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ethnic markets

any of u out there, especially in cities with good "ethnic" areas, hittin those asian/hispanic markets? im in denver, pretty much as far from the coast as u can be in america, and i can get live lobster/crab/oysters, etc and for about half the price of whole foods. and thats even IF whole foods has the stuff. wf certainly doesnt have live conch!

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  1. Yes, if I want something "ethnic", but not always.

    As for lobster/crab and other seafood stuff, yes, when in season; but they are hardly "ethnic".


    10 Replies
    1. re: Maximilien

      They (the food itself) may not be "ethnic," but ethnic markets are good choices for decent deals on many items.

      1. re: wyogal

        Besides, where else can you buy live fish and have it sorted for you on site? May not be "ethnic", but perhaps the OP was meaning "culturally specific" and therefore either at a lower cost or sold in a manner not seen in the usual big box grocery store?

        1. re: freia

          yea, my point was that u can find the same stuff as whole foods or other high ends stores but at lower prices. plus a lot of really cool stuff too, like lychee candy, frozen coconut milk (much better than canned) and all kinds of curries. i mean, live periwinkle? is ethnic a bad word to say? are we so PC that i have to say "culturally specific"? geez, forget it.

          1. re: cookmyassoff

            No, it was fine. I understood that you were talking about a market. Not the specific food. One can find all sorts of food at ethnic markets and they can be cheaper.

            1. re: cookmyassoff

              No, not at all. But sometimes people equate "ethnic" with "only those foods specific to that particular culture" instead of finding culturally relevant foods at culturally specific markets. I know, its word smithing but there does tend to be a fair amount of that on these boards IMHO LOL.
              No offense was meant and none was taken. I was just trying to rephrase what you said, that's all :)

              1. re: freia

                cool. yea i dont do a lot of these boards so im not real up on the "rules"...one thing tho....look at ur expiration dates, people. some of these places will happily sell u stuff that has gone funky a LONG time ago. but if u know what to look for and are careful, u can find some great deals. example: 10 quail eggs are about $1.25 at tri-ocean market in denver. they are about 5 bucks at whole foods. little saigon even makes their own tofu. nice. they are fun just for the weird factor too...especially the asian stores. theres some stuff in there, i dont even know what it is. :) and some of the latino stores sell tacos and burritos in there. yum.

                1. re: cookmyassoff

                  Do you consider an Italian Salumeria to be an "ethnic market"? :-)

                  Well, I use the term "ethnic" myself - but oftentimes the meaning is really "non-White Anglo-Saxon" or "non-White Caucasian/Western European"... which seems to be what you are referring to... whereas some posters here (such as thew, who hasn't posted here for a while) considers the word misleading or redundant as everyone is of one ethnicity or other, whether it be Italian or Irish or English or Han Chinese or etc etc etc. ;-)

                  1. re: huiray

                    markets that arent just "general" supermarkets like kings sooper or safeway; they carry products that represent a certain specific culture. so i guess an italian market would be in there. i just dont get all hung up on terminology like some people. i think we all know what i meant here, sorry if i offended anyone.

              2. re: cookmyassoff

                I've become a lychee candy addict. Either the little hard candies or the Kasugai brand gummies; they just send me. I also buy the gummies in kiwi, melon and mangosteen, and sometimes in the more familiar flavors.

                1. re: eclecticsynergy

                  It's fresh lychee season right now and 4 bundles of the fresh stuff is happily in my frig. As is lychee nectar and 4 cans of lychee. I got so addicted to the lychee gummies I had to stop buying them. Lychee martini's oh man so good!

                  When I was a child and my parents would take all us kids out for Chinese food if we were really behaved they would promise to buy use the dried lychees in the case near the front register and we would share them the whole car ride home. Good times.

        2. Luv, luv, luv ‘em. Not only do you find great items at bargain prices but I’ve found it to be a great cultural experience. I often talk to the shopkeeper about their country and food. If there’s one thing that’s universal, it’s food.

          There’s a cluster of them that I hit and here’s some of my fav foodie finds.

          Asian mkt-fresh ginger, palm sugar, coconut milk.

          Indian mkt-fresh mangoes, dried beans/peas, & spices, spices, spices. Did I say spices?

          Mediterranean mkt-olive oil

          6 Replies
          1. re: Spice_zing

            Out of curiosity, where do you live?

            All of the things you list are not really considered "ethnic" in modern day America and are available in most chain supermarkets in 2012. I mean, OLIVE OIL? Mangoes?

            (Perhaps the exception is the breadth of spices one may find in an Indian market.)

            1. re: thegforceny

              Have you had mangoes from an Indian market? Head and shoulders above what you can get in Whole Foods, Citarella, etc. Kalustayan's (I know, not all Indian) was my go-to for mangoes when I lived in Manhattan. I've never been disappointed with any mango from there as they won't sell them if they can't get good ones. I also get a lot of my spices from Indian markets because they're cheaper and fresher.

              1. re: thegforceny

                I live in LA, and all of the above ethnic markets thrive because of types of ingredients listed by Spice_Zing. Sure, one can find many of these ingredients at the chain supers nowadays, but the ethnic shoppers are different in consumer profile. They usually demand more varieties, buy in higher quantities and of course price is a very important issue as well.

                Palm sugar is definitely not a chain-super item. We usually find it at the local Chinese markets.

                Ginger can be had at our local supers, but the quality, variety (e.g. young ginger vs. aged) and price is much better at the Chinese markets as well.

                Mangos are quite varied in variety and form at the Indian markets. Sure - whatever is available from Brazil, Mexico, et al major Western hemisphere growers will be found there, but but green mangos and the prized Alphonso India mango can be found at Indian markets (as well as some East/SE Asian markets) as well as mango in the form of chutneys, stews, pickles, yogurt drinks, etc. Mango is the national fruit of India, so expect this fruit to be praised and sought after in various forms.

                The types of beans/legumes at Indian markets is also quite varied and very inexpensive. Because the number of Indian vegetarians/vegans is high primarily due to religious reasons, these food items are a staple in most Indian homes. Throw in the wide acceptance for these food items across much of South Asia, and one will usually find these sold in large bins for seemingly give-away prices.

                Olive oil obviously is a staple in Mediterranean cuisines. The varieties, quantities and prices are excellent. The supers are catching up in this category, but the prices can be prohibitive and the container sizes are usually too small. The biggest move I seem to notice is at the big box stores, i.e., Costco. I saw a two-litre plastic bottle of EVOO there for (I think) approx. $10. That's a great price regardless.

                1. re: bulavinaka

                  i do like to go to a middle eastern market for olive oils, and never buy this item at the regular super if i can help it. i get our regular sicilian evoo in liter tins through a restaurant distributor, but i like to have a few other kinds on hand as well.

                  1. re: bulavinaka

                    Bravo bulavinaka! You explained it far better than I.

                2. cookmyassoff, don't you also find these specialty markets offer great deals on non food but useful kitchen items like woks, steamers, knives, tea sets, kitchen gadgets, decoration tools, we even bought Chinese lanterns for a party at an Asian market. So I'm def. on board with the fresh produce, snacks, candies, fish, meats, spices, teas, condiments, bakery, and prepared foods but the non food stuff is also a great deal and always so interesting!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: HillJ

                    ya i got some soup bowls and those plastic "boat" spoons u get with wonton soup, a great juice press for cheap, a nice grill basket, etc. plus they have frozen coconut milk which imho is better than the canned. noodles for days, hoisin for cheap, these great pandan cakes that are light as a feather, and one of my favorites, viet instant coffee. its my fave for making iced coffee. i got oxtails and pork belly for about half of what it would have been at whole foods. packs of 5 bulbs of garlic for 150 instead of 75 cents each. love it!

                    1. re: HillJ

                      Indeed. They would also be about the only places you could get stuff that is tailored for cooking "Chinese"/"East-SE Asian"/"Indian" style. Other than at large extensively-stocked kitchen-supplies stores. Large stome mortar-and-pestle sets - Ive only seen them in such stores, for example. Coconut flesh scrapers, with attached stool for sitting on. Etc etc.

                    2. I love ethic markets! Just yesterday I got gluten-free soy sauce for about a dollar less than at my local grocery store. Also a bunch of green onions for .35, 3 stalks of lemongrass for .59 and I can get a bag of baby bok choy for about .75. If only it were closer!

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: dmjordan

                        yea im lucky that they are pretty close to me. and one of them, tri-ocean, specializes in seafood. they have live lobsters and live tilapia, live conch/oysters/clams, etc. and tons of different fish, fresh and frozen. they also have quail, duck, goat....all for about half the price of whole foods. and i dont think whole foods even carries some of the stuff they have. i love it! and the oyster mushrooms that are so expensive at whole foods, they are 1.49 for a big ol package of them. huge pack of fresh basil for 1.49 too. its about 3 times the size of those little packs u get in the produce department that are usually like 3.50 for 3 or 4 little sprigs. go ethnic stores!!!

                        1. re: cookmyassoff

                          I love the variety of ethnic markets in my are and shop at several frequently.

                          I do want to say that comparing the prices to Whole Foods is not comparing apples to apples.
                          Most of the specialty markets in my area do not carry organic, fair trade, etc. Whole Foods does. That has a lot to do with the price differences. Whether that difference is worth it varies greatly from shopper to shopper.

                          Comparing prices to conventional grocers makes more sense. Most of the ethnic markets in my area have much better prices than the conventional markets. The only one which doesn't is the Japanese market - although so little of what they sell can be purchased elsewhere in town that the higher price on the few "universal" items doesn't lessen the appeal of the shop.

                          1. re: meatn3

                            yes, thats a very good point u make about whole foods. i really doubt that much (if any) of the products in these markets we're talking about here are organic, fair trade etc. so yes, more fair to compare to say, kings sooper or safeway.

                            and to huiray who wanted clarification on "which part of asia", etc.(although i suspect ur curiosity is more just being condescending rather than an actual question) a couple of the stores i go to actually say "asian grocery" in their name, so thats their wording, not mine. and....":accusations?" are u speaking of the fact that a couple of us said u really need to check expiration dates at these places? (and of course at any store for that matter) one of the places i go has housemade tofu, which i think is awesome. but my friend bought some once, and it was green and fuzzy on the bottom. and the thing with the bad red snapper? well, that actually HAPPENED. so in my case, these arent "accusations", they are FACTS.

                            1. re: cookmyassoff

                              I was addressing Bacardi1 in that post, not you.

                              1) He/she did indeed accuse ALL ethnic shops of selling lots of expired stuff etc and said so in somewhat strident terms. Tell me what ALL these ethnic shops are.
                              2) If one says "ALL ethnic" but really might mean only, e.g., Chinese or even East Asian, it could be considered a slur - as it implies that, e.g., non-Chinese or non-East Asian folks are NOT "ethnic". But that is for Bacardi1 to answer.
                              3) "Asian" still covers a great deal of ground, even if some shops may actually use that term in their names as you noted. Even Anthony Bourdain has said that Asia is a big place. What sort of goods are sold in these shops? Are they Chinese-type goods? Korean? Japanese? Indian? Pakistani? Turkish? Persian? Uzbekistani? Afghan? Malaysian? Indonesian? Thai? Vietnamese? Filipino? It's so much more informative and more precise to even say "East Asian" or "SE Asian" for that matter rather than "Asian". No doubt they may carry a variety of goods stretching over various countries but almost always each one would have a definite preponderance of goods from one country or region.
                              4) I noted myself that I had also found expired stuff in Chinese and Mexican markets. I have also found such things in Western markets, as have you, apparently. I am *not* disputing that it happens.

                      2. Love shopping at asian markets for fresh fish. I'll never forget there's this Viet/Chinese shop in Westminster that was selling huge lobsters for 4.99 a pound...yes, that is not a typo...$4.99 A POUND!!! LIVE. STILL CRAWLING IN THE TANK!

                        I got a massive one that was as long as my arm. It's tail was thicker than my forearm and it's claws were bigger than my fist...$40 total out the door...such a DEAL! I always check back every February.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Novelli

                          westminster colorado or california?

                          1. re: cookmyassoff

                            sorry, that would be Westminster, California

                            1. re: Novelli

                              oh bummer, theres a westminster here in colo so i was hoping. at least the live lobster i can get is like 7.99 a pound so thats not too bad. i grew up in cali tho.

                        2. Yes, most of my food supplies comes from the Chinese grocery (Asia Mart) or the humongous International Market (Saraga) I normally go to, supplemented with stuff from Western-type supermarkets or Indian & Vietnamese groceries. (Most of my sundries - soap, toilet paper, OJ, that sort of thing - comes from Western-type supermarkets or Pharmacies)

                          A lot of meat (pork in particular - especially things like belly pork, pork ribs [short-cut, "Chinese-style", for example], bones, thin-sliced pork, etc) and of course fresh vegetables [largely the "Oriental"/"Asian" types, but also "Western" types on occasion] come from the 1st two places I mentioned. Cheap to moderate prices. I get slabs of beautiful layered pork belly (a.k.a. "五花肉", "five-flower pork") at very good prices, of a quality which blows my local (Western) butcher out of the water (and at which the inferior stuff costs 2-3 times as much) Even "common" items such as green/spring onions and cilantro I get from the Chinese grocery when I can (Typically @ 3 large bunches of either for $1) and actually find myself balking at getting them from the local Western supermarket unless I was desperate!

                          Then, of course, all the many, many different condiments, dried foodstuffs and "Chinese"/"Asian" ingredients, delicacies, my Ramen noodles and TONS of other varieties of packaged/all-in-one noodles as well as the "non-instant-type" noodles [of a myriad varieties] both dried and fresh.

                          Live fish, crabs, conch, mussels, clams, etc as you mention - if I want those. I tend to get my fresh whole fish from Saraga Market, however - sea bass, e.g., which would not be found at the Chinese grocery. One thing I have never seen, however, in "ethnic markets" here (or any other market) are live cockles. If I want fresh sushi-grade tuna or salmon, however, I get that from the fish counter at a Kona Jack's here up the road from me.

                          A great deal of my spices - and most of my rice (Basmati) - comes from Indian groceries.

                          Then, there's the Guanajuato Supermercado I swing by from time to time - there's a fresh meat counter that's around a hundred feet (or thereabouts) in length - with chicken drumsticks and meaty beef shortribs and etc etc at prices that Western supermarkets cannot match; juicy large fresh limes for as little as 20 for $1 once (but more usually 7-10/$1) and so on. Of course, if you also want Coca-Cola with real sugar in glass bottles you generally *would* need to go to a place such as this one. :-)

                          Farmers' Markets provide a fair bit of greens during season, but boy are they expensive by comparison!

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: huiray

                            ya, we call it mexi-coke. i love the glass bottle coke! they are starting to carry cases of the mexi-coke at the costco! but i live in a part of colorado that has a large latino population so i guess its only natural. u mention the noodles; i get so stuck in that dang noodle aisle at little saigon! noodles galore! and of course as u said there are things that any "western" store would carry, but at MUCH better prices. in my neighborhood in south denver its mostly asian and latino stores. u have to head east to aurora to get the indian/middle eastern/african markets. love those too! that reminds me, i need to head out there soon, im low on curry powder....

                            1. re: huiray

                              >>Farmers' Markets provide a fair bit of greens during season, but boy are they expensive by comparison!<<

                              Sure that's true, but I've yet to find any market - ethnic or otherwise - that can compare to the quality and variety of the FMs we have in LA. You might already know this, but a pricing strategy that always works around here is to hit the stands late - they are looking to unload their produce and will be eager to offer low prices to you.

                              1. re: bulavinaka

                                but a pricing strategy that always works around here is to hit the stands late - they are looking to unload their produce and will be eager to offer low prices to you.

                                As well as after a culturally specific holiday! It's so nice to read how my fellow CH's are utilizing the best of these markets in their own home cooking!

                                1. re: HillJ

                                  yea here in colo we have great farmers markets too but a lot shorter growing season that in my home state of california. so here the farmers markets are only from about may to september or october. i recently got a bag of 6 avocados for 3 bucks, which at kings sooper right now are a buck to a buck 50 a piece. steal! yea, the going to the FM at the end of the day is always a good strategy.

                                2. re: bulavinaka

                                  In my area, it depends.

                                  The variety is not comparable to what I get in my "ethnic" markets but of course the stuff at FMs are "fresh" (like out-of-the-ground or harvested the day or two before) and mostly "organic" etc [whatever that means]. Stuff like kale and collard greens, beets, lettuce (esp. at height of season) are much nicer and fresher - and sometimes a better deal volume-for-volume, if/when that matters - than in the Western-style supermarkets. Cabbages, cauliflowers - they can also be great deals when they are in full-harvest mode. Tomatoes, especially heirloom varieties, are to be prized at FMs of course.

                                  Non-"Western" veggies etc are offered by some specialty growers at the FMs, but there by-and-large one buys their stuff purely for "freshness" and for supporting local growers rather than for any price advantage. There is only one non-Caucasian (shall we say) grower of "Asian" veggies at any of the FMs around here and his stuff varies from year to year and period to period, if he is there and offers anything I wish to pick up. (BTW stuff like Kai Lan appears to be "ungrowable" by these small-scale FM-growers here)

                                  The meat vendors there ("Farm-to-Table" stuff, I suppose) don't really grab me that much - everything is frozen, anyway. The one thing that I would really miss if FMs weren't there would be the fresh eggs.

                                  At the Saraga Market I mentioned [Korean-owned], at any one time I would find fresh veggies and herbs of Mexican, Central American, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Filipino, SE Asian, other E Asian, some Indian, even African etc etc extraction let alone any number of the usual "Western" veggies and herbs. Root & non-leafy veggies/foodstuffs included. Oh, fruits also. The last time I was looking for pomelo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomelo) during Chinese New Year, I actually couldn't find it at my Chinese grocery but found it at Saraga.

                                  Yes, I've picked up stuff before close to closing time from FMs at good prices - including bunches of Western-type basil for making a big batch of pesto - but I don't make it a "shopping strategy" by-and-large.

                              2. never again will i buy curry powder from kings sooper, for example. that tiny little jar for like 3.50? for about 1.99 i can get a big ol pouch of it from the indian store and fill that little jar up about 10 times. and its better curry imho. just more flavorful, stronger, more concentrated therefore u need less saving u even more money. tiny bottle of kikkoman soy sauce for 4 bucks a bottle or a huge bottle of wing nien for the same price? and they basically taste the same....

                                1. Lots of ethnic markets around here (Boston), and some surprising finds. Just yesterday, for example, I was in a Russian market and ran across one of my favorite French double-creme cheeses, Fromage d'Affinois, for $13.99 a pound. Same cheese at Whole Foods is $17.99.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: BobB

                                    yea, very cool. dont u just love the deals!?

                                  2. While I love the ethnic markets around here, you DO have to be careful - MUCH more careful, I've found, than one's regular market.

                                    Regardless of the markets I've frequented, expired products abound - definitely check expiration dates on EVERYTHING. EVERYTHING - from canned goods on to fresh goods. In addition to expiration dates, check any frozen items for freezer burn. I've found that the freezer cases in ethnic markets suffer a serious lack of turnover, & things in there sometimes have been in there for MONTHS, if not longer. This goes for ALL ethnic markets.

                                    Check all fresh seafood for point of origin, something some ethnic markets seem to develop "amnesia" about. And while produce may look delightful, when you get it home, before use, be sure to wash it THOROUGHLY. Been there; done that.

                                    14 Replies
                                    1. re: Bacardi1

                                      oh yea, definitely agree on that. i have had a couple things that were :"past their prime". i ALWAYS check for the freshness on things, the dates, etc. too. cus they will gladly sell u some funky stuff. i bought a pineapple once that i sort of grabbed in a hurry without checkin it out, and it was fuzzy and blue. and i got a red snapper once that was funky as hell at a different asian market, and when i brought it back they werent having any of my american bullshit. dude was like "u buy, u go!" so needless to say i never went back to that market. i have since found another great asian market, bigger and better selection (the one with the bad pineapple) and i brought back that pineapple and they were cool about it. thats one of our catch phrases now, when things are getting testy...."u buy, u go!"

                                      1. re: Bacardi1

                                        ...and by "ethnic markets" you mean...
                                        (Italian? Polish? English? or...?)

                                        Yes, I've certainly found more expired stuff (or "best by..." stuff) in Chinese and Mexican groceries. I just don't buy them, or mention it to the management. I don't have a fainting spell over it. ;-) Washing stuff THOROUGHLY - could you elaborate?

                                        1. re: huiray

                                          While there are some tiny 100% Hispanic markets, the large ethnic markets around here are primarily Asian, but also carry some Hispanic & Middle Eastern items.

                                          1. re: Bacardi1

                                            "Asian" still covers a whole continent. Do you mean "Chinese" rather than "Indian"? Or Korean? Or Japanese? Or all of these? I'm curious as to how much ground your "ALL ethnic markets" - and accusations - cover.

                                            1. re: huiray

                                              I still mean "Asian". The large ethnic markets here carry pretty much a full gamut of Chinese, Korean, & Japanese ingredients/meats/seafood/produce, with dabblings of Indian, Middle Eastern, & Hispanic products.

                                              1. re: Bacardi1

                                                I see. Thanks for the additional info.

                                                (Personally, I would think of those places you describe as primarily “East Asian” stores. Having just a smattering of the other stuff does not change their primary character, and they are definitely not SE Asian by your description.)

                                        2. re: Bacardi1

                                          Like all grocery stores, you have to watch and see where the turnover is. 99 Ranch, a west coast chain catering to the Chinese community, has some decent fish, although I suspect a lot of it has been frozen once, and meats generally a cut above Safeway (and it's the only place I can find pigs' ears), but I'm less than impressed by their produce. Most of it is pre-packaged, so while the unit price may be low the price-per-amount-I-can-use-before-it-goes-bad is significantly higher. I've noticed a tendency to hide the lesser quality items in the center of the bags, out of sight. After last summer's salmonella scares I'm leery of eggs priced at 1/3 that of mainstream supermarkets, especially when I can't tell exactly where they're from.

                                          But where else am I going to get fish sauce by the quart?

                                          1. re: tardigrade

                                            Can you get, for example, fresh Chinese and Vietnamese produce and herbs in Safeway and similar supermarkets? Other than common produce like Daikon or Napa Cabbage (very expensive in places like Safeway - or Marsh, Krogers etc in my area) or Bok Choy (always undesirable gigantic plants in Western markets and even Farmers' Markets) basically all the other East/SE Asian produce and the different varieties would be best found in markets catering to those communities. In my experience. In all my years shopping in such markets and in various Chinatowns the produce I pick up has been fresh and satisfactory in almost all cases. If a batch is subpar, I simply don't buy it.

                                            If I want collard greens, Western types of lettuce, turnip greens, etc; or even hard stuff like carrots, squashes etc - I simply get them at Western supermarkets. Even then, for special purposes I might pick up really big, long, fat carrots at Chinese supermarkets - and they would be perfectly fine. Then, as another example, I would get the Chinese-type ("Oriental") variety of spinach with big leaves on stout long stems red-colored at the base ("por choy") at Chinese markets; while I might pick up the more familiar spinach found in Safeway/Marsh/&etc at those places...and so on.

                                            1. re: huiray

                                              It depends where you are. Safeway here - SF Bay area - carries sprouts of various kinds, long beans, lemon grass, basil, fresh cilantro, bitter melons, baby bok choy, taro, etc. In Hawai'i they have a larger selection of local favorites, including poi and several types of poke. They're a business: they sell what their customers want to buy. The chain I mentioned, 99 Ranch, is comparable to Safeway -except bigger- rather than the smaller stores you may be thinking of - a county with over 30% of the population "Asian" according to the census can support supermarkets this size. Just like I get better quality(mostly) items from locally owned "mainstream" markets than I do from big chains, there's no reason why the same shouldn't apply to other niche markets who can actually get to know their suppliers instead of having corporate do the bulk of the buying.

                                          2. re: Bacardi1

                                            Yep. Ethnic markets can be fun to explore to see the exotic foods on offer but most ethnic markets were started to cater to a recent immigrant community. These communities generally tend to be very frugal and place greater emphasis on value for the dollar and quantity over quality.

                                            When we lived in Maryland I occasionally stopped at the local H-Mart (Korean-Asian supermarket chain). The range of produce could be impressive, but it always quickly spoiled after a few days and the bins of fruits were always filled with slightly bruised fruit. The meats were certainly not prime meat and the chickens always smelled slightly off. You're not getting organic, free-range chickens or good quality cuts of beef and lamb at most ethnic markets for the simple reason that good quality meat is rarely, if ever, cheap. The advantage of the ethnic markets is selling cuts of meat that aren't available in a mainstream supermarket, and Asian cooking especially features very different cuts of meat than the western/European butchers offer.

                                            I usually ended up only buying the packaged/frozen goods but having lived overseas in both Asia, Europe and the Middle East, I know fully well the frozen/packaged food sold at most American ethnic markets are often the cheaper ones from the home country and rarely the better quality versions, and pumped full of preservatives and MSG and over chemical additives common in mass produced Asian foodstuff. That said, the H-Mart still had an impressive range of kimchee and frozen pork dumplings which I miss badly.

                                            1. re: Roland Parker

                                              ha we have Hmart in denver. the also have an online store.

                                              1. re: Roland Parker

                                                "These communities generally tend to be very frugal and place greater emphasis on value for the dollar and quantity over quality. "

                                                And, since I feel the same way, that's why I like shopping at Asian groceries.

                                                1. re: FoodPopulist

                                                  I don't know if I agree with that statement. If you've ever seen an Asian mother grappling with a lobster or understood the nagging to the butcher, you know that immigrant communities, even if we don't have that much money, definitely value quality. In my experience the meat at H-Mart is higher quality (and more expensive) than what I can get at my local grocery store and the live butcher is thriving even with sometimes higher prices; but one can't beat that kind of freshness.

                                                  1. re: JungMann

                                                    I've found that the quality/quantity issue is a mixed bag at many ethnic stores (in LA), particularly the Chinese stores. Seafood quality can be seen across the spectrum, from fish past its prime (doesn't pass the smell test, etc.) to near pristine specimens (Santa Barbara Spot Prawns), all at the same counter.

                                                    The meat can be very fresh, but the quality can be average at best - turnover is the key. Pork is amazingly fresh, but not a Kurobuta/Bershire in sight.

                                                    The general quality and selection of produce is getting better. Like other depts where freshness was key, turnover was the main factor - produce is big in the Asian markets, particularly in the Chinese stores. You can't beat the various green leafy veggies there. The variety, quantity and quality is amazing, as are the prices. In the past, "organic" was not welcome - cost/price was too high, as well as sourcing in large enough quantities. The vast majority of produce is still conventional, but some organic fruits are starting to make it onto the shelves. Also, cases of various fruits are usually on the store floor (mango, papaya, apple, citrus, pear), telling one that Asians consume fruit (and give them as gifts) like nobody's business.

                                                    >>These communities generally tend to be very frugal and place greater emphasis on value for the dollar and quantity over quality.<<

                                                    Japanese stores are the exception to this. The quality is usually very good to exceptional in the various departments, and the prices can be very high. Quantities purchased are usually relatively low, and the stores are usually pristine.

                                                    It's not unusual for me to shop at two or three grocery stores of different ethnicities in one day, and the contrast in the quality/quantity/price/cleanliness categories are extremely vivid after such an outing.

                                            2. "Ethnic" areas - I have a wider concept of it than *just* "Asian"/"Hispanic" markets (whatever those two terms mean). When I cruise up to Chicago, a favorite activity of mine is to hit the ETHNIC Polish markets and pick up all sorts of wonderful in-house-produced kielbasa of various types, smoked fish (the smoked halibut at Andy's is wonderful), etc etc etc. I also often depend on the kindness of strangers (other customers) to intercede/translate for me with respect to the staff - just like you might experience with Chinese markets. ;-)

                                              9 Replies
                                              1. re: huiray

                                                My family is Asian and Middle Eastern, so we always shopped at the "ethnic markets" as a matter of course. Moreover I grew up in a Latino neighborhood and live in one now, so I have always stopped at my local carniceria or mercado for odds and ends.

                                                But like you, I also shop ethnic shops not native to my heritage or experience. In Chicago I used to shop at Delicatessen Meyer back when it was still open and all the employees spoke German. I have a similar place here in NYC where the butcher sells his wares in highly New York-inflected Deutsch. Chicago also has a number of what I can only describe as pan-not-American markets that cater to the Middle Eastern, Polish, Russian, Greek, Jewish and Latino communities where you can get several types of kielbasy, loads of smoked fish, ajvar and olives, fresh rye and pan dulces, chiles, feta and napoleon for dessert. The halal butchers on Devon also carry a variety of South Asian, Middle Eastern and British products which makes for interesting travels across the Islamic world.

                                                1. re: JungMann

                                                  The butchers and shops on Devon in Chicago is one place I need to explore further!

                                                  But - yes, the ethnic shops I try out involve a great deal of places that are not just "Asian" or "Hispanic", like you describe. There was a place selling West Indies/Jamaican/Trinidadian stuff a few miles from me which I used to drop by, as another example, which unfortunately went away...The Swiss Pork Store in Fairlawn, NJ where I got various sorts of Germanic canned/bottled stuff like brands of sauerkraut which I had not seen before, on my last visit to that area...and so on.

                                                  1. re: huiray

                                                    where i live in southwest denver, its mostly viet/chinese shops or latino shops. but then when u get out to east denver/aurora, theres a lot of middle eastern and african shops. those are cool. also a lot of ethiopian and middle eastern restaurants out there too, where on the west side there really arent any. i LOVE me some ethiopian buffet. i found the best place ever to get gyros just the other day in east denver too. and sprinkled in there are a few european shops, jewish shops, etc. one of my favorites is tonys italian market. everything in there is expensive (so its not somewhere to go for "bargains") but everything in there is also AWESOME!! they are one of the few places in denver to get foie gras. amazing cheese selection too.

                                                    1. re: huiray

                                                      Huiray, when you go to Devon Avenue don't miss Patel's big supermarket or the big produce store on the corner, with the green awning. When you have passed all the Indian/Pakistani stores, keep walking west past the big bank and the neighborhood suddenly turns Russian then Orthodox Jewish. Find the Tel Aviv Bakery and try their seeded rye bread, "French" rolls (which actually are onion filled), babka, and a rolled pastry variously called Kiddush Cake or Nuts Cake depending on who waits on you.

                                                      1. re: Querencia

                                                        Thanks a bunch for the tips, will do!

                                                        1. re: Querencia

                                                          There is a blending point somewhere near California. I remember we used to go to a zabiha halal butcher right there that was next to a Russian bakery so we would come with rose syrup, paya and napoleon cake after Sunday groceries.

                                                          1. re: JungMann

                                                            Hmm. I took a look at Google Maps and there is indeed a "Zabiha Meat Market" two blocks west of California, but the shop next to it is Hashalom, an Israeli-Moroccan restaurant (which is closed according to Yelp); the closest "Russian" bakery is Argo Georgian Bakery further east along Devon just before California. There is also a "Mehrab Zabiha Meat & Tobacco" yet further east along Devon just past Campbell, but no Russian bakery around in sight. :-) OTOH, are you referring to *zabiha meat* (also spelled "zabihah", "dhabihah", etc), which would be a subset of *halal meat* (although some authorities consider the two synonymous) and thus an Islamic place that sold zabiha meat?

                                                            1. re: huiray

                                                              I think the butcher we went to when I was growing up was the first place you mentioned. When I was growing up, the signs on that block were in Arabic, Urdu, Hebrew and Russian and iirc there was a Russian Jewish store there where we would buy napoleon, but all that may have changed. Looking at Google maps, the two spaces I thought might be the Russian bakery appear to be empty storefronts, although the Judaica store still stands opposite the halal butcher.

                                                              As it is, when I visit home, my family mostly does their shopping at the stores on Kedzie, which itself is an international area. During my last trip, I came home with kunafeh, carnitas and Moroccan sardines.

                                                          2. re: Querencia

                                                            And, huiray, don't ignore the South Side---South Archer, along which they built the Orange Line EL to Midway Airport, is basically a buffet. Google for exact addresses: Bobak's for all kinds of homemade sausage as well as Polish groceries; Racine Bakery for Lithuanian breads; Pticek's Bakery for "Croatian Nut Cake" (a 9-inch-wide coffee cake with a 1-inch topping of nuts and caramel, for $6) and 12 kinds of kolachkys, not to mention Punchkis (gargantuan Polish jelly doughnuts). Then at the east end of Archer you have Chinatown to top it all off. I swear that for food shopping Chicago is as interesting as any place on the face of the earth.

                                                    2. I live in downtown Chicago and am frankly shocked at the number of people I know who seem never to venture out of downtown and certainly don't shop in ethnic grocery stores in neighborhoods all over the city. There's a line in ee cummings that says, in essence, "Most people wear birthproof suits but you and I can never be born enough". That's it. Shopping out in the neighborhoods is all about being delighted by the variety life has to offer. It's about the capacity for delight.

                                                      6 Replies
                                                      1. re: Querencia

                                                        yep. get out and see the world people, cuz the "world" can be right in ur city.

                                                        1. re: cookmyassoff

                                                          I don't think anyone lives in Ur City anymore. According to Wikipedia, it hasn't been inhabited since about 500 BC.

                                                            1. re: cookmyassoff

                                                              yes i know that UR was a sumarian city-state. i was agreeing with querencias point about people needing to get out more and u try to make me feel stupid. thanks, appreciate it.

                                                              1. re: cookmyassoff

                                                                I wasn't trying to make you feel stupid. I like puns, and that one hadn't occurred to me before, and I thought it was funny.

                                                      2. I am in Los Angeles, and ethnic markets are my favorite playgrounds.

                                                        Jons and Superking give me great produce, oils, cheeses, meats and fish at killer prices. San Gabriel Superstore exposes me to ingredients I don't always know - and gives me fresh crab and lobster at great prices. Plus great asian condiments.

                                                        So hooray for our ethnic markets - they show us how flavorful, interesting - and cheap! - the world can be!