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Chinese / Asian grocery and other shopping - what are your favorites, and where do you find them?

The above specifically references 2 stores in Manhattan Chinatown and is in reference to the January COTMs by Grace Young, but I am (and I know many others here are) a dedicated Asian grocery store shopper and love to find things I need (or just want). What are you on the lookout for? What have you found that you really love? What are your staples? Photos would be welcome, as there are a number of products that are primarily labeled in Asian languages. I'll hunt up a few of my favorites and post photos.
In the meantime, these are always on my hit parade: Kimlan soy sauce, Kimlan rice vinegar (really all Kimlan products), Evergreen sesame oil (a recent find) - both brands are from Taiwan which is where I learned to cook Chinese; Lee Kum Kee oyster sauce, recommended to me by a dear friend originally from HK; Tiparos fish sauce from Thailand; Gold Plum black (Chinkiang/Zhenjiang) vinegar; chestnuts from Hebei province in vacuum pouches, good in a million things and dirt cheap; dried spices like cumin and cloves; potato and other starches...there are many more I'm missing.
In addition these stores are gold mines for serving pieces and implements that are useful in all sorts of cooking (mesh colanders, foil stove burner protectors, pasta forks, all kinds of things).
How about you? What are you happy to get your hands on?

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  1. We drive three hours to the nearest city which, thankfully, has a huge Asian store. I believe it is nearly 50,000 square feet of awesome goodness!! So, whenever we go we take along all our coolers and stock up like mad. We love things like live geoduck and razor clams, frozen goat, tons of condiments, Sichuan peppercorns (thankfully spices such as cumin and cloves are readily available in our grocery stores), big bags of rice flour, fresh mangosteens, fresh galangal and turmeric, fresh wasabi root, fresh kaffir lime and curry leaves, fresh pea shoots, frozen pandan, various kinds of miso, mirin, sake. Oh, and frozen pigeon. Love pigeon. Things we haven't tried from there are frozen turtle and eel. I've had fresh eel but I've never killed/cooked it before. We spend about three hours in that place and spend hundreds of dollars but going there requires an overnigh so we don't go as frequently as we'd like!

    7 Replies
    1. re: chefathome

      I just mentioned the spices because they're ridiculously cheap in comparison with grocery store prices here. Incidentally I saw you liike chestnuts, you really must try the Chinese vacuum packed ones in pouches, they are very good.

      1. re: buttertart

        I understand what you mean about spices - much cheaper at Asian stores! You're right - I am a chestnut fan and have tried the vacuum-packed ones in stuffing. So delicious.

        1. re: chefathome

          Yeah, and they (vacuum sealed chesnut) are not too expensive. About $1 per bag. This is what I don't care too. If I go to a normal grocey store for a jar of chesnut (not that they are the same thing), but a small jar of chesnut would have cost me like >$10.

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            Exactly. I haven't noticed any big flavor advantage in the French or Italian ones either, they are sometimes bigger though. Are European chestnuts a different genus or species?

              1. re: buttertart

                Personally, I prefer the Chinese variety. It's not as sweet, but it's more flavorful. It also stores better, and, as sweetness in chestnuts is a function of freshness, is more dependably sweet than the European variety.

                Also, they're often more expensive then either the European or Chinese variety, but domestic chestnuts are my favorite. A lot of these are the Japanese variety, which I like even more than the Chinese variety, but most are hybrids of the European, Chinese, Japanese, and native varieties. The American chestnut, which is pretty rare but becoming more available, is head and shoulders above all the other varieties.

                1. re: gadfly

                  In season I've seem both Korean and Oregon chestnuts at HMart (NJ based Korean chain). The Oregon ones are more expensive.

      2. I am lucky that in the suburbs of Hartford, CT lies an enormous Asian grocery store (A Dong in West Hartford). I buy noodles, condiments galore, rice, kaffir lime leaves, frozen dim sum goodies, cheap pork belly, whole fish...and probably more that I am forgetting.

        1 Reply
        1. re: mels

          I have been to that store. Its huge. Easily the largest I have ever seen. Truly authentic. The smell even reminds me of markets in Asia. Great place.

          Personally, I prefer Japanese markets and am lucky to have two of them close to me.
          Super high quality fish and vegetables, authentic noodles, sauces, teas, miso, rice, dressings and seaweed variations. I always spend a fortune.

        2. I buy tons of fruits and vegetables- baby bok choy, carrots, celery, string beans, bean sprouts, persimmons, mangoes, young cocnuts, napa cabbage, chile peppers. One of the best deals in the Chinese markets are mushrooms- button, cremini, shiitake, prince, enoki. I've bought enoki mushrooms for $1/package!

          Also.. soy sauce, rice vinegar, hoisin sauce, dried soba noodles, fresh noodles (egg and spinach), tofu, eggs, wonton wrappers, eggroll wrappers, sriracha sauce.

          Sometimes they have great prices on American groceries too- so I'll buy flour, sugar, yogurt, orange juice if it's cheaper than the regular supermarket.

          3 Replies
          1. re: cheesecake17

            I forgot about the vegetables. I buy bean sprouts, bok choy, cabbage, and peppers all for a fraction of what I can get them for elsewhere.

              1. re: buttertart

                fresher and so much cheaper. japanese eggplant is sometimes 79 cents/lb, when in the other stores it goes for over $2/lb.

                I'm always surprised by how many of the jarred/fridge items are marked kosher.

          2. Soy milk in a can (dow nee?). Seriously, I grew up w/ a lot of food that I didn't know the characters for, or what the translation would be in English. So, it's always a special treat to find something I loved as a child but never could ask, or find usually. I'm always in heaven exploring the snack area, especially. And, I love the variety of persimmons in season. All produce actually.

            1. One item I only see in Chinese food markets is......Iced Coffee in a can.....8 ounces for 50-60 cents ....a lot cheaper than a Frappachino..

              8 Replies
              1. re: fourunder

                Yeah, these are standard at the 7-11s in Taiwan. The Starbucks brand in small jars is about 3 times as expensive and half the size as the local brands, and there's little taste difference.

                1. re: fourunder

                  Can never forget an old friend: Mr Brown Coffee.

                  Was very handy to have in Taipei years ago in a first apt. with no a/c nor a fridge. An office really but that is for another board. CRD (Coffee Ready to Drink) - a precursor to the US military's MRE's!


                  1. re: scoopG

                    Yes indeed, that's the brand. I buy it in the summertime by the case,

                    1. re: scoopG

                      I used to like Mr. Brown too but I stopped buying after the melamine scare/warnings in 2008.

                        1. re: fourunder

                          I don't know but there were articles about tainted milk resurfacing in late 2009/early 2010 and then later on in the year also.

                          1. re: SomeRandomIdiot

                            For anyone who did not open to the link I provided, it says that Mr Brown Coffee only sourced their milk products from Australia....not China.

                            1. re: fourunder

                              Ahh I misread the link, the contaminated product was the instant stuff not canned.

                  2. Anything that strikes my or my SO's fancy, really. We take a cooler when we make the hour-long trip to Uwajimaya, and usually end up with a live lobster, pork potstickers, and char shiu bao. I'm always on the lookout for Moon Cakes with egg yolk locally, or away, and can only find them consistently in Seattle across from Pike Place Market. I keep forgetting about them in the month or so that they're sold online, but I love them!

                    1 Reply
                    1. Absolutely, the asian market we frequent is where I nab various fresh mushrooms, soup greens, limes, lemon grass, sprouts, fresh ginger, all bagged rice, green tea powder, coconut milk and coconut juice, lycee in all forms, spices, candy, green tea baked goods, fresh seafood, soba noodles, freshly made pot stickers, chicken feet, kitchen ware and of course ramen. All for at least .50-2.00 cheaper than anywhere else by me. Last time I was there we bought a dozen cans of lycee for .50 each.

                      1. I think it would be helpful if everyone named the stores they particularly like - for me, in Manhattan, it's Kam Man on Canal and Hong Kong Supermarket on Hester, and in Flushing, the Great Walls, particularly the one on Northern Blvd which has the advantage of being acoss from Hunan House, one of the best Chinese restaurants in the US.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: buttertart

                          You might also like Sunrise Mart (Japanese) on 9th Street and 3rd Ave. It's a very nice store. A lot more expensive than the Chinatown markets, but a lot of great Japanese specialty items.

                          I like to buy gobo (burdock root) there!

                          1. re: visciole

                            I'm sure I would, will check it out. Just read they opened one in Midtown (E 41st) - convenient.
                            Do they sell fun kitchenware too?

                            1. re: buttertart

                              I've only shopped at the 9th St. Sunrise Mart, but they have a small room of housewares that has some fun kitchenware, and nice Japanese ceramic dishware at good prices. It's a small store but has a nice selection of groceries. I have to admit that the candy/snack aisle is too much fun, as is the drinks cooler, same as is true in most Asian markets.

                              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                That is true. Mangosteen gummis, anyone?
                                Speaking of things Japanese, is Soto Hardware still in Japantown? They had the best kitchenware/dishware section.

                                1. re: buttertart

                                  They do have kitchenware, and also good lunch box specials. Plus I just like the vibe of the store. They're very genuine and friendly.

                        2. I get all my East and South East Asian jarred/bottled sauces. I also get fresh vegetables and chiles. I love Chinese leeks, kang kong, and bottle gourd. Fresh noodles are a must. I like exploring the fresh and fresh fried tofu, but I don't always know the difference between the types I am looking at. That is something I would love to learn about. Hmmm, and I get Thai anisey tea to make Thai iced tea at home. I get spicy beef jerky or spicy squid snacks. At the fresh snack and sweet item table at the front I pick up some sweet items like sesame balls or stuffed glutenous rice balls rolled in coconut. If I am in the mood I grab some banh beo or banh cuon or xoi to eat soon after. The two major Chinese markets in my hometown are owned by Chinese from Vietnam so they have a lot of Vietnamese delights there on that table and cater to a large Vietnamese clientele. And I pick up some boxed candies for my kids, like pocky stix or what have you. During crawfish season, the Chinese-Vietnamese hypermarket near my home is the best place for crawfish, too.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: luckyfatima

                            What (if any) South Asian jarred/bottled sauces do you use?

                            1. re: buttertart

                              For South Asian cooking I mostly use fresh ingredients. I do not like any of the jarred sauces or gravies (the few I have tried were abysmal). My jar/bottle shopping from the S. Asian grocery is: pickles/achaar of which I have many, tamarind paste, and kewra essence (biriani perfume made from pandanus flower extract and sprinkled on biriani at end of cooking). Nothing else I use comes from a jar/bottle as far as I can think of.

                              1. re: luckyfatima

                                I was just wondering (and am not surprised at your response!). Love the pickles too, especially lime hot and mango hot. The kewra essence - I have a pandan extract made in Thailand but I think it's from pandan leaf. Must look for the other.

                          2. Does anyone have any recommendations for online Chinese grocers (for those items that are not available to me locally)? There are some good resources for Japanese and Korean food, but I could use some direction for Chinese (other than Amazon and efooddepot looked good,but unreliable). Thanks!

                            1. I am not sure if I am the ideal demographic for this post since, as an Asian, shopping at the specialty market is about as quotidian as shopping at the Piggly Wiggly for folks of other persuasions (no pun intended). While I can get most of my food at the local supermarket, I find prices (and selection) are far better at the Asian market for pantry items like Sriracha, sesame oil or curry paste. At this time of year, I'm more inclined to eat heartily so I stock up on stewing vegetables like daikon or bittermelon to balance fatty dishes as well as shirataki noodles to add to soup. The Asian markets are also the best place for ground pork as you can get the fatty variety that fries crisp on the outside but chewy on the inside, which is perfect to add in small amounts to mapo tofu or dan dan noodles. I also keep wood ear mushrooms on hand throughout the winter in case I need to make a hearty soup to combat colds and plenty of tea.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: JungMann

                                The field is open to persons of all persuasions! It's pretty quotidian for me too, since it's a family preoccupation of long standing.
                                True about meat, especially pork - best there, and reasonably priced. Pork tenderloin is a real buy.

                                1. re: buttertart

                                  Well, I buy my Asian ingredients in Asia, and I'm commenting....

                                  Some things I like

                                  - Japanese dried shiso (aka perillia). Look for a small plastic pouch filled with a dark purple granular looking substance. It's actually dried purple shiso leaves (the green ones are used as a garnish for sushi). The dried ones are great sprinkled on steamed rice, and add a nice flavour. You can also get various mixes of seaweed/spices/sesame for use on rice and noodles.

                                  - Stock up on dried goods. Dried shitakes tend to be much cheaper in the Asian markets, and taste very different from fresh. You can also get dried wood's ear fungus, lotus seeds, whole soba (buckwheat), dried noodles, millet. Look for "ten treasures oats" (or five, or twelve); it's a mixture of grains that can be added to rice when you cook it for variety. You can do the same with millet, and I like the whole soba steamed as a grain.

                                  - if you can find them, try fresh bamboo shoots (must be cooked before eating), which are totally different than canned. Also try lotus roots, or bitter melon (good cooked with salty egg), taro (also must be cooked). I also love the green leafy vegetables, particularly water spinach and chayote squash leaves (hollow heart vegetable and dragon whisker vegetable in Chinese).

                                  - I find that the Thai pre-made curry pastes (as in ones actually from Thailand) are very good. You can also stock up on fish sauce, shrimp paste, and things like fresh galangal, lemon grass or kaffir lime leaves that freeze well.

                                  - Look for teas and drinks. I like barley tea, a Japanese staple. You can get it ground in teabags, or whole. Steep it in hot water, and serve it cold as a light, refreshing summer drink - we go through about a litre a day in summer. Also good is almond milk (basically finely powdered sweetend almonds), which makes a very fragrant, very sweet drink, or the basis of some good desserts. Fruit tea is good - it's basically dried fruit and flowers, and you can steep it in hot water, sweeten it, and serve it hot or cold. Ginger tea is good for colds, and eight treasures (ba bao) tea is nice too.

                                  - For something completely different, try some of the Chinese traditional medicinal soup mixes. It's basically a bag of what looks like bark and dried fruit, and typically cook it with a chopped up chicken and water, and add a bit of rice wine at the end. I've come to really like them, but they did taste totally foreign when I first tried them.

                              2. I'm not giving specific examples but I get in a good mood just walking up to an Asian market :) In the last year I found one in Reno which is about an hour away and where we do Costco, TJs etc. It's great. We were just in SF for a few days and went to my favorite one there. Didn't buy a single thing but I insisted on walking up and down every aisle, going 'ooh, ooh, look at that!' Saving this thread for future shopping tips.

                                10 Replies
                                1. re: c oliver

                                  going 'ooh, ooh, look at that!'

                                  exactly my reactions walking downstairs at Kam Man and looking at the porcelain, china and knives.

                                  1. re: fourunder

                                    There are worse sicknesses, right?

                                    1. re: operagirl

                                      Richmond New May Wah on Clement.


                                      It's actually two storefronts with all the produce, meat, fish and frozen products in one and then you step through to everything else.

                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        Thanks! I will have to check it out soon.

                                        1. re: operagirl

                                          Have dim sum at House of Banquets first and you won't buy as much :)


                                          1. re: c oliver

                                            Ooh! I am a sucker for good dim sum. Haven't been in months, either. Thanks c oliver, I think you just planned an afternoon for me!

                                    2. re: c oliver

                                      Two things Costco has started carrying which was a nice surprise--chinese sausages and pork jerky. Okay, in far larger quantities than I could ever use but if someone doesn't have access to a chinese grocery store, but are close to Costco, they're all set in those pork based products.

                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        I'm sure it was the same market daughter and her boyfriend and I discovered last summer in Reno. Can't remember the name but it was about 1 block east of S. Virginia St (Center St?). I could have spent hours in there. Daughter and her boyfriend were taken aback by some of the smells, I loved it and will go back alone next time. Will hit up Kings Ranch then also. This was in response to c oliver's post about the market in Reno.

                                        1. re: nvcook

                                          The Asian market IS on Virginia near the Peppermill. I'm like you. I could spend hours there. Actually making a list tonight of things I need from both there and King Ranch as we're going to Reno tomorrow. I've been quite pleased lately with what's available in Reno.

                                      2. I'm probably a novice at buying and cooking. In general, prices are cheaper and definitely cheaper than my local supermarket for popular items such as coconut milk and curry pastes. Love shiratake mushrooms, still learning about enoki. Thank heavens for internet research. Like to go to Saigon Asia market in Manchester or Nashua NH. Some vegetables you can't find at regular supermarkets such as choi sum and long beans. My husband asks me to get Jasmine tea which he drinks hot and cold. Like to shop on the weekend when the fresh baked goods and prepared foods are delivered. I have no idea what I'm eating but it's generally good. We used to get sesame candy with peanuts. Rice flour. Frozen, minced lemon grass. Oyster sauce, fish sauce, all kinds of soy sauce, hoisin sauce.

                                        1. Chinese bok choy (or "gai tzai")

                                          Mountain yam (or haui tsan)

                                          Japanese Sweet Potatoe (or Satsumaimo)

                                          Chinese pea shoots

                                          Pork bung

                                          Sea bass (it's just so much cheaper)

                                          Chicken feet

                                          Beef lungs and hearts (or just offal in general)

                                          Durian mochi (or any durian desserts or pastries)

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                            The Chinese butcher shops here always have squab, quail, and duck legs (frozen), along with the high-quality fresh chickens and ducks.

                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                              Hmm, do you mean bok choy/pak choi (Brassica rapa ssp chinensis) or gai tzai/kai choy (Brassica juncea)? They are related plants but are not the same.

                                            2. A lot of stuff, like hoisin or oyster sauce or wasabi, you can get in American groceries now. I usually get things at Asian stores that I can't find at my normal grocery.

                                              -Shaoxing rice wine: Use a lot in stir fries. I also use it as braising liquid if I'm just cooking for myself and don't want to open a bottle of wine that costs more than the meat. I don't know what brand I get, just look for one that's more brown/amber in color than white.
                                              -Black rice vinegar: For the "sour" part of any "__ and sour" dish.
                                              -Light and dark soy sauces, sometimes also called thin and thick soy sauce. I think most Americans are used to the Japanese soy sauce, which I think is a light soy sauce. But the dark soy sauce can add a deep flavor in the right dishes without the saltiness.
                                              -Sesame oil: I use a little bit in a lot of random dishes for the flavor.
                                              -Mirin: Use as a sweetener.
                                              -Yellow wheat noodles: Use mostly in stir fries.
                                              -White wheat noodles: Use mostly in soups.
                                              -Rice noodles: Usually soups.
                                              -Toasted sesame seeds: Put in soy dipping sauces, or just as a crunchy topping for texture on random noodle dishes or soups.
                                              -Toasted seaweed (I think it's called laver in English?): Shred it in Asian soups, make California rolls. There are two types. The sushi one is more dull, the other kind is seasoned and toasted and eaten with rice.
                                              -Dried shitake mushrooms: I like these because of their indefinite shelf life. Just boil them to rehydrate quickly if you don't have time to soak.
                                              -Miso paste: For miso soup.
                                              -Red pepper paste: For http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tteokbokki mostly
                                              -Black bean paste: For http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jajangmyeon
                                              -Kombu (dried seaweed) and dried anchovies for stock

                                              Also my guilty pleasure of instant noodles.... My favorites are Shin Ramyun/Neoguri (they're pretty similar) and Chapaghetti.

                                              1. Like another responder above, I use my local Asian grocers as "routine" suppliers of foodstuffs, it is not particularly remarkable to me when I shop at these places. Sure, I go to the American-style supermarkets too (in my area, Marsh, Krogers, etc) for stuff as well - sundries particularly, like soap, toilet paper, coffee filters, western-style food...

                                                Let's see - here are the lists of stuff I got from my usual Asian grocer for my last few trips there, taken off the checkout receipts:

                                                12/30/2010: Glutinous rice cakes, spice peppercorns (Szechuan peppercorns), dried chillies (Szechuan-type), dried black fungus (wood fungus), lily flower (kum chum), Quadratini dark chocolate wafer cookies, Noodle King wonton flavor noodles (1 case), black bean garlic sauce, Mutenika light soy bean paste [the best, IMO], fresh shiitake mushrooms (the thick variety w/ a cracked pattern on top, "far koo"), bean sprouts, shoyu ramen, crab shumai, half of a fresh lo shui duck, daikon, yu choy sum, baby shanghai bok choi, kai lan (gai lan), fresh ginger [~2 lbs, stocking up], Indomie instant mi goreng rendang, spice mix (zhushoupaigutang) for "tun tong" (steamed soup) or braised meats, ginseng chicken soup mix, bunches of spring onions, bunches of cilantro [spring onions and cilantro are always abundant and CHEAP at Asian grocers].

                                                12/03/2010: Skin chicken [Hainan chicken/white cut chicken (白砍雞)(they get decent stuff in; nice to have available when I don't feel like making it myself), almond wafers [fresh baked], soft tofu, chinese spinach (por choy), kai lan, water cress, spring onions, crab&shrimp spring rolls [frozen], sliced pork belly [sam chung yook].

                                                11/23/2010: chinese okra (絲瓜), prepared frozen wontons, Noodle King abalone/chicken bowl noodles (1 case), bean sprouts, pre-cooked fish balls, cooked pork meat balls, spring onions, cilantro, bean threads/vermicelli (fun see).

                                                Other stuff I would routinely get would include various sauces as needed, incl. oyster sauce [Lee Kum Kee brand - the best], drunken chicken marinades, chili sauces, rice vinegars, shoyu, bean curd sheets, rice noodles (mei fun) in thin and thicker varieties including bahn pho, other veggies, spices of all sorts including whole white and black peppercorns [CHEAP], preserved fermented bean curd, other dried stuff incld. things like dried cole, other types of mushrooms, sour pickled green mustard, Tianjin preserved vegetable (tung choy), etc etc.

                                                1. I also get loads of Vietnamese/Thai basil from the grocery half of a local Vietnamese grocery - restaurant (specializing in Phở)[Saigon], usually aiming to pick it up on the day they get their regular delivery of it...plus fresh beef tendons, tripe, pork spare ribs/rib tips cut the "Chinese way" (across the bone, about 1.5-2 inch width) sometimes cut from the slab of ribs for me...Yes, this is widely available elsewhere but this place has good and decently priced stuff. Other misc stuff, more Viet-oriented than from the other (much larger) Asian grocer [Asia Mart] in my earlier post.

                                                  11 Replies
                                                  1. re: huiray

                                                    I nearly forgot how much more affordable offal is at the Asian butcher's. Typically my local grocery store marks up trotters, tripe and oxtail to over $5/lb, whereas all these can usually be obtained at the Chinese butcher for under $2.

                                                    1. re: JungMann

                                                      Hmm, must look for oxtail the next time. I didn't think it was that cheap.

                                                      1. re: buttertart

                                                        Unless it's on sale, probably not in our area. Even at the restaurant supply houses it 3.25-3.50 on average. I cannot recall it going below 3 bucks in the past year.

                                                        1. re: fourunder

                                                          I thought not - but I thought JungMann was a Manhattanite?

                                                          1. re: buttertart

                                                            If so, I bet the ox tails are pre trimmed of fat....which could be considerable.

                                                            EDIT: NOT pre trimmed of fat.....

                                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                                correct.....senior moment.

                                                                edited to correct

                                                          2. re: fourunder

                                                            I just bought some oxtails for my Vietnamese Pho . I bought some from a standard supermarket for $4.99 per pound or so, and then I bought some from Chinatown for $3.99 per pound. Just saying.

                                                          3. re: buttertart

                                                            Definitely the trotters and tripe can be purchased for under $2. Some of the places that are off the beaten path like the market in the foot of the Manhattan Bridge have seriously cheap items. I've purchased 5 avocados for a dollar there before (albeit super ripe ones that had to be used same day). I'll have to pop in to some of the butchers next time I'm in Chinatown to check on the oxtails -- I purchase them more rarely.

                                                          4. re: JungMann

                                                            Depends on the place. Also, this Viet grocer [Saigon] has individual fresh pieces of such stuff available, also a small fresh fish selection - which I have not availed myself of yet; other places (like that large place - Asia Mart - I mentioned) have LARGE packages [too large!] of frozen stuff like tripe with some infrequent smaller packs of other offal.

                                                            I tend to go to other places for oxtail and the like, even beef short ribs, at a mega International-type supermarket [Saraga] which has stuff from all over the place including halal meats and a large wet fresh fish counter. Or, to one of the large Mexican supermarkets here (especially Guanajuato #3) which has a large selection of fresh stuff with a Latin American bent (of course) as well as an enormous meat counter - maybe some 60-80 feet long stuffed full of good, cheap meat, high turnover (70-80cents/lb big chicken legs, $2.99 short ribs, etc) so its always fresh... And the in-house food court has pretty authentic Mexican hot food...

                                                        2. Are Indian grocers allowable under your "Asian" tag?
                                                          (I would think they are, by definition?)

                                                          If so: There are various Indian/Pakistani grocers I go to also - usually for my bags of good basmati rice (lots of selections), bulk spices - coriander, cumin, allspice, bay leaves, turmeric, cinnamon sticks, cardamom, whole cloves, etc etc; samosas - fresh and/or frozen, chapati, roti, roti canai, some kinds of veggies (like Indian bittergourds) or kariveppillai (curry leaves, Murraya koenigii), etc etc...

                                                          21 Replies
                                                          1. re: huiray

                                                            East, Southeast, and South Asian all kosher. So to speak.

                                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                Any dang part of Asia you want, peninsular Turkey and Asian CIS included. Polynesia and Australasia.

                                                                1. re: buttertart

                                                                  If you're counting Turkish markets, then I have to include ayran, kaymakli and süzme yogurt and kashkaval cheese, which is absolutely crucial to my favorite spinach pie. I would buy phyllo and ajvar but my store doesn't sell the former and overprices the latter.

                                                                  1. re: JungMann

                                                                    No yufka? I've seen it various places.

                                                                    1. re: buttertart

                                                                      They have lavash and pide, but I haven't tried their breads. Their other baked goods like gözleme and börek have been total disappointments. Are there any Turkish markets you'd recommend in Manhattan?

                                                                      1. re: JungMann

                                                                        Not really, Paterson is the place to go.

                                                              2. re: buttertart

                                                                Great. That should open up the thread even more!

                                                                One thing I noticed with at least one of my friends was that she would go to her local "Asian" supermarket(s) - Han Ah Reum in her area, which is really a Korean supermarket, looking for foodstuffs which were really Chinese or SE Asian in nature (e.g. Thai basil) - and not find them - without fully appreciating that the kinds of foodstuffs one gets in a Korean supermarket might tend NOT to be "pan-Asian". I took a walk through the latest one with her on a recent visit. It was sparklingly clean, bright, large, very well stocked, etc ... but was almost exclusively filled with Korean-oriented foodstuffs, which I brought to her attention, with a teeny section containing a smattering of Chinese and Japanese foodstuffs. No Bahn Pho or anything else in the rest of the large (Korean) noodle section that could be considered a good approximation for it, in my view, for example.

                                                                I wonder about people's perception in general of what can be found in an "Asian" grocer or supermarket...

                                                                1. re: huiray

                                                                  Some of the Indian sweets are a complicated affair and going to the sweet shop is always fun but trying to venture into making my own ladoo at home for instance, required some splendid shopping trips to Indian markets and I found some wonderful mixes there that take alot of the guess work out of small batches. Ladoos are my favorite but the carrot halvah is to die for!

                                                              3. re: huiray

                                                                Of course, Indian stores are Asian stores... I like the Indian stores too. Their spices (cumin, coriander seeds, tumeric...) are so much cheaper than standard supermarkets. No people, I really do not believe "you pay for what you get". I seriously doubt McCormick spices are any better than these spices from the Indian stores.

                                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                  Absolutely not, those puppies can sit on supermarket shelves almost as long as they sat in my mother's cupboard. I buy all my spices from Indian or Chinese stores. There's a particularly nice peppercorn that comes from Hainan I really like, and it's dead cheap.

                                                                  1. re: buttertart

                                                                    As for Indian markets, I can't get enough of the Swad brand of coriander chutney...I always keep naan in the freezer, warm it in the oven for a few minutes, and top with plain yogurt and the chutney...delicious!

                                                                    1. re: SmartCookie

                                                                      I must try that. Their hot mango pickle is swell.

                                                                      1. re: buttertart

                                                                        Oh I have only bought the raw spices, rice and vegetables from my Indian stores. I am always intimated by the selection of these ready-to-go curries and sauces and pickle fruits... Just too many... too confusing. This is one of the few times I wishd there are less selection so people like me don't have to choose. :P

                                                                2. re: huiray

                                                                  I hit my Indian market in late October every year to reload my holiday baking spices, cloves, cinnamon, ginger etc.. The cheapest packages usually contain enough to supply me, my mom and my in-laws.

                                                                  Frozen naan for the freezer and various chutneys and pickles, tandoori paste, mangoes all usually cheap and tasty.

                                                                  I live in the SF Bay area so I'm spoiled for choice when it comes to ethnic markets and I have to admit I do most of my shopping at them rather than conventional markets. Within striking distance of home are Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Lao, Korean, Indian, Hispanic, Japanese, and the Berkeley Bowl.

                                                                  1. re: Scrapironchef

                                                                    You just had to mention the Bay Area, didn't you. Gets me every time. Lived in Berkeley for 13 years.

                                                                    1. re: buttertart

                                                                      The culinary gravity makes it tough to leave.

                                                                      1. re: Scrapironchef

                                                                        I left there seven years ago and it's still like a culinary black hole that tries to suck me back.

                                                                        1. re: chowser

                                                                          We left in '87 and it doesn't get better. NYC has its compensations though, I'd hate to be where we first were after leaving (Potsdam, NY - you ask why? teaching job at Clarkson when it was one of only 5 offering in my husband's field that year).

                                                                          1. re: buttertart

                                                                            NYC--I wouldn't complain about that, either! Sure beats suburbia chain jungle.

                                                                      2. re: buttertart

                                                                        I live in Bay Area for 18 years more or so, and 6 of those years in Berkeley. Didn't we have a "Top Dog" post awhile ago?

                                                                  2. We've got a whole bunch of smallish markets aroudn here and the problem with produce is that the turnover isn't that great- edible, but you've got to hit a store on the exact right day to get anything at peak freshness.

                                                                    So for me, it's pretty much curry pastes and other prepared sauces, tamarind, and bean paste desserts.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: beachmouse

                                                                      In my case, I have to say that my local Indian store and Chinese stores have much faster turn around for many vegetables than my local standard supermarkets. For example, the okra are always bright green and firm from the local Indian store, but they are often old and brownish-green from my local supermarkets. I won't say 100% of the time, but at least 70-80%.

                                                                      Whenever I want to make gumbo, I would drive to that Indian store just to get the fresh okra. Brownish-soft okra just do not appeal to me. :)

                                                                      Almost all the vegetables in that Indian store looks fresher than standard supermarket, the only exceptions (ironically) are tomatoes and onions. Their tomatoes and onions, are not so great, but everything else is excellent.

                                                                    2. I mainly go to Korean and Japanese markets (Han Ah Reum, M2M, Sunrise, JAS, etc. in NYC & nearby) as I can actually read and know what's what, but Chinese markets work in a pinch.

                                                                      We buy:

                                                                      Rice (You know you're Asian... when you buy a 50 lb. bag of rice. Also when you have at least four different varieties of rice at all times... short grain, glutinous, brown, black/purple)
                                                                      Condiments (Soy sauce, rice vinegar, hot pepper paste, miso, sesame oil, etc.)
                                                                      Tofu (SO much cheaper at Asian markets, firm & silkened)
                                                                      Frozen gyoza/mandoo
                                                                      Frozen prepared eel
                                                                      Instant noodles (Shin Ramyun is my personal favorite)
                                                                      Tea (genmaicha, sencha, matcha powder, doong gool re cha, etc.)
                                                                      Honey powder
                                                                      Calpis mix
                                                                      Other drinks (some of my husband's faves from Korea: "burnt rice" drink, green apple soda, "Cheju-Island" tangerine juice)
                                                                      Candies & snacks (Ramune candies, Morinaga caramel, anything lychee flavored, "Dessert" Poki, Banana Kick)
                                                                      Mochi/dduk a.k.a "rice cake"
                                                                      Canned lychee
                                                                      Coconut milk
                                                                      Perilla leaves
                                                                      Fruits (Campbell grapes, these yellow, oval-shaped melons, soft persimmons, etc.)

                                                                      I'm sure I'm forgetting quite a bit. We shop a LOT at Korean/Japanese markets.

                                                                      29 Replies
                                                                      1. re: uwsister

                                                                        I read Chinese but not Korean or Japanese, is the tangerine juice labeled in English? Is it canned or bottled? Refrigerated or no?
                                                                        Apple soda (Apple Cidra) is a big favorite from my Taiwan days too, haven't tried the Korean one.
                                                                        Going to look for the candies you mention...usually just go for the gummis.

                                                                        1. re: buttertart

                                                                          I believe the tangerine juice is labeled in English as well. We don't have it in the fridge right now so I can't look, but I think it says "Jeju Island Tangerine Juice" or something similar. More than one company makes it, but they all come in 2L plastic bottle. It's my husband's favorite juice in the world - he went to Jeju Island this summer and got hooked. He says it's similar to fresh squeezed OJ.

                                                                          The green apple soda is called Demi Soda, BTW. Comes in slim cans.

                                                                          I love those gummies as well, especially mango and lychee ones! Hope you'll like those candies/snacks - a lot of it I grew up with, like Morinaga caramels (which I'm sure you've had, they've been around forever.) I can still eat a box at a time...

                                                                          1. re: uwsister

                                                                            I'm definitely going to look for it, love tangerine juice. There's a brilliant appetizer from Suzhou of peeled, thinly sliced, and briefly blanched lotus root, covered in tangerine juice (I use Tropicana orange-tangerine) and steeped overnight in the fridge. Man I love that stuff. First had it at the Wang Si restaurant, one of my favorites in the world. (It's the orangeish stuff in this pic below the water glass, one of the things I'm always on the lookout for is a lotus-leaf shaped plate like that one.)
                                                                            Haven't had the caramels, will do - the Morinaga chews have a great chew! Latest gummi I found was mangosteen-flavored...quite heavenly.

                                                                            1. re: buttertart

                                                                              Oh that appetizer sounds absolutely delicious! You know I say I don't like Chinese food (sorry) but I am still eagerly waiting for that moment where I will taste and say "THIS is how good Chinese food can be!" 'Cause I know it's a huge country and the food culture is just so vast and varied that there has to be some amazing food that I will love. Food we've had in Beijing and Shanghai (we had a native friend/tour guide in Beijing but I wouldn't say he was a Chowhound - and we only got to spend a few days in each city) dim sum at famous Elite Restaurant in L.A. and various Chinese places I've been to in NYC haven't done it for me yet... I'm not giving up though!

                                                                              1. re: uwsister

                                                                                Don't. I didn't like it very much at all until we went to Taipei to live for 18 months. Then the light finally dawned. One of these days.

                                                                                1. re: uwsister

                                                                                  Everyone's taste preference is different. There is no reason why you have to like every cuisines in the world.

                                                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                    Oh of course not! But it's such a huge country with so much different culture and cuisine that I don't think it's fair for myself to simply give up on it because I didn't like what I've had on my limited exposure.

                                                                                    I totally get what you're saying though.

                                                                                    1. re: uwsister

                                                                                      I hate to admit it but I'm like that with Japanese food. I love uni and some raw fish, and I've eaten at good places in the States, Taipei, and Japan, including an in-room kaiseki at a famous Kyoto ryokan (that was wonderful), but it is my least favorite Asian cuisine. I think my palate isn't refined enough to appreciate it.

                                                                                      1. re: buttertart

                                                                                        I wouldn't agree with your last sentence. From what I've read, you enjoy plenty of very refined Western cuisine. Like Chemicalkinetics said, you don't have to like every cuisine, and not liking a certain cuisine doesn't make you any less of a 'hound nor is it a sign of an "inferior" (unrefined) palate.

                                                                                        1. re: uwsister

                                                                                          uwister, out of curiosity, would you be able to say what it is about Chinese food - of whatever sort you have had - that you find unappealing, particularly in the context of what I presume you do like , i.e. Japanese and Korean food?

                                                                                          buttertart, perhaps you might comment about Japanese versus Chinese in your case?

                                                                                          1. re: huiray

                                                                                            Hmm. That's a good question and something that I've never really thought about. Yes, I do like Korean and Japanese cuisine very much. I don't know - even things like dumplings, which all three cuisines share, I prefer Korean (mandoo) and Japanese (gyoza) dumplings to Chinese ones. Stir-frying is also not my favorite way to prepare food, blah blah blah... I know it's a lame reply - let me give it some thought and give you a better reply.

                                                                                            1. re: huiray

                                                                                              By "not refined enough" I mean I tend to prefer bigger flavors, spiciness, garlic, etc. than what I've had at least in Japanese food. Also not keen on darker fish, "fishier" preparations of fish, cooked oysters, etc. I find a lot of nabe dishes and some other preps too sweet.
                                                                                              My favorite Chinese cuisines are Sichuan and Hunan, with Jiangnan in third place, then Guangdong (cram some Shaanxi/Shanxi/Hebei food in there between the Jiangnan and Guangdong, but northwestern Chinese food is very scarce in the US) food.
                                                                                              Not all Sichuan food is hot - one of the best dishes of my lifewas a plate of thinnest possible slices of fresh bamboo shoot, with the same of chicken breast, in a clear white wine/chicken stock sauce, with chicken fat glistening on the surface, that was a specialty of a then-famous Sichuan restaurant in Taipei. Perfect counterpart to the spicy stuff, and something I haven't seen anywhere else (and I've asked).
                                                                                              Balance. I "get:" that with Chinese food, not so much with Japanese.

                                                                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                Thanks for the responses. Interesting.

                                                                                                I myself eat all three – Chinese (various sorts), Japanese, Korean – but in unequal amounts. I eat Cantonese-style Chinese, or Malaysian-Chinese style food most often simply because that was what I grew up on and so continue to cook and eat in this particular cuisine. I like the hearty/big tastes in much of this food, and actually find a certain “clean-ness” or relative clarity in the taste profile [or maybe I cook that way] for a great deal of stuff in these two cuisines.

                                                                                                I eat Szechuan, Hainanese, Teochew, Pekinese, Shanghainese styles too, but less frequently and probably Szechanese the most amongst these. Not much Northern Chinese for me, both because of relative unfamiliarity and lack of access as well as a preference for more sauce in my food – it seems to me that in general Northern food is drier. In a very general sense I also prefer the rice-based food of the South to the wheat-based food of the North. I eat plenty of spicy food, but with Szechuanese I wish it wasn’t quite as oily with many dishes, which is one unattractive aspect about it for me.

                                                                                                I never really ate Japanese food while growing up and only started doing so well into adulthood. (I mean wa-a-ay past simply age-of-majority ☺) I enjoy the clean lines and simple tastes of this cuisine, when I am in the mood for it. I find the balance in Japanese food to be slightly skewed towards plain-ness (though fresh) for my taste, not as “balanced” in tanginess vs savoriness vs. spiciness vs. salty vs. sweet as in Chinese, but that is the nature of the food where it seem to me to be seeking just the taste of the ingredient itself – so bad ingredients really throw it for a loop, and one has to concentrate to savor that taste. Nevertheless, there is a certain asceticism about it and a decided aesthetic about it, both visual and culinary, that is artistic and calm-at-the-core that is appealing in its own way.

                                                                                                Korean food I have had infrequently, but more-or-less enjoy it when I have had it. In general I find the stuff I have eaten to be, how shall I put it, more “rustic” and less gentle in the assembly of components and taste profiles? Perhaps it is just me, but oftentimes it seems to me like stuff was “thrown together” in dishes, even though it tastes fine. I’m sure Korean food aficionados will correct me in this regard!

                                                                                                As for dumplings, I prefer the Chinese style. The Japanese/Korean gyoza (potstickers) I commonly come across tend to be on the large side and have wrappers that are too thick for my taste. [Discounting the ubiquitous (Chinese-originating) “shumai” offered by many a "Japanese" joint] Ditto Korean mandoo. Hence, Chinese potstickers that are functionally equivalent to gyoza I also am not too keen on. Those made with thinner wrappers are fine. ☺ I prefer the thin-skinned and smaller dumplings in Chinese cuisine and preferably those with fillings that are not overcomplicated. (Similarly, wontons made with thick, thick wrappers – not uncommon in run-of-the-mill Chinese/East Asian joints – and especially those with a teeny blob of filling, are highly disfavored with me.

                                                                                                I would say in the end it just depends on the mood I am in when I go out for either Chinese/Japanese/Korean food. At home my style runs towards Chinese or SE Asian Chinese when I cook “Asian”. [Occasionally “Southern Indian”]

                                                                                                Note that our conversation has not taken in other SE Asian, but related, cuisines such as Thai or Vietnamese etc, which I also like a lot!

                                                                                                1. re: huiray

                                                                                                  It's quite irksome whenever I hear that Korean food is "rustic" and "thrown together." Like any other cuisine, there are country dishes, everyday home dishes, restaurant or special occasion dishes, royal dishes, snack dishes, etc. None of these are "thrown together." The cuisine is extremely labor intensive, and the fact that numerous ingredients are mixed together in certain popular dishes do not mean that they are "thrown together." Each ingredient is prepared, cut, and cooked carefully and in certain ways -- bibimbap is a great example. The various vegetables each have their own preparation and come together harmoniously in one bowl. And Korean food is in fact quite refined -- look up Buddhist temple and royal cuisine, and any tables put together for celebrations.

                                                                                                  There's more to Korean food than just chucking things into a bowl.

                                                                                                  1. re: link_930

                                                                                                    Bi bim bap is one of the dishes I'll never make at home because of how intensive all the parts are. The knife skills alone do to the parts are daunting. It's like saying beouf bourgignon is "just thrown together." Not really.

                                                                                                    1. re: link_930

                                                                                                      I see. Thanks for the clarification. And yet...to me bibimbap seems to verge towards a jumble of ingredients, even if each may have been prepared carefully. It seems a little muddled in the overall effect to me.

                                                                                                      How do Korean preparations of ingredients compare with Chinese or Japanese ingredients in terms of labor or finickiness?

                                                                                                      1. re: huiray

                                                                                                        Large Korean stores in the USA (like HMart) sell $1000+ kimchi refrigerators, with multiple compartments and temperature controls. These are used to ferment and store various types of kimchi, each at its optimal temperature. These are modern urban alternative to a backyard full of large earthenware jars. So yes, they are quite finicky (about some things).

                                                                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                                                                          I just have to say, that is one of the coolest (sorry) things I've ever heard. Love it.

                                                                                                      2. re: link_930

                                                                                                        Yeah, that irks me too when people judge a cuisine based on limited exposure they had. That's precisely what I try not to do about Chinese cuisine. My mother used to own a "han jung shik" restaurant in Seoul and there was nothing "thrown together" about it. I'm trying to think of a good way to explain what "han jung shik" is. It's not royal cuisine, but it's a very labor-intensive, multiple-course meal, involving a variety of often-rare/expensive ingredients. I don't imagine many Americans have had exposure to that kind of Korean restaurants, as Korean restaurants here are pretty uniform in their formats.

                                                                                                        I think link_930 put it well - every cuisine "there are country dishes, every home dishes, restaurant or special occasion dishes..." and Korean cuisine is no exception.

                                                                                                        1. re: uwsister

                                                                                                          Then educate me.

                                                                                                          You consider my comments about Korean food to be "judging it" with the limited exposure I have had. I wonder about the exposure to Chinese food you have had by the same token? I described my thoughts about what I have had, I did not "judge" it as in disdaining it. By comparison with my having eaten Chinese/Cantonese food all my life, it is infrequently that I have eaten Korean food, yes, but It is hardly the case that it has been only 2 or 3 times. No doubt what I have had in terms of Korean food has been less than what you have had, since you clearly grew up with it and at a level that you characterize as high-level. I did not disparage your low opinion of Chinese food nor what seemed like your dislike of stir-frying. I would have expected you and others to extend the same courtesy.

                                                                                                          1. re: huiray

                                                                                                            "Stuff was 'thrown together' in dishes, even though it tastes fine"
                                                                                                            "Verge towards a jumble of ingredients"

                                                                                                            Sounded like a bit of a judgment to me, but if it weren't - I'm sorry.

                                                                                                            You don't have to wonder about the exposure to Chinese food I've had - I actually listed it above ("Food we've had in Beijing and Shanghai... dim sum at famous Elite Restaurant in L.A...various Chinese places I've been to in NYC") But I also said that even though I don't exactly have a high opinion of Chinese cuisine now, I expected that there was a lot more to Chinese cuisine than what I've experienced, while you replied "and yet..." to link_930's explanation.

                                                                                                            To each to his/her own.

                                                                                                            This is so off-topic it's not even funny, BTW. Ha!

                                                                                                            1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                              Absolutely agreed!

                                                                                                              It's back to talking about Asian candies and snacks and ice cream :)

                                                                                                              1. re: uwsister

                                                                                                                While at it, I have a question about Japanese chocolate. I am talking about Japanese chocolate in a box, not the handmade gourmet treats.

                                                                                                                Japanese chocolate tastes good to me. They are refined and often with unqiue flavor, but they are not inexpensive. I think they may be the same or even more expensive than typical mass production European chocolate, like Ritter Sport, Lindt ..

                                                                                                                Again, I like Japanese chocolate, but I consume European chocolate more. Do any of you find yourself prefer the Japanese chocolate more?

                                                                                                              2. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                People. Take a step back. Some people are bound to not like the foods/cuisine you grew up with. I am ethnically Chinese and I really enjoy Cantonese Chinese foods, but I don't expect everyone to love Chinese foods. Why? Because I myself don't love every cuisines in the world. You probably don't like certain foods as well. Are you trying to be insulting? No, you just don't like what you don't like. Therefore, others are not trying to be insulting neither.

                                                                                                                P.S.: I like all kind of foods from Chinese foods to Indian foods to Barbecue, but I don't LOVE all foods and it is impossible to love all cuisines. Stop getting offended when people don't LOVE your hometown cuisine.

                                                                                                                (this is not addressing to buttertart)

                                                                                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                  Really quickly - there's a difference between "I don't like Chinese food" and "Chinese food is thrown together [a.k.a slop]" don't you think? Either way - I don't think anyone here is trying to insult anybody. We're all trying to learn a little more about food and all the wonderful qualities about it, right?

                                                                                                                  Anyway - still obsessed w/ Ramune hard candies, Morinaga caramels and Hi-chew (why can't I find yogurt flavor ANYWHERE anymore?! Thisclose to ordering online) and a new find (to me) - strawberry gummies with chocolate shell! I think it's called Gummy Choco and made by Meiji. It reminds me of those raspberry chocolate rings sold at confection shops, but a little more delicate.

                                                                                                                  1. re: uwsister

                                                                                                                    Oh dear, those Gummy Chocos are so amazing. The shell is crisp with glaze, with a smoother white chocolate like layer underneath, hugging the nice chewy gummy inside...my favourite is muscat grape, but there is also "rainbow" (which is a blend of I believe is strawberry, orange and grape) and my least favourite, peach.

                                                                                        2. re: uwsister

                                                                                          Interesting. Are there Chinese or SE Asian or Japanese varieties of 'tangerine juice' also? I must say I've never paid much attention to canned juices of any sort...

                                                                                          1. re: huiray

                                                                                            The funny thing of it is, I think they use the Tropicana one at the Wang Si. I've tried various ones (and squeeze my own), but the Trop gives it the "zhen wei"...

                                                                                    2. great thread...my family has spent years, with lots of help from Chowhound, ferretting out a circuit of Asian grocery stores in our S. NH/E. Ma area. So some thoughts:

                                                                                      -Pakistani/Halal shop for great reasonably priced fresh lamb and goat, and lamb kidneys, not only for curries, but also for the grill in the summer.
                                                                                      -S. Indian/all Veg grocery for the spices and pickles, but also for unusual/hard to find flours and bean/legume starches. And "hot mix", murgoo, and boondi for snacks...much more interesting than potato chips. Also, fresh coconuts.
                                                                                      -Cambodian/SE Asian stores for great fresh mints, cilantro and other green herbs and rhizomes(galangal, tumeric, etc) fresh and frozen, various chilis, and they usually have the best & cheapest limes and small cucumbers, also palm sugar.
                                                                                      -Chinese stores, both in Chinatown and the Kam Man chain store outside of town, for all sorts of veggies, as well as the staple Chinese condiments from soy to preserved veggies to vinegars, wines etc, but also a great selection of dried fruit (dried kumquats to have with black coffee are a favorite fusion food around here), and often pick up a duck or piece of cha sui to have/reheat as a quick mid week meal, and also a great place to get chicken backs, pork neck bones, fowl and other stock pot goodies, the small (1.5" sq, more or less) soft boned chinese spare ribs for steaming or braising, canned dace and other fish. Lots of dried ingredients: dried mushrooms, uncooked dried peanuts, dried noodles/starch threads, and etc.
                                                                                      -H-mart for thin cut meats for hot pot, panchan and kimchee for quick meals, live blue crab, frozen bbq eel, frozen pre-shucked oysters (suprisingly good), frozen chestnuts which I like to use as I can take as many or as few out of the bag as I need and stick the remainder back in the freezer, Haiga rice, and sometimes fruit & fresh veggies, although I prefer the quality at the chinese stores, or our local produce distributor, Russos, which thankfully carries a lot of asian vegetables.
                                                                                      -And thank goodness for our small local "pan-asian" market, which usually has whatever it was that I forgot to get at the big stores!

                                                                                      9 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: qianning

                                                                                        The meats and fish at Korean markets are particularly appealing.
                                                                                        Dried kumquats? How are they packaged? That combination sounds great.

                                                                                        1. re: buttertart

                                                                                          It really is a good combination...the dried kumquats at our Kam Man are found in the same aisle/shelving as the sour/dried plums & olives, they are packaged in a clear plastic which looks like it was originally intended for the Japanese market, lots of Katakan, but who knows, was maybe just to dress it up for marketing purposes in China. Anyway, there is a smallish sticker with "川贝金梏" in Chinese and "Preserved Kumquat" in English printed on it. You can see the fruits through the packaging, and they are a mustardy orange color when dry.

                                                                                          1. re: qianning

                                                                                            Good to know. More Chinese products are being labeled in Japanese lately, the chestnuts I bought have Japanese (kanji except for no) and below it Pinyin. No straight Chinese labeling.
                                                                                            Orange and coffee - one of the best (non-Asian) flavor combos I've had was an orange-coffee sauce for halibut at Serge Bruyere in Quebec City ages ago (while he was stil alive, great chef). Good with duck, too.

                                                                                            1. re: buttertart

                                                                                              I grabbed a packet of dried kumquats out of the cupboard this morning to see what the label said...have polished off more than a few of them and a strong cup of coffee in the past few hours, if you like intense flavors it really is pretty wonderful....orange/coffee on halibut, that I would never have guessed tasted good, chefs who can dream up/make the leap to such flavors are treasures.

                                                                                              now that you mention it, I wonder why nobody (or do they) cooks duck with kumquat sauce?

                                                                                              1. re: qianning

                                                                                                Gotta get some.
                                                                                                Bruyere was brilliant, ate there twice while he was alive and remember every bite years later.
                                                                                                I've seen kumquats with duck occasionally - usually called "caneton a l'orientale" or something of the sort.

                                                                                                1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                  Yes, I seem to have the notion in my mind that I have seen preps of duck with kumquats in some places - or at least listed - but I'll be darned if I can say what exactly or where...

                                                                                                2. re: qianning

                                                                                                  I got some dried kumquats today but there were a couple of kinds - these are with lemon - the label says kumquats, lemon, sugar. They're sort of dusty-looking - there were wetter-looking ones. What are yours like? (Haven't tried them yet.)
                                                                                                  Also got a small package of McVities chocolate and salt digestives from Japan (could not resist), some dried pineapple, and a Japanese green onion cutter ($2.95) - all at Kam Man on Canal in NYC.

                                                                                                  1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                    the kumquats I buy are definitely not dusty looking, and no lemon in the list of ingredients...which are "kumquat, fritillary bulb, sugar, salt, liquorice root ( 金梏, 川贝, 白糖, 食盐, 甘草).....the ones I have on hand are packed by Zhongshan Kaxing Industry & Trade, and I got them at Kam Man in Quincy, Mass., but I have also bought similar ones at the stores that specialize in the dried asian fruits, including one such store (can't remeber the name) in Flushing.

                                                                                                    If you are familiar with the various Chinese dried plums, then I'd compare the kumquats I get to the dried plums that have the texture of a good prune, and which usually come wrapped in indivdual wrappers, rather than the sort of Chinese sour/salty dried plums which are totally dry and usually come unwrapped in bulk and usually have the dusty appearance you describe.

                                                                                                    Ah, digestive biscuits...what is it that makes them so irresistible?

                                                                                                    1. re: qianning

                                                                                                      I know what you mean, I'll get the moist-looking ones with more spices next time. These have the dusty look of dried persimmons.
                                                                                                      Take a digestive, make it chocolate but still with that swell rough texture, and a bit more salty, and cover one side in good dark chocolate...these are lethal. Good thing there are only 9 to a pack (for $3.00 or so, JP import). I'm definitely going to try to reverse-engineer them, what a treat.

                                                                                        2. What I at our local pan-Asian grocery usually get is this: Kimchi, Siracha, sesame oil, fish sauce, Japanese candy and want-want rice crackers. I love me some want-wants great for snacking any time.

                                                                                          1. I am quite fortunate to live near two Chinese supermarkets, one is a 99 Ranch and the other is a competitor much smaller in business scale, but offers a large variety of imported Asian groceries.

                                                                                            In no particular order

                                                                                            Hsin Tung Yang (from Taipei) imported osmanthus sour plum drunk (sweetened with hawthorns, honey, cane sugar)

                                                                                            Ito-En bottled green tea (light green version and the darker one that has a richer flavor, and the oolon is not bad)

                                                                                            Japanese organic soy sauce (forgot the brand but the label is pale yellow brown, very pale brown cover)

                                                                                            Kikkoman ponzu sauce

                                                                                            Frozen udon

                                                                                            Wei Chuan brand frozen beef noodle soup (standard and tomato soup base flavor)

                                                                                            Imported frozen baked sweet potato/yam (di gua) from Taiwan

                                                                                            Ki A Pen Sian (a dairy snack products company from Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan) popsicles...red bean, taro, green bean, coconut, ice cream with crispy banana flavored and shaped layer, brown sugar with konjac jelly...

                                                                                            frozen (pre grilled) unagi imported from Taiwan


                                                                                            green and red curry (canned, imported from Thailand)

                                                                                            Kim Lan (Taiwan) soy sauce paste

                                                                                            white pepper (Taiwan)

                                                                                            Cheong Kee frozen fishballs (Hong Kong) and frozen curry sauce, tastes exactly like the streets

                                                                                            Carnation brand evaporated milk (although I think that's American brand) I use it for HK milk tea DIY

                                                                                            Longevity brand condensed milk (although the Hong Kong cafes in HK seem to use Black and White brand these days)

                                                                                            Rice noodles (mifen) from Taiwan (Buddha brand seems to be the best one)

                                                                                            Fresh noodle (in refrigerator section) made by a Taiwanese company in El Monte, CA, specializing in several Taiwanese noodles like Yang Chuen noodle, Taichung style Nantou Yi Mien, Japanese style ramen (not bad actually)

                                                                                            Nongshim brand Shin Ramyun instant noodle (and of course Nissin Demae Iccho, cannot do without)

                                                                                            Wang brand Korean style fresh noodle (a company in Vernon, CA), great with soups.

                                                                                            organic dried soybeans (for soymilk), red beans

                                                                                            Plus too many other things to remember.

                                                                                            1. I went to an Asian market for the first time and picked up Caroline's recommendation for foods you eat when you are alone: Ajinomoto Potstickers - I got the Chicken and Vegetable as well as some frozen Bau Buns with pork. Excellent.

                                                                                              1. Another thing I really like are the foil liners for stove burners some places sell (labeled in Japanese). They've saved my new stove from staining (and me from having to scrub it every two seconds) and were nice when I was in the old place with burners intractably stained by previous tenants.

                                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                  I've always just bought those at mainstream supermarkets or housewares shops (labeled in English, naturally).

                                                                                                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                                    These are v cheap, $0.99/pack of 15 or so.

                                                                                                    1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                      I'll have to keep that in mind in case I end up living with sort of stove they're useful for again.

                                                                                                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                                        The fixed well gas stoves (non-removable burner surrounds) are a big pain in the heinie.

                                                                                                2. First principles: Asian food is delicious; each cuisine has its own merits; each has its own highly-developed cooking techniques and uses the best ingredients available; each has its partisans through birth or developed personal preference. As the Chinese saying goes, ge you suo chang (each has its strong points). I think it would be best to leave aside qualitative comparisons of the different cuisines and devote ourselves to delving further into the invaluable resource that is the Asian grocery store.

                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                  1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                    Pork jerky and dried cuttlefish. Addicting. But, I have to stay away from people after having them because of the breath.

                                                                                                  2. Folks, we've removed an off topic digression about who likes or doesn't like what. Please continue what's been a great discussion of favorites from Asian shopping trips. Thanks so much.