Source for high quality Asian ingredients and produce
While spending some time today wandering around Chinatown in my hometown of Toronto, I was reminded of how great some of the stores there are, and I haven't found places as good anywhere in LA. There's a place in Toronto called K&K that sells nothing but fruits - today I got some of the best mangoes I've ever had, as well as an exotic I hadn't tried before called dragonfruit. (It looks like it came from outer space, but inside it's like a kiwi). There are other places that have high quality vegetables; I got some nice baby bok choi. And then there are places where you can buy stuff off the shelves that hasn't been sitting around rotting for three years. But, I'm not in Toronto all the time - I'm in LA. So my questions are:
1) Where can one buy quality Asian fruits in LA, including all those great tropical fruits that can be hard to find (e.g., mangosteen)
2) Where can one buy quality vegetables in LA, including some of those fresh seasonings that can be hard to find (e.g., fresh lime leaves, fresh turmeric)?
3) Where can one buy Asian ingredients that are somewhat fresh? (Many of the stores I've been to in LA have items that look distressingly old, dusty and petrified.)
Well I certainly wouldn't go to any of the Chinatown markets since they're too small, but any of the large Chinese supermarkets in the San Gabriel Valley have a fine supply of quality produce and other Asian ingredients. The biggest is the original 99 Ranch Market which started the Asian mall boom which has spread nationwide. It's on Nogales St. at the Pomona Fwy. in Rowland Heights. The store at 140 W. Valley in San Gabriel in gigantic San Gabriel square is not quite as big. Also, there's a nice Hawaii Supermarket right on the other side of Del Mar. Also try the San Gabriel Superstore at intersection of Valley Bl. and San Gabriel Bl in San Gabriel, which occupies what used to be a Target department store.
In addition to the great recs above (almost any San Gabrielle market will be strong on Chinese ingredients-esp 99 ranch and the market just north of oceanstar on atlantic, the name of which eludes me at the moment) I'd also like to point out that in the heart of little tokyo there is a magnificent Japanese grocery which sells great fish and hard to find produce, although exclusively of the Japanese variety. (I think I saw kaffir limes and leaves there once though).