HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


What do you buy at ethnic markets?

Hi All - I've been exploring some local Italian and Japanese markets lately, and while I can pick out a few things, I suspect the really good stuff is staring me in the face and I don't know it :)

So I thought I'd ask here, what items do you buy from ethnic markets (any ethnicity) that you can't normally find in the local supermarket? What are the hidden treasures in these places that makes you go out of your way to go to them?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I shop a local Italian market frequently.
    The bread, the bread, the bread.
    Sausage, deli meat (real meat), cheese (especially grated pecorino), GREAT olives, tiny soup pastina, european nutella

    1. Indian mkts:
      curry leaf
      Coriander chutney / or cilantro chutney bright green. Awesome stuff.
      Hing (asafoetida - hing is so much easier to spell :-)
      a new pickle to try.
      A new masala to try every time.
      Basmati rice
      ANYTHING they have in the way of homemade food - usually samosas or vada near the counter

      Asian mkt:
      curry pastes and coconut milk for dirt cheap.
      LIME LEAF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      Bottled sauces and condiments for dirt cheap, and also usually MUCH better quality /variety than an american supermarket - especially standards like sesame oil, soy sauce, and chili garlic sauce, and really good high end oyster sauce.
      gummy candies
      pocky sticks

      1 Reply
      1. re: gordeaux

        I usually buy spices in giant bags at Indian markets -- cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne, mustard seed, pepper, cardamom, cloves and asafoetida. Also red lentils, semolina, aka sooji, basmati rice, curry leaves, little green chilis, papadum.

        I live in the sticks. Sometimes I miss the city.

      2. We buy tahini and dates at an Armenian market, tapioca flour (best price), unique gluten-free noodles (like sweet potato noodles), and sometimes interesting veggies (amaranth greens) at Asian markets. When we go to any ethnic market, we generally wander around to see if there's anything particularly interesting (uncommon beans or hot sauce, for example). If we find a store that carries GF injera, we'll buy it if the price is reasonable and the ingredient list is suitable. A new ethnic store near us sells injera but it contains wheat. The owner says he's going to get some that is GF but I haven't seen it there yet.

        2 Replies
        1. re: lgss

          What does it have to be made of to be gluten free -- entirely teff? Just curious in case I have to cook for someone who is gluten sensitive.

          1. re: LNG212

            I think that's generally how it's made GF, though there may be some made with a mixture of teff and other GF flour. Don't know, haven't tried to make our own. (We use buckwheat, millet, quinoa, garbanzo, amaranth, brown rice, red lentil, and sorghum flour for various things.)

        2. I always pick up curry blocks, nori and sake at the Japanese market.

          1. Korean market - gochujang. it's a spicy, fermented chili paste that can be used in marinades, dips, stews, etc. Especially yummy when you use as a dip for sugar snap peas or korean green peppers.



            1 Reply
            1. re: soypower

              Yes! Also good with fresh cucumber spears, or carrots. Or mixed into any veggie stirfry at the last minute. Or mixed with plain white rice and topped with scallions...(panchan and egg optional).

              At Korean markets I also get coarse ground Korean chili powder for making kimchi, and five-pound blocks of 1/4 inch wide wheat noodles. And kimchi. And daikon radish. And miso, which has a different name in Korean but is still pretty much miso.

            2. I used to live down the block from a Middle Eastern market, and between that and the Mexican grocery, I rarely had to go to the regular grocery store.

              Middle Eastern: Bulk spices and nuts etc.,dried figs, cheeses, sausages, phyllo dough that's significantly better than the stuff at the grocery, olives, and anything prepared, like grape leaves and falafal. My particular market carried little pies, like calzones filled with cheese and spinach, or artichokes and cheese, etc. One of those and some salad was a perfect lunch and under a $1.50.

              The Mexican grocery always had great produce, fresh tortillas, dried chilies and all sorts of interesting canned and bottled goods.

              1. american ethnicity: milk cheese meat bread cookies pretzels juice coffee etc

                1. In order of frequence:
                  Chinese Supermarket, Curry paste, Tom yum paste, Dark soy, Cooking wine, Oyster sauce, Sriracha, Sambal, Sweet chili sauce, Quail eggs, Salted duck eggs, Coconut milk/cream, Mushrooms, Noodles, Sesame oil, Star anise, Jerky, Dried squid, Vegetables

                  Korean Market:
                  Kimchi, Tofu, Miso, Shirataki, Pickled radish, Gochujang, Soondae, Spam

                  Spanish Market
                  Embutidos, Boquerones, Pintxos, Olive oil, Sardines, turron, peppers

                  Filipino Market
                  Longanisa, Tocino, Seasoning mixes, All-purpose sauce, Candy, Sardines, Pimento cheese, Fried anchovies, Kakanin, achiote, prepared foods

                  Indian Market
                  Chaat, Chaat masala, Nuts, Spices, Achar, Chutney, Cilantro, Mint, Chilies

                  Japanese Market
                  Fried tofu, Seaweeds, Furikake, Pasta sauce, Fish cakes, Soy sauce

                  Jewish Deli
                  Lox, Nova, Whitefish, Gefilte, Chopped liver, Vegetarian chopped liver, Herring

                  Arab Market
                  Tahini, Spinach pie, Kibbeh, Rose water, Olives, Aleppo pepper, Za'atar, Soujuk, Bread,
                  Pomegranate molasses, bulghur wheat

                  1. Asian market: rice, noodles, condiments, frozen dumplings, candy and cookies.

                    The grocery store in my neighborhood is part of a large regional chain, supposedly standard USA stuff, but they have smart managers who have adapted to the population around the store, so it's more or less a Central American market - lots of good/cheap spices, dried and fresh peppers, tortillas, dried beans, plantains, chorizo(s), Bimbo cakes...