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new asian market in northern liberties

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yesterday i paid a visit to the new asian supermarket in the northern liberties neighborhood of phila, the spring garden market at 4th and spring garden. there's a parking lot out back accessible from 4th for those of you with cars.

i have mixed thoughts on this place thus far. i haven't visited an asian supermarket since i lived in the DC area, and this new market fills a void. mostly, i love being able to find such odd and good things within walking distance of my home, to assist me in my new adventures of cooking thai food at home (i've been trying recipes from a fellow chowhounder's website, http://www.realthairecipes.com). the selection at the supermarket is huge. there's an entire aisle dedicated to noodles. i was able to find nearly everything i needed to make drunken noodles, tom kha gai and fried corn cakes recipes from aforementioned website, save for three ingredients (holy basil, fresh peppercorns, kaffir lime leaves - in those cases, we found or made up substitutions). on an endcap in the market, taking up something like four shelves, there is a vietnamese (i think) sweet dipping sauce (fish sauce based) for spring rolls, etc, that is to die for - better than i've had at any restaurant. i'll have to post its brand name when i get home from work. there's also a lovely selection of teas, including loose jasmine tea; a generous amount for just over $2 (comes in a pretty dark yellow tin with JASMINE TEA printed across the front, with some chinese words below). I brought a couple teaspoons to work today and made an entire pitcher in my french press. oooh, and those red bean ice cream balls that i've only found at korean restaurants until now? they have those too. we polished off an entire box at home yesterday. the ice cream is formed into ping-pong sized balls and packaged inside something unfamiliar - a sweet layer whose consistency is a mix between cake and jello, almost. any ideas on what that might be??
anyway, the supermarket isn't without drawbacks. the produce section is lacking - hopefully they'll get more for summer - but i was looking for thai basil or holy basil and there was none of it. additionally, most produce is not labeled. i was able to smell the ginger, but there were a couple other things that i was curious about, but couldn't find out what they were. there is a big language barrier there also; i asked six workers various questions and got shrugged shoulders each time. worst, some of the packaged lettuces on the shelves were a week past their "sell by" dates and it showed... which makes me wary of buying other perishable items that might not be marked so clearly.
so, in short, i'll keep my fingers crossed for the produce store rumors up by the girard el and in the meantime keep shopping for produce at the reading terminal market. when i come up with fun asian recipes to try with difficult ingredients, i will print out a picture and description of the item and bring it to the spring garden market with me. and i'm gonna stock up on that spring roll dipping sauce, jasmine tea, and red bean ice cream. i'm sure i'll spend many an evening perusing their aisles for new curiosities and rockin out to the karaoke versions of 80's hits that blast through their speaker system. :)

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  1. I went last weekend. I have heard that Asian markets have very fresh fish but it didn't look like they were doing any filets at the fish counter. They had a selection of filets pre packaged in a refrigerator so I bought the only one that was properly labeled which was cod. It didn't have a sell by date though so I was wary. I actually have never cooked cod before, I usually only make tilapia, tuna or salmon at home. Maybe I didn't cook it right but it was very fishy and had an unpleasant taste, perhaps due to lack of freshness. But also it could just have been that I don't have a lot of experience preparing cod, I don't know. I don't think I'll buy fish from there again though. They did have about 5 different varieties of bok choy which was very fresh. I bought a big bag. I also bought some frozen chicken dumplings which were great. I have a few different tofu products that I haven't tried yet. A lot of items had MSG which is not uncommon given that it is an Asian market, but I am allergic so I was pretty limited as to what frozen products I could purchase. They had tons of jerky which my boyfriend loves so perhaps we'll go back there for that. I'd definitely go back if I needed something for an Asian dish. They have a wide variety of products and the store is very clean and organized. Parking is also a plus.

    Also, if you ever need some type of aphrodisiac tea, they have plenty!!! Multiple varieties for both men and women!

    8 Replies
    1. re: Alissavlad

      Could you tell if you can find Japanese products there? Does the market have a section for nori and other seaweeds? What is the market called, by the way?

      1. re: myra

        it's called the spring garden market, followed by a bunch of asian symbols, couldn't tell you what those are. it's huge. if you drive by 4th and spring garden, you won't miss it.

        as for japanese products, i am sure they're in there - this place seems to have nearly everything - but i was shopping for thai ingredients to make soup and noodle dishes myself, so i wasn't keeping a close eye out.

        the tofu selection was impressive and i've been working my way through different varieties. same with the rice noodles. the lack of freshness is definitely the biggest drawback of this place. you really need to look at EVERYthing you get. after my last post, i was transferring a sealed cellophane bag of rice noodles to one of my glass storage containers, and while doing so discovered a sea of tiny bugs that had been in the sealed bag. most dead, but a few still alive and i'm sure munching away. the bag of noodles was only about eighty cents, so i just tossed it, but i'll definitely be wary next time i go. also have noticed bagged salads on the shelf past the "sell by" date. i would really question the freshness of things, especially when buying fish and meat products as mentioned above.

        the tea selection really is amazing. i'm only 1/4 of the way through a tiny tin of loose leaf jasmine tea, cost around $2, (pretty yellow tin that i described in my original post) and i've pretty much been drinking 4+ cups of tea a day for the past couple weeks. the tea flavor is really great.
        also still highly recommending those red bean ice cream balls (they come 6 to a box, the brand is something like "mocha" i think?) - they're the second-best frozen thing i've ever had, coming in just behind capogiro's gelato. regular ice cream is sort of a bore in comparison! i won't admit how many boxes we've been through. :)

        1. re: rabidog

          I think you are talking about mochi ice cream (mochi is a generic term)
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mochi_ic...

          and I think I have the same jasmine tea tin - "Sunflower" printed on the top, exported from Fujian province. It's decent tea, especially for the price. The underground mart in Chinatown has it, though I got mine in Boston.

            1. re: coolgeek

              Trader Joe's also sells mochi ice cream.

      2. re: Alissavlad

        Has anyone else tried cooking fresh cleaned fish from here? A poster on the northernliberties.org board tried ordering live eel, asking them to scale and clean it, but was told that it was not possible. Sounds like it was a communication problem though. Others complained of bad smelling fish and no date on packages. I was thinking of maybe ordering some kind of fresh filet but am wary from the posts, both from here and on the other board, about the freshness of their packaged fish and quality of their live fish in general. I'd like to hear if anyone has positive reports about their seafood.

        1. re: outsidein

          haha, small world - i post to northernliberties.org under my real name, brynn, so the comments re: packages missing dates may have been mine. not the eel post, though.

          yep, that's the ice cream, mochi.

          and yep, that's the tea, sunflower.

          you guys have got me all figured out. :)

          1. re: outsidein

            I got a cellophane wrapped package of large shrimp there last week, peeled and deveined but with the tails. They were very fresh and sweet tasting, not fishy at all. I work down the block and have stopped by a few times since they opened, and yes, some produce is not so fresh, but you just have to watch what you're buying. The prices are much more affordable than my usual supermarket (ShopRite in South Philly) so if things don't last as long, I don't really mind.