During the late ‘70s, immigrants from France’s former colonies in Southeast Asia started to resettle in Paris as refugees. Bounmy Rattanavan and Bou Rattanavan, two ethnic Chinese brothers from Laos, were two such immigrants, who in 1976 started importing Asian ingredients.
Five years later, they opened Tang Frères, one of the first Asian markets in the country. Over the subsequent decades, the brothers’ supermarket expanded to an empire that includes 10 branches in and around Paris, and today, it’s thought to be one of the largest Asian grocery chains outside of Asia.
The original location of Tang Frères was on 48 Avenue d’Ivry, in the heart of the 13th Arrondissement, Paris’s largest quartier chinois, and one of the largest Asian communities in Europe. That space has since been converted into a counter selling pre-cooked food items called Tang Gourmet. It’s flanked by a relatively small, 1993-era branch of Tang Frères and an expansive, comparitively modern hypermarket.
Inside both you’ll find Asian butchers and fishmongers, refrigerator cases packed with steamed Vietnamese sausage, shelves loaded with fish sauce and other seasonings, Southeast Asian herbs, imported fruit, aisles of Southeast Asian junk food, frozen durian, and shoppers and staff speaking a bewildering mix of Lao, Thai, Khmer, Vietnamese and French.
Know Before You Go
The area in front of the original branch of Tang Frères is a meeting place for the area’s Southeast Asian community, and on most days around 11 a.m. you’ll find people selling homemade box meals and sweets, herbs, and other food items.