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May 4, 2008 08:23 PM

Asian Markets in Fresno/Clovis

Recently I embarked on a quest to find "black Chinese vinegar" as I have a wok and a propane burner that I cook with outside. I am learning how to prepare various Asian dishes and getting closer to the elusive "wok hay" taste. Anyway, I can't find this black Chinese vinegar anywhere! I think one problem may be that in Fresno/Clovis area most Asian markets are more Southeast Asian oriented, meaning Laotian, Thai, Vietnamese, Hmong, etc., rather than Chinese. Does anyone know of an Asian market that is more Chinese influenced? Here is where I have been so far:

R-N Market at Cedar and Herndon: good selection of noodles, Asian candy, different kinds of soy (light, dark, mushroom, etc).

K-C Market at Kings Canyon and Winery: a tad smaller than R-N, but more produce with lots of different kinds of basil, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves (sometimes), and again lots of jarred sauces.

Central Fish Market: of course they have tons of fish, but also a respectable grocery section, mainly focused on Japanese ingredients, but also some other Asian staples.

Asian Supermarket (or International Supermarket) at Tulare and Chestnut: the biggest of all I visited, with some kitchen implements, pots and pans, as well as the usual jarred sauces, a produce section, as well as a hot deli selling what looks like some Hmong, Laotian, and Vietnamese selections, and of course, lots of shoes!

Asian 1 Grocery at Ashlan and Blythe (West of the 99 past Yosemite Falls Cafe): what looked like a newer store with a very small hot food section selling egg rolls, and what looked like some Hmong and Vietnamese food, a small amount of produce, mainly jarred and canned groceries.

So, all these spots and no black Chinese vinegar! And the recipe said it would be easily obtained at most Asian markets, well I've been to 5 so far and no luck. Right now I've been substituting balsamic vinegar for the black Chinese vinegar, but would prefer to have the black Chinese vinegar on hand for this and other recipes.

So I turn to my fellow hounds for help...

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  1. I don't know about Fresno but when I was in Modesto, the waiter at Dynasty told me that there is a Chinese market there near the Sam's Club. I didn't actually go to the market since he told me that he and his family do their grocery shopping in Sacramento. What are you making that calls for black vinegar? I have a big bottle of it but have never found a recipe calling for it. Maybe I could just give you some of what I have. Good luck with the wok hay cooking!

    9 Replies
    1. re: dimsumgirl

      You've already hit more markets than I knew were out there so I don't have any suggestions there. I was thinking you might ask the family that owns Hunan if they know of a local source.

      1. re: dimsumgirl

        Well, it might come to me driving out of the valley to obtain some of this stuff. And if I have to go to Modesto and eat at Dynasty, well then all the better! I am making Fuchsia Dunlop's recipe for gong bao (kung pao) chicken. I am trying to decide if I want to buy one of her cookbooks, so I am making a few of the dishes first. The wok hay is an elusive thing! If there is not enough heat, it doesn't quite get there and too much heat gives it maybe too much char.

        1. re: glazebrookgirl

          I think you should consider taking some 'hounds with you. For moral support, of course.

          GBG, which store had the best selection of woks and kitchenware? I'm looking at buying a wok and some dishes/serving utensils.

          1. re: KenWritez

            Well as far as the dishes/serving utensils goes, Central Fish has more of the Japanese look with lots of different types and sizes of bowls and lots of chopsticks. Asia Supermarket has more of the Vietnamese/Hmong style of dishes, which are the white dishes with various patterns. They don't have as many chopsticks, but they do have those Asian soup spoons that I love to use when eating pho.

            As far as woks go, I ended up buying my wok online because I couldn't find the one I wanted here in town. A lot of the woks sold in the stores here are too light or don't have the kind of handle I want. I ordered from the well-known Wok Shop in San Francisco. I ended up going with the 14" carbon steel, round bottom wok, with a helper handle (because it helps with the swirling and emptying out the wok). Here it is:

            They have so many different kinds of woks, including a cast-iron wok, which I am thinking about getting sometime in the future. After seasoning the wok, it took on a beautiful patina and is virtually non-stick. I have been very happy with it!

            1. re: glazebrookgirl

              Tane Chan of the Wok Shop is geat. She will customize a wok to your needs if you call her. I went ti a ckass at her home last year and it was amazing. She is knowledgeable and so generous. You should definitely check out the Wok Shop!

              1. re: dimsumgirl

                Wok Shop talks about "wok hay," the wok taste. Can anyone explain that further?

                1. re: KenWritez

                  Yeah, I was talking about wok hay upthread. It is that taste you get from food from the wok when it has that slightly charred flavor. It comes from the high heat that restaurant kitchens can produce with their high-powered burners. I think it is almost an umami flavor, rich and deep. It is hard to obtain at home because your stove for sure can't reach a high enough temperature. That's why I have an outdoor burner that can get up to 60,000 btus!!

                  1. re: glazebrookgirl

                    Here's another thread that took up the topic of wok hay & describes some of the various meanings of this phrase:


                    It seems that wok hay is a phrase used to describe both a physical characteristic of the food as well as a class of spiritual, cultural, and/or symbolic characteristics.

                  2. re: KenWritez

                    "wok hay" is hard to define. But here is goes. You can see "wok hay" in a dish of chow fun (stir fried rice noodles) when it arrives at your table you can see the steam and heat rising up for the dish. After you have started eating and the top of the noodles you move the top noodles aside and you again see the rising heat. That how I was taught to see "wok hoy". Another mean I like it show the life of dish is within the "heart of the dish".

                    Most home cooks do not have the BTU power at home cooktop. I too have a outdoor burner at 75,000 BTU. Just as a note most Chinese professional kitchen the burner is rated at 100,000. You get the a lot of heat and "wok hay".

                    Hope that helps.

        2. I've been experimenting with online Asian stores and this one I've found has the largest selection of items and is fairly inexpensive.

          1. Hi. I used to live there in Fresno and went to that R-N Market quite often. I'm wondering if anyone out there can tell me the name of the crab chips and lobster chips I always got...they were in a tall white can with red lettering and had a picture of a crab/lobster on it. I am hoping that I can maybe find a place to order them from.

            R-N Market
            6745 N Cedar Ave, Fresno, CA

            1 Reply
            1. re: mako99

              Not sure if this the brand you want. But brand I purchase last time Manora and Thai brand.

              Hope that helps. I just found the empty can and now I off ot buy more.

            2. Did you ever figure this out? I'm new to Fresno and likewise am trying a Chinese-style recipe with "easy to find" ingredients: black vinegar and broad bean chili paste - with no luck. I really like the Asian One market, as it is close to me and has so much interesting stuff, but it is all SE Asian. I was expecting R-N Market to be like the 99 Ranch I went to in the Bay Area, but it was a huge let down. I went to the one on Belmont, though, not the one on Cedar (is there much difference?).

              So where to find Chinese ingredients in Fresno? Should I just give up trying to find a local market and buy online?

              1 Reply
              1. re: sixtenkats

                Golden Bowl Inc. on the corner of Olive and First is by far the biggest Asian market I've found in the city. It can be disorganized and somewhat dirty, but a lot of the produce comes from local growers (they were the ONLY place I could find good tomatoes last year) and they have a fairly wide selection of jarred and bottled and canned items. Again, the focus is on Southeast Asian food, but I have found some Chinese ingredients there as well. I don't remember having seen either of the ingredients you're looking for, but I wasn't looking for them specifically, and I have found other Chinese staples such as fermented black beans and wood ear mushrooms.

                Hope this helps. If you find a more complete source for Chinese ingredients, please let us know.