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Feb 5, 2012 01:15 PM

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" 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.