A new Chinese supermarket in Merrifield might just have the largest selection of live seafood in the region. Great Wall, which opened Oct. 1, is the first Washington area branch of a chain with stores in New York, Boston and Franklin Park, N.J. Against the rear wall are aquariums filled with very fresh fish, crustaceans and mollusks.
Not everyone, perhaps, will be in the market for three sizes of eel ($5.99 to $9.99 per pound). There may be more buyers for the seven varieties of clams ($1.79 to $19.99 per pound) and three kinds of crabs priced from 79 cents per pound for small blue crabs to $16.99 per pound for a larger crab species that are bulging with roe. "People will pay that because they really like the eggs," said a crab shopper. There are live shrimp ($24.99 per pound) and on the finned side, silver carp and tilapia ($2.99 per pound) and striped bass ($6.99 per pound).
The meat department has an excellent selection of fowl, such as hard-to-find, small, two-pound chickens ($1.99 per pound). But the specialty is duck: cured ducks ($15.99 each) and smoked ducks ($19.99 each), as well as plump fresh quackers ($1.99 per pound). And look no farther for the cured, Chinese-style pork sausage ($3.99 for 12 ounces) that many recipes call for.
The produce department has large, sweet loquats ($7.99 per pound) and five varieties of plump Asian pears ($1.50 to $2.25 each). The appealing, white fleshed winter melon (39 cents per pound), a vegetable similar in flavor to zucchini, is often used in soups and stir-fry. Don't overlook the fresh jujube, a type of date that can be used to flavor and sweeten chicken soup.
In the frozen section, for less than $4 per package, you can put together a home dim sum sampler of shrimp ravioli, vegetable buns and pork, corn and cabbage dumplings.
The supermarket is scheduled to open a sushi bar, bakery and prepared foods section in the coming weeks.
Great Wall Supermarket, 2982 Gallows Rd. (Merrifield), Fairfax County; 703-208-3320. Open every day from 8 a.m. to midnight.
-- Walter Nicholls