Sauson International Market

Lately I’ve been seeking out mom-and-pop grocery stores. There’s something special about walking in to do your shopping and being greeted by the owner, assisted with your selections, and chatted up as if time were free. No where in Loudoun is that truer than Sauson International Grocery in Sterling.

Rashid Soldozy is your guide to Sauson. The store is a dizzying array of Middle Eastern groceries and spices, household items and bulk foods that may require direction. First there’s getting there. Sauson is next to Salon Vie on the corner of Church, but to get there you need to wind around to Ruritan Circle, park in the garage under the building and take the elevator or walk around the building to the front door – a journey worth the effort.

Once inside, the store is a riot of colors with packages of Persian, Turkish, Egyptian, Iranian and Lebanese foods, cases of dairy and meats, plus a bakery and carry-out kitchen.

Rashid is my tour guide, pointing out a wall of teas, preserved lemons, fresh green almonds, ghormeh sabzi and dozens of other ingredients that are staples of Middle Eastern cuisine yet not often found in mainstream supermarkets. Strolling the row of dried beans, seeds, nuts, berries and rice, Hussein hands out advice on an herbal remedy for inflammation then smoothly rolls into a pitch for his bread.

The bread deserves its own paragraph and is worthy of a trip to Sauson right now. Commonly referred to as naan, the Sauson variety is a hand-tossed flat bread. After being mixed in big batches and divided, the balls of dough are hand rolled, spritzed with water and individually flash baked in a custom-made oven. The result is a soft, chewy circle perfect for a wrapped sandwich, accompanying kabobs or straight from the bag. Rashid points out that people visit daily for fresh bread and that those who are gluten sensitive find they can comfortably eat the bread.

The Sauson Bakery is a treasure box of sweets and cookies, too tempting not to try. Cookies soaked in a honey glaze are amazing with the tea that Rashid has offered. But there’s more to try than sweets – the store serves generous, carry-out portions of Persian rice and halal chicken and lamb. The menu offers more exotic wrap sandwiches made of lamb tongue, brain and mortadella too, as well as vegetarian Kokoo, eggplant dip and a variety of salads. All of it made fresh, topped with lettuce and seasonal sliced tomatoes, and served with sides of sauces.

Those unfamiliar with Middle Eastern food or to shopping in a foreign food market find Sauson is a welcoming foray. Poke around and ask lots of questions, try a new flavor, be adventurous. Rashid is a fifth-generation herbal healer, a civil engineer by trade, and a proud father to two Loudoun-raised sons. He’s also a darn good guide to Sauson International Market.

Sauson Market is located at 45431 Ruritan Circle in Sterling. The shop is open Monday – Saturday: 8 a.m  – 9 p.m. and Sunday: 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. 703-444-0898

Category: Eat, Featured