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HELP!! What are the BEST ASIAN MARKETS around town?

Hi Chowhounders,

I moved from the West Village (NYC) to West Hollywood this year, and I am seriously in need of finding a decent Asian supermarket. Of course, I know I'll have to travel a bit...

I hear mixed things about Ranch 99. Sounds like the one in SGV is much better. I'll plan to check that out. How about some other places?

Of couse, would consider Korean, Japanese markets, etc., also. Looking for a mix of already-cooked food and raw ingredients, produce, etc. For example, dying for some decent dumplings!

Many thanks.

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  1. Let's see...

    CHINESE

    99 Ranch (also known as Tawa) has a bunch of branches that vary in quality. The Van Nuys one is just "OK" -- it's in the Valley, which is easier to get to for Westsiders and us Valleyites. The best is probably the one on San Gabriel and Garvey, though the one on Atlantic and Garvey is also OK.

    There's Hong Kong Superstore, on San Gabriel and Valley.

    There's Hawaii, which is, er, a bit lacking in housekeeping but by FAR the cheapest, on Del Mar and Valley, across from Focus Plaza.

    And then there's Shun Fat, on Atlantic north of Garvey, which is just gross.

    VIETNAMESE

    I don't know the name of the store at Bolsa and Magnolia but it's probably the best I've seen.

    Phu Ky, on Valley between Atlantic and Garfield, is OK but housekeeping sometimes not OK.

    KOREAN

    Han Kook Market on Pacific and Glenoaks in Glendale is my destination, with the pre-marinated barbecue meats and the "Wall O'Kimchi" along the left side. There's another in K-town (on 6th?).

    THAI

    In Thai Town, the two contenders, both on Hollywood Blvd., are Silom and Bangluck. There's also Bangkok Market but I haven't had good luck pricewise there.

    Bangluck also has a branch in North Hollywood, on Sherman Way between Coldwater Canyon and Ethel. It's bigger and (I think) better than the one in Hollywood and has the required Sanamluang Cafe adjacent.

    New King Seafood, just off the corner of Coldwater Canyon and Sherman Way, is the cheapest I've found but it's also the dirtiest -- I only buy canned or jarred things here, never frozen or fresh.

    JAPANESE

    There's a Mitsuwa in West LA on Sawtelle, and another in Little Tokyo, and another in Torrance on 215th. There may be others. They're huge, they tend to have food courts (try Santouka Ramen for a bowl of shio ramen, you'll thank us after).

    On Sawtelle north of Olympic is Nijiya, with another branch in Little Tokyo in the little shopping plaza. This is our usual destination for Japanese-specific products as they trend cheaper than the Taiwanese-owned stores.

    INDIAN

    I always go to India Sweets & Spices, of which there are four -- one's on Parthenia, one's at Topanga Canyon and Sherman Way, one's on Venice Blvd. near Versailles and one's in Los Feliz. Housekeeping can be a bit squicky (the Topanga Canyon branch is the cleanest), but that isn't true of the amazingly tasty, unbelievably cheap takeaway vegetarian restaurants attached -- they're usually scrupulously clean.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Das Ubergeek

      wait...are you saying that Mitsuwa is owned by Taiwanese??

      1. re: Tmblweed

        No, sorry, I meant such as 99 Ranch, Shun Fat, etc., which carry some Japanese products.

      2. re: Das Ubergeek

        the Jawa brothers sold several of their stores -- they had like 20 stores in CA and Las Vegas before selling several of them. The Parthenia/Lindley store in Northridge was one of the ones sold, but they kept the Topanga/Sherman Way location. I hate the Northridge location now -- the new owners don't carry any of the brands I use (I'm indian, so do a lot of indian cooking) and they aren't very helpful when I need to find something.

      3. For Korean, I go to California Market on Western and 5th in Koreatown (450 S. Western Avenue). Their produce section is pretty neat and orderly.

        For Japanese on Sawtelle, I like Nijiya, but I also like to support Safe and Save, mainly b/c the owners are cool and the fish mongers are really knowledgeable.

        1. In the San Gabriel Valley, the Ranch 99 in San Gabriel Square at the corner of Del Mar and Valley is one of the best Chinese markets anywhere. Across the street (Del Mar) from it is the Hawaii Supermarket. It seems to have slightly more southeast Asian stuff (they also have whole, frozen armadillos - I don't know what to do with them.)

          There is a truly astounding supermarket - a WalMart-sized Asian supermarket - on Rosemead, just south of the 10 Fwy on the east side of the street. I can never remember its name - it's a Vietnamese name and calls itself a grocery warehouse. The seafood section is like an aquarium - but you can eat everything. The fresh fruits and vegetables department is the size of some other respectable markets. And it's all really cheap.

          Closer to West Hollywood you've got the Bangkok Market on Melrose a few blocks east of Western. (There's another Thai supermarket in Silom Plaza on Hollywood Blvd. just east of Western.) Down Western you have the HK and California Korean markets. There are also excellent Korean markets in Koreatown Plaza on Western south of 8th street and the Koreatown mall on the corner of Olympic and Western.

          There's a surprisingly good, small but well stocked, Asian (southeast Asia bias - it's run by Vietnamese) market on Sunset Blvd. in Echo Park called A Grocery Warehouse.

          In Little Tokyo there is an excellent Japanese market in the mall at 3rd and Alameda. Although the best Japanese market in the region is to be found in Gardena: Marukai, 1740 West Artesia Blvd. (a little east of Western). It costs $10 per year to join, but it's well worth it. There's another, non-member Marukai nearby, but the one on Artesia is a lot better.

          For my money, the best Shanghai dumplings - juicy pork, or pork and crab xiao long bau in a restaurant are at J&J Shanghai - conveniently near the Hawaii and Ranch 99 markets at Del Mar and Valley (301 W. Valley - ground floor at the back of the strip mall.) You can also do a whole lot worse, if you want frozen dumplings to take home, than Mama's Kitchen on New Ave. between Valley and the 10 - Mama's dumplings at the restaurant are pretty good, not great, but for some reason they seem to be the best frozen dumplings I've found. (12 minutes once the steam gets going.)

          That ought to get you started. Welcome to L.A.

          4 Replies
          1. re: estone888

            The huge place on Rosemead is called something Superstore. I can't ever remember the whole name either.

            The most impressive place I've been lately is 168 on New and Valley. Very clean, lots of nicely pre-packaged fresh items (again, clean), the food I've eaten so far has been very fresh, and...all the carts work! The place is pretty new, so that's probably why.

            1. re: Pei

              Yeah - 168 is pretty good.

              Also pretty good is The Square (正方; Zheng Fang) in Rosemead.

            2. re: estone888

              It's called Vien Dong III Superfood Warehouse and it's located at 2650 N Rosemead Ave in South El Monte.

              BM

              1. re: BobMack

                Thanks. That is the one. I was there on Sunday so I should have remembered.

            3. For Thai foodstuffs, I hit up the Bangluck Market on Sherman Way in NoHo, as detailed above. But if I am in Thai Town, then I usually only go to that location of Bangluck after I have checked out the Silom market, as well as a trip to Bhan Khanom Thai. BKT is a great source for fresh snacks, but also for packaged snacks. Bangluck is especially good for curry pastes, drinks (num dtaan sot is a favorite - translated as palm sheath nectar, whatever that means) and various sauces. We had a really great experience there recently - we wanted to make pak boong fai dang which requires some bean sauce or other, but we didn't know which one. Some guy noticed our confused stares at the packed shelves and asked if we needed help. We told him what we wanted to make and he said, "Ah, you need [insert name of the sauce that I have again forgotten].' He then proceeded to take us around to another aisle and point out the sauce to us. Then he went to the checkout and bought his own groceries - he was just a really friendly customer and didn't even work at the store.

              For Korean things, I hit up either Assi Market on 8th in K-town or the supermarket in the basement of the K-town Galeria. Assi had some major labor problems that left a bad taste in people's mouths I guess, but they have decent preprepared items (spicy tofu, kimchis, etc.), a great selection of rice cakes, frozen dumplings - including my favorite kimchi dumplings, and a house brand that has a great ginger tea. If I want to try before I buy, I head to the K-town Galeria's market because there are often like a dozen different sample tables set up.

              For Japanese, I use Nijiya, as well as Safe and Save on Sawtelle - but I live 3 blocks from there, so I walk. I will have to make the short trip to the newly refurbished Mitsuwa to check it out.

              6 Replies
              1. re: igj

                Is the Safe and Save market the really tiny one further up the street on the same side as Nijiya? I guess it'll do if you're not getting a massive amount of groceries. Otherwise I'd stick with Mitsuwa or Nijiya.

                I feel so grateful to live in a city that has so many options. I'm probably moving to Boise next year. I e-mailed a friend up there a few weeks ago and asked if there are any Japanese markets. He never replied (uh-oh).

                1. re: nakni

                  yep, thats the one. I have "heard" that can get kobe beef. Anyone else know for sure?

                  1. re: krushdnasty

                    Mitsuwa in Torrance had fresh wasabi root and ..... the real deal Kobe Beef. Holy cow!!! Unbelivable marbling, you won't mistake it for american wagyu / kobe style beef.

                    1. re: Sgee

                      What is so special about Kobe Beef... just curious. I heard that in Japan there is a beef considered higher than Kobe that everyone loves. Forgot the name...

                      The few times I've tasted Kobe here I've really liked it. Is it really the way they treat the cow??

                      1. re: Liquid Sky

                        It's juiciness and tenderness are its siren song. Beef handled in the same manner but not located in the Kobe Prefecture are referred to as wagyu beef.

                  2. re: nakni

                    Yes, that's the place. Nijiya has only prepacked fish/seafood, whereas Safe and Save has a fish counter. So, if I am cooking some seafood dish, I'll often end up at S&S for the actual seafood and at Nijiya for many of the other items.

                    Also, oddly enough, Nijiya has a very good price on organic milk and 1/2 & 1/2. I'd much rather buy those things from Nijiya than Ralph's!

                2. KOREAN - KTOWN

                  Galleria Market on the corner of Western and Olympic Blvd., parking is decent, banchan service is clean, meat and seafood are good quality, veggies are fresh. Food court on top floor is nice. My recommendation, go on Sunday mornings when the Korean folk are at church.

                  Hannam Chain on the coner of Vermont and Olympic has better hot food and banchan variety, but not as clean in my opinion. If you care about things like that.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: tatertots

                    We've gone to Hannam Chain since I was a kid. I would say it's clean, but because it's one of the older Korean grocery stores, it doesn't have that shine to it as some of the newer ones.

                    I've found that the produce and fruit are consistently fresher and cheaper. Definitely cheaper than American markets and usually cheaper than most other Korean markets. The quality is much better also. Plus, the prepared food items are more authentic and taste better. Check out the banchan counter. Yum! And the hot foods counter - we like the bin dae duk (mung bean pancakes). The pre-marinated beef in the bin is also good. Try the kim bap from Seoul Rice Cake House (or something like that) - we like the ones with beef. We also get frozen mandoo (dumplings) every time we go. We prefer the O'Hana brand. The one that has beef and leeks. The package is orange and has a picture of green leeks. Great for a last-minute meal.

                    And Hannam Chain is more convenient because it has a large open parking lot in front of it. Some of the other places have lots that are smaller and hard to maneuver in or you have to go inside a parking structure, which I find to be less convenient.

                    Hannam Chain is on Olympic, just west of Vermont, on the south side of the street.