: Justin Stearn / Faraway FoodsA delivery meal box filled with chicken, okra, Madras, rice and methi rotis Picture: Justin Stearn / Faraway Foods

For anyone looking to step outside of their comfort zone, Faraway Foods also sells red hot Korean noodles – as seen on the YouTube challenges. “Something I still haven’t had the courage to try is chicken feet,” Justin added.

“If any readers are looking spice up their teatime, then Faraway foods is the place to come to.”

Faraway Foods is offering a delivery service to anyone within a 15-mile radius of Bury St. Edmunds. To place an order, call 01284 488240 or visit the Facebook page here. Both locations are open Monday to Saturday.

Red kidney beans, mung beans and chickpeas available for purchase Picture: Justin Stearn / Faraway FoodsRed kidney beans, mung beans and chickpeas available for purchase Picture: Justin Stearn / Faraway Foods

Our top 10 must-buys from Faraway Foods

Dragonfruit

Durian fruit

Super hot noodles

Mogu Mogu lychee flavoured drink

Plantain

Jackfruit

Enoki mushrooms

Lychee pudding

Pak choi

Goat meat


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