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What to buy at an asian market?


I am trekking to one pretty soon and will not be able to visit it often because of the distance and the price of gas.

What would you guys suggest to stock up on?

Am thinking all things that the grocery store marks up 10 fold
-oyster sauce
-hoisin sauce
-sesame oil
-maybe soy but I don't know much about soy outside of kikkoman

-also noodles (probably dry for storage)
-wrappers that aren't like brittle paper (guess they would be fresh or frozen)

-some sort of bean paste-not sure what kind

anything else I should grab? or any feedback on the list?

(will pick up vegs or any fresh fish if they have them i suppose)

what about dried shrimp or mushrooms? any suggestions are welcome.

Thanks if you write back

I will post after I make my trip if anyone is interested

  1. Define "asian market".

    Asia is big continent that encompasses no less than 48 different countries, and about 60% of the world's population.

    1. Shouldn't you get the things needed for the recipes of dishes you like to make or wish to make? That's one of the things I consider when making my shopping list.

      1. I'm assuming that "Asian Market" means a mix of mainly Chinese/Japanese/Korean/Thai, is that right?

        Personally, for non-perishables, I'd stock up on dried shitake mushrooms (the smaller ones), black woods ear fungus, dried lotus blossoms, dried tofu skins, good quality Thai spice pastes, Tom Yum Soup paste, dried seaweed of various sorts, panko, shrimp paste and fish sauce, Korean hot pepper paste, wasabi paste, bean thread noodles, thin flour noodles, udon and ramen, some packs of pickled mustard greens, rice vinegar, good sesame oil, black rice vinegar, rice, ten treasures oats, millet, Japanese curry and cream stew pastes, canned bamboo shoots, baby corn and water chestnuts, powdered clam stock. Plus some specific spices - sechuan peppercorns, star anise, pepper salt, black sesame seeds. For canned g

        For more perishable stuff, I'd probably pick up some good kimchi, salted duck eggs, soft tofu, and whatever meat and vegetables looked good at the moment.

        And of course, browsing the snack and drink section for whatever looks interesting....

        As an aside, the concept of generic 'Asian Market' doesn't bother me any more, given that I make special trips to stores to stock up on generic "Western Food", which can include such diverse purchases as pickled jalepenos, olive oil, pasta, chickpeas, bratwurst, dill, chili powder, yoghurt, Dr. Pepper, brie, polenta, couscous, kidney beans, Kraft Dinner, fresh mint and parsley, beets and lettuce.

        1 Reply
        1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

          That's what I thought an asian market is as well, they also sometimes have indian ingredients depending on the shop

          szechuan peppercorns definitely - the others as well, will have to copy this thread into a document and print it out!

          I had no idea there was a snack section.

          I agree with you on the 'western food' part too

        2. I have a little Asian market near me. One of the first times I stop in, knew I would be needing soy sauce soon and decided to see what they had other than the supermarket "K" brand. There must have been 5-6 different brands... and other than the words "soy sauce"... couldn't read any of the labels. I just asked for a recommendation of which one to try first. They also have fresh tofu that gets fished out of a big bucket... not something I crave, but much nicer than anything I've gotten in supermarket. Not a huge variety of veggies, but super fresh baby bok choy, chinese cabbage, scallions, snow peas. One lb bag of what was labeled "onions", but clearly shallots for $1.50. Sesame seeds... white or black... 4 oz bag (that's a LOT of SS) for $.99. Slowly working my way thru the zillions of noodles. Frozen edamame... MUCH less $ than supermarket.

          If I see something interesting I just ask... what's this and what should I do with it? People who own store are VERY willing to guide me along.

          1. I have bought inexpensive kitchen equipment at them that have lasted me decades, knives, cleavers, peelers, strainers, small cutting boards, small divided condiment bowl for dunking etc.

            2 Replies
            1. re: mrbigshotno.1

              I didn't even think of that-thanks!

              1. re: madeliner

                They almost always have sink strainers in every conceivable size, and I buy them all because I live in a house with old plumbing. They also have wonderful snacks, and tea of all kinds. I have driven 120 miles just to go to a huge Asian market, and in answer to my prayers, they opened a branch of it in my city. God is good.
                Just take your time going up and down all the aisles and keep your mind open, you'll be amazed by what you see.

            2. The most important question to ask yourself before you go is what do you like to eat and cook? There'd by no sense in telling you to stock up on fish sauce, frozen lime leaves and tamarind paste if you don't like Thai food.

              1. Thanks all-I know what I usually cook and will look for those ingredients

                1. PREMIUM oyster sauce. The good stuff you can't buy in a regular supermarket.
                  canned thai curry pastes - I'm partial to Maesri brand.
                  lots of noodles
                  GUMMY CANDIES!!!!!!!!!!!
                  Lots of jarred sauces - black bean, chile garlic - grab anything that strikes your fancy
                  Xiao Shing wine
                  Lime leaf
                  fried garlic
                  in my area, the asian markets have cheaper/better tofu.
                  Coconut milk
                  good rices (glutinous, sushi, jasmine)
                  sushi staples if needed - (nori, wasabi, frozen tobiko or masago, rice vinegar)

                  These are some of my staples when thinking about Asian (as in Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Korean, and not Indian)

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: gordeaux

                    xiao sing wine is pretty cheap and good, what do you look for, dark or clear, brands are in chinese and change all the time.
                    peeled garlic is handy. herbs are reasonable. sprouts are fresh. asian eggplants are better than regular globe eggplant. fresh mushrooms very reasonable. won ton skins. fried tofu. chinese sausage. i like bottled takuan pickles and umeboshi. korean mochi much cheaper than japanese.
                    banana sauce,hot style but sweeter than ketchup for omirice and dipping wontons. sweet chili sauce, sambol olec, rooster sauce, korean bbq sauce, tonkatsu sauce. teas. dried mustard.
                    has anyone used free fish frying or steaming service? many let you choose fish, clean it, throw it in fryer or steamer. salt only. i have never used this service.
                    during holidays, new year, many stock virgina dry cured ham.
                    some have deli with chau shu, though it is getting kind of spendy at about $10/lb. roast duck and roast internal pig parts on weekends that they always sell out. bao dumplings
                    grocery store sushi. some is pretty good, some not. but never as bad as costco or trader joe sushi, those are the worst.

                  2. Fish sauce - literally lasts FOREVER (although I do keep mine in the fridge)

                    Chinese preserved black beans (also lasts FOREVER in an air-tight container in the pantry) - indispensable in SO many Chinese dishes.

                    Chile-Garlic Sauce - the Huy Fong brand (rooster insignia on the jar) is the best.

                    If you like spicy food - HOT (as in spicy) sesame oil, since very few supermarkets carry it.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: Bacardi1

                      Fish sauce does not last forever. It should be translucent amber in color. If it's turned dark and opaque like soy sauce, it's time to replace it.

                      Mr Taster

                      1. re: Mr Taster

                        Well, has never happened to me while keeping it in my fridge. Never.

                        1. re: Bacardi1

                          Fish sauce definitely does not last forever as Mr. Taster has said. It does not become toxic, but it becomes bad as in bad tasting. ThinkDashi. Fish sauce should not be placed in a refrigerator anyway. It, in no way, preserves it. If anything, it makes the salt catalyzes out, which is bad.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            Shoot- I figured it would last forever, what about an AC house that never gets over 74 degrees?Do I need to keep it in the fridge?

                            1. re: EWSflash

                              Hi EW,

                              It doesn't last forever forever, but keep in mind that I am not talking about the sauce goes toxic, but rather it starts to acquire the "less than fresh" favor. You can safely consume it even after it has acquired a "less than fresh" taste.

                              After you first opened the cap, you should able to store it for a year to two without trouble, possibly up to 3-4 years. Most importantly, you should judge by the change of the product itself. The color will start to turn dark and opaque as Mr. Taster has accurately described. The taste will get stronger, but also a less than fresh taste -- mushy. The salt starts to catalyze out. It is not unhealthy to consume it. It just isn't in its "top" quality.



                              I think storing fish sauce at room temperature is fine. If needed, you can try to put it in the warmer part of the refrigerator like the refrigerator door (not as cold). I don't do it because it could catalyze the salt out if left too cold.

                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                Opps. I mean to say "musty" not "mushy"

                      2. re: Bacardi1

                        I've purchased the very spicy sesame oil but it's been years. Reason for its purchase was the inclusion of it in a recipe for a dipping sauce for gyoza's I was making. The filling for them was very simple and needed a spunk of some sort, therefore the umph of the spicy oil really helped.
                        Seem to remember it being on the pricy side at my Hughes Market way back then ($4+) which was ok because it lasted me a very long time in the frig. Obviously you'd have a better selection of this one item in the store you're speaking of, meaning brands etc whereas I was happy to see one brand-one size @ Hughes.

                        Mentioned previously on a thread some time ago which I agree to heartily is a bag of shallots.They can be expensive little buggers in the market. I bought a big ole bag of them in Bogota which I immediately planted when I got home. Yesterday in a specialy market I got another bag of large sized shallots for $1.99. There are probably 15 in there, I'll plant them too.

                      3. Kewpie Mayonnaise.
                        Miso paste in tubs.
                        Black bean and garlic paste in bottles.
                        Commercially bottled Kimchi.
                        Cincalok pickled shrimp sauce.
                        Tamarind paste.
                        Lingham's hot sauce.
                        Mushroom flavored soy sauce.
                        Kekap Manis {thick sweet soy}

                        1. Snacks. I probably fill half my cart with snack items. It's hard to make recommendations overall--it's like asking what to buy at a regular grocery store. Everyone buys something there or they wouldn't carry it. Bring a cooler w/ ice so you can buy frozen/refrigerated items. I always get different types of dumplings, They come in handy for lunch/dinner when we're rushing around. Curry in a box, again for a quick and easy meal. For the rest, as condiments, spices, etc. go, I don't think I could begin, even if you narrowed down nationality.

                          11 Replies
                          1. re: chowser

                            The cooler suggestion is a great idea. I have bought dumplings, brought them home, and thrown them into the freezer, only to discover that they had melded into one big clump. You don't want them to defrost prematurely.

                            1. re: GraydonCarter

                              if you freeze homemade wontons you have to lay them separately on a sheet pan. otherwise that one big clump.

                              1. re: divadmas

                                I freeze them single layer on a baking tray, and once completely frozen, I package them in bags. If they stay frozen, they won't stick after that.

                            2. re: chowser

                              They sell premade dumplings in some markets? How good are they compared to home made?

                              I hope to get there in the next few days-this thread has so much information I am going to save it


                              1. re: madeliner

                                <They sell premade dumplings in some markets? How good are they compared to home made?>

                                The factory mass produced dumplings cannot be compared with home made dumplings. In most cases, the home made ones are better unless of course the person who made them are not very skillful. You should not treat the premade frozen dumplings as delicacy but more of convenience. I suppose you can think of them as frozen pizza -- quick, convenience and inexpensive.

                                That being said, you know how some frozen foods taste pretty bad compared to the original fresh ones, while some are reasonably good? Well, frozen dumplings belong to the latter. They are not great, but they are reasonably good.

                                One last thing, there are very inexpensive mass produced premade frozen dumplings, and there are the more expensive small scale production frozen dumplings. The prices are different, and so do the quality, just like there are different quality of frozen pizza.

                                1. re: madeliner

                                  Hmmm, loaded question--let's say they're far better than my home made but don't compare to my BIL's whose family gets together and makes it a whole day project, and do everything from scratch. It does depend on the brand. You can find Korean, japanese, soup dumplings, Chinese, Vietnamese ones, etc. I get the Chinese ones usually and soup dumplings (which need to be steamed).

                                  These are the ones I get, Way Fong. They're the ones my MIL buys and she's an amazing cook so I figure she knows the best ones. I get different varieties (packaging the same, but different colors).


                                  1. re: chowser

                                    yes, its possible to get good pre-packaged dumplings, or wontons at least. just not sure whether your grocer or supermarket will have a good range. if you can find a good pre-made option, some people will prefer buying rather than making their own dumplings because the quality of self-made can vary.

                                    here's one brand that has gotten quite good reviews. these are branded individual servings and they are pre-cooked. you can google CP shrimp wonton for more information if inclined.


                                    based on their web site, i think their products should be available in supermarkets and are not too rare. but i would also think that given that its wontons, and a very popular bite-sized food, there would be good japanese and taiwanese flash pre-packed options as well. i'm not related to them and this is just an opinion.

                                    1. re: chowser

                                      > You can find Korean, japanese, soup dumplings, Chinese, Vietnamese ones, etc.

                                      I bought some Korean dumplings which were quite different from Chinese because they contain a very crunchy veggie of some kind (maybe broccoli stem?) which doesn't really soften much even if I overcook the dumplings.

                                      1. re: GraydonCarter

                                        yes - there really should be several varieties of flash frozen types of acceptable quality, not only comparable but potentially much better than home made, depending on the context (whose home, who is making them, and whose recipe.).

                                    2. re: madeliner

                                      The frozen dumplings I have bought have been identical to the ones served in several of the typical Chinese and Japanese restaurants in my area. I am sure that some of the more authentic places make their own in house, but certainly many if not most buy them premade.
                                      Having once worked where my job included institutional food service purchase orders, I can assure you that diners would be shocked at the proportion of menu items in affordable non-chain restaurants that are made by the likes of Campbell's.

                                      1. re: madeliner

                                        i'm very interested to see how the shopping trip turns out!

                                        have fun - if possible, post what you bought here.. i think we would all love to know.

                                    3. I share ipsedixit's reaction.... imagine if someone visiting from Venezuela came up to you and said "What should I buy in a North American market?" Granted, we only have three countries, but even so - where do you even begin? The question is so broad as to be kind of absurd.

                                      But anyway, since your profile says you like Cooks Illustrated recipes, you should take note that for many of their Chinese recipes they substitute brandy for traditional xiao xing (pronounced sort of like "shao shing") wine because they assume most Americans won't be able to get it. Xiao xing wine is the amber colored Chinese rice wine-- the clear one is michiu, and has a different flavor and aroma. Since it's alcohol, it will last forever in your pantry. Also consider things like black and white rice vinegar which will similarly last indefinitely in your pantry. There was a recent post about sichuan broad bean paste that you may want to read up on. http://www.fuchsiadunlop.com/sichuan-...

                                      Mr Taster

                                      1. - YES to dried mushrooms. It's one of my pantry staples because they can last a long time. Just make sure to keep it in an airtight container after you open them because they are normally packaged in non-resealable plastic bags.

                                        - If you want, try getting some Chinese soy sauce as well as Kikkoman. However, Kikkoman alone is usually good for most dishes that require soy.

                                        - Wonton wrappers, though perishable. I think they can be frozen, but I'm not entirely sure.

                                        - Any vegs that you can't get easily at your usual market, like bok choy, jicama, pea sprouts, etc

                                        - When grabbing sesame oil, be sure to read the label carefully because a lot of sesame oils are blended with soybean oil. Look for "pure sesame oil," they're normally packaged in small glass bottles.

                                        - Sriracha in the squeeze bottle and/or garlic-chili paste that comes in plastic jars and green lids.

                                        - Rice vinegar

                                        - Miso paste, white is the most versatile.

                                        - Mirin and/or Chinese cooking wine

                                        - Gochujang, a slightly sweet Korean chili paste, but only if you like to cook Korean food, like soondubu jjigae or bibimbap

                                        - Kombu, if you cook a lot of Japanese food; it's also essential for miso soup

                                        - Dashi, again if you like making miso soup and other Japanese soups

                                        - Tofu, though it is perishable. Firm tofu is very versatile, prefried tofu is great with stir-fries.

                                        - Roasted seaweed snacks (YUM)

                                        - Do you make a lot of pies? Rice flour is very helpful for rolling out pie dough because it doesn't develop gluten, so it won't make your dough tough like using regular flour to roll it out.

                                        - If you're into it, try grabbing a few instant noodle soup packs or bowls. Not exactly healthy, but they're cheap and fun to try out since most Asian markets have a huge selection.

                                        Man, that's all I can think of for now. Good luck, and have fun! :)

                                        1. Yes to what everybody has said, plus a few of my own oddball faves: hot chile oil, which I combine with olive oil for marinating pork or chicken to grill; frozen dim-sum dumpling items, for nice cross-cultural weekend breakfasts of steamed dumplings (with dipping sauce) and scrambled eggs; European/Asian-market Ovaltine, made to the formula they sold here before they made it less interesting and much sweeter. I love to make banana-Ovaltine milkshakes!

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Will Owen

                                            Hot sesame oil - of course! It's a basic essential. To perk up supermarket beefsteaks, I douse 'em with soy sauce, hot oil, and garlic powder.

                                            Then while I'm there I like to get a selection of packets of instant noodles with flavorings like you would never find among the Top Ramen assortment at Safeway.

                                            I always like to have a supply of star anise (cheap and last forever). One or two will add a nice dimension to beef or chicken stews.

                                            Packages of dry noodles, of course. Three or four types. Leftover chicken and gravy mixed with noodles and bean sprouts are one of my favorite throw-together things.

                                            And I always get shrimp chips. These are a fluffy and crunchy alternative to potato chips, and Asian markets are just about the only place you'll find them. I get extras and give them to my friends.

                                          2. there are some unusual flavored canned drinks. i like the soursop soda. not so much the jelly drinks. canned coffee is ok. not crazy about coconut water.

                                            1. My favorite Asian Market is called "Asian Market". The OP is not the only one with the vague reference, the proprietors are just as vague for the most part. There are numerous Markets all around me with the same name...you don't know what is actually inside until you walk in the front door. My favorite one is mainly Chinese.

                                              I buy all my green tea there, I buy soy sauces, noodles, vinegar and dried spices. The canned straw mushrooms are half price compared to anywhere else.

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: sedimental

                                                This was the reaction I had as well. I've been to "Asian Markets' in many different areas and I have always seen a mix. Depending upon the neighborhood, It could be predominately more Vietnamese or Chinese in my experience. I always thought they left the name vague on purpose.

                                                1. re: sedimental

                                                  There are many ethnic markets in my area, and they are clearly delineated as to what cuisines or countries of origin they are focused on.

                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                    That's because you live in an extraordinary part of the country. Missirish has jogged loose some memories from my previous life in the Midwest, where we did indeed have an "Asian Market" in a little red barn off the side of the highway that catered to the rainbow of international Asian students who attended my University. The nearest actual Chinatown would have been Chicago, six hours by car.

                                                    Sadly, I never bothered to go there while I was in school (I remember being a little intimidated by the place at the time), but I did pop my post-Chowhound, post-San Gabriel Valley head in there several years back. It was indeed as Missirish describes it... Indian lentils, wonton skins, lots of jarred sauces from several regions in Asia, etc. Most of what I saw was dried, frozen, or vacuum sealed, and a considerable amount of their products were stamped with a Monterey Park address label.

                                                    N.B. There's now a second market in the area which distinguishes itself as being an "Oriental Market".

                                                    Mr Taster

                                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                                      I also have one that is called "Asia Oriental Market"....
                                                      I have found this to be typical in many places, not just smaller towns, Seattle has "Oriental Mart".

                                                    2. re: ipsedixit

                                                      In my area, they can be pretty generic, with Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese, etc. all in one. They are owned by one nationality and might cater a little more to that, but they carry all foods. Some are called "international" markets. And, many carry South/Central American food. There is a distinction w/ middle eastern/asian markets which are small.

                                                  2. I don't think regular grocery stores mark up more than 2-fold, let's alone 10-fold. However, I do believe that regular grocery stores have poor selection and often unauthentic goods.

                                                    I agree with you that oyster, hoisin, sesame oil and soy sauce are all great buy in an Asian market. Kikkoman is good, but if you are going to an Asian supermarket, then you might as well NOT buy Kikkoman. I recommend Koon Chun Thin Soy Sauce if you like Chinese (especially Cantonese) cooking:


                                                    Very favorful, minimal simple ingredient list, inexpensive.

                                                    Dry noodles are great. I agree.

                                                    Dried shrimp and dried mushrooms are great too. Do you think you will use them?

                                                    It sounds to me that you pretty much know what to get already. Great.

                                                    How about look for some inexpensive China too? Oh yes, if you are into Chinese dim sum making, then I strongly recommend you to buy a bag of "Wheat Starch". It is almost impossible to get that from regular grocery stores. You can get green tea ice cream if you like it. Hmmm. Some people like those frozen Chinese dumplings. I am not a huge fan of that, but many love those. One more thing. Do you like Chinese sausages? Get those too if you like.


                                                    17 Replies
                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                      Well, in addition to everything mentioned above, an Asian market usually has a HUGE selection of rice, including unusual varieties like black rice or red rice ("like brown rice, only prettier!"), tea, miso, and tofu, as well as noodles.

                                                      One of the Asian markets in my town has unique noodles (corn noodles, oat noodles, black-rice noodles that cook up purple); the other has a few with shrimp or scallop flavor incorporated into the noodles (instead of in a separate flavor packet).

                                                      Some things I usually look for:

                                                      "Instant" rice noodles -- just add to hot liquid and they're ready in 3 minutes.
                                                      Toasted sesame oil -- don't be ripped off by the American grocery store.
                                                      Shallots -- best price in town!
                                                      Mung bean sprouts -- ditto.
                                                      King Oyster mushrooms (fresh) -- ditto, ditto. $20 at the gourmet mart, $4 at the Asian grocery, same size package.
                                                      Shrimp paste

                                                      If you like cooking Japanese, don't overlook the soba noodles and bonito flakes.
                                                      Korean, kimchi.
                                                      Vietnamese, pho noodles.
                                                      Thai, canned coconut milk and curry pastes, unless you make them from scratch.
                                                      Chinese, fermented black beans and maltose (the secret ingredient in those red, sticky ribs!)
                                                      East Indian, basmati rice, garlic paste (I like Laxmi brand the best), ginger-garlic paste, red lentils, chickpea flour (besan), spices, ghee, yogurt. Tamarind paste or bricks if you use 'em.

                                                      Don't know about your area, but around here the Asian markets are the only places, generally, to find goat meat, chicken feet, or black-skinned chickens. Like goat, like black chicken, have never tried chicken feet! This week I'm on a quest for beef tendon to make soup, and the first Asian market I tried didn't have it.

                                                      I also frequently buy premade frozen dumplings for wonton soup / gyoza. Some brands are better than others, though.

                                                      1. re: Chowbird

                                                        For someone who obviously knows their way around an Asian market,I am really surprised you've never tried chicken feet.

                                                        1. re: Duppie

                                                          Duppie wrote:

                                                          [quote]For someone who obviously knows their way around an Asian market,I am really surprised you've never tried chicken feet.[/quote]

                                                          I wouldn't mind trying them if I could find them in a restaurant, but homemade is waaaay too much trouble. FYI, I live in a small Southern town with delusions of grandeur and two colleges, so most of the Chinese restaurants are student-centered, all-you-can-eat buffets.

                                                          1. re: Chowbird

                                                            ....so I guess Dim Sum is out of the question....It's really not that difficult to cook at home. Growing up my mothers would make "scratch",Chicken feet cooked in a pressure cooker with soy,sugar,5 spice,ginger and hot peppers or "souse" in vinegar,onions,garlic,cucumbers and peppers as usual.

                                                            1. re: Chowbird

                                                              chicken feet are a staple in my home-made broth. i buy feet, heads and backs at a nearby asian market any time i want to make a big batch of chicken broth.

                                                              there are 2 types of "asian" markets in my orbit. one is primarily vietnamese-cambodian and does not carry any kind of japanese products and very little in the way of chinese stuff. another is owned by koreans and is like a giant superstore for most things asian. of the first type, there are several i can walk to, but the latter requires a car.

                                                              lots of good suggestions offered here for the op, but most important is not to be like a kid in a candy store and blow money on stuff you will never use. many items listed upthread are ingredients i never ever use, so what's the point.

                                                              take your first trip, take your time, browse the aisles, (is it a big store? is it far away?) make some purchases and see how the quality is relative to price. you can always go back.

                                                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                Amen, hotoynoodle! I went crazy and bought a crapload of exotic stuff at my giant new international market with no clear plan for using it.

                                                                What I have learned to do is buy ingredients that are mostly familiar which are good deals there...Cilantro and scallions for 15 cents
                                                                Giant pkg of ginger for $.99
                                                                Potatoes 3# for $.79
                                                                Fish and meat that are much fresher than Kroger.

                                                                I am buying some of the other stuff but as much as I enjoy looking at all of it and as curious as I am to try it, I am not primarily an Asian cook and don't have the time right now to become one so I have to be realistic about that.

                                                                1. re: Bliss149

                                                                  I do the same. One thing to keep in mind is how much produce you can actually use before it goes bad. It's tempting to buy a crate of mangos, asian pears and persimmons because they look so good and prices are great. I have the same problems w/ vegetables.

                                                          2. re: Chowbird

                                                            Excellent suggestions. Great stuffs.

                                                          3. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                            For Chinese cooking maybe non-Kikkoman is ok, but if you are cooking Japanese then Kikkoman is the only option :P If I use anything other then Kikkoman I will never hear the end of it.

                                                            1. re: TeRReT

                                                              Hmm... there must be another Japanese brand beside Kikkoman. :P

                                                              Seriously, won't there any some well respect small family run shoyu. What about Yamasa?

                                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                I am sure there are some small family run brands and other value brand, but seriously all my fiance has ever had is Kikkoman. When she visited my family in Canada one time we used vh1 (horrible soy sauce) it was a poor experience for her. She said everyone she knows uses only Kikkoman.

                                                                1. re: TeRReT

                                                                  :) Maybe you can tell her that you want a gluten free diet, and VH1 soy sauce is gluten free unlike Kikkoman. :D


                                                                  (Check out the nutrition facts tab)

                                                                      1. re: huiray

                                                                        Great suggestion for San J, which I have learned is a great brand for gluten free diet. I do not need gluten free diet, but I did read about this. I think these will be helpful for people who are really looking into gluten free diet.

                                                                        I was mostly teasing TeRReT about gluten free because I want to justify the "greatness "of VH1 soy sauce to him. I think it would be very funny if he uses that line with his fiance. I know it will never happen, but it was fun to think if he really did.

                                                              2. thanks you guys for all the help!

                                                                5 Replies
                                                                1. re: madeliner


                                                                  Don't just focus on that part of the conversation. I think most of the replies are quiet helpful to your initial question, don't you think? :) I would just focus on the answers which are more helpful to you and further discuss those -- if needed.

                                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                    you are right of course-knee jerk reaction I guess.

                                                                    there were so many helpful posts-and I did add some things to my list and learned new things as well, I am going to reply to them all-

                                                                    Thank you all who wrote-I will post back what I buy

                                                                    1. re: madeliner

                                                                      Love to hear your adventure and experience.

                                                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                        Thanks I'll post back-and yes I am editing my snarky post :)

                                                                        1. re: madeliner

                                                                          Let me say, I understand where you were coming from. It is very normal. On the other hand, I kind of understand where those people are coming from too. I think this is because there were often questions along the line of "How do I cook Asia food?" or "What is a good Asia restaurant?"

                                                                          As you can imagine, Chinese foods are very different than Afghan foods. That being that, I think "Asian market" is nearly as confusing as"Asian restaurant", just like you said about "Western supermarket". I can go on and on about this, but at the end, I didn't think your initial question was all that confusing (to me anyway), which is why I simply answered your question the best I could.

                                                                2. I have an invaluable paperback (available on Amazon) called The Asian Grocery Store Demystified. It exolains the flavor and usage of a hugh variety of products, including recommended brands, and selection guidelines for fresh items. There is a brief section of representative recipes. Do not judge it by the index, which is not as comprehensive as one would like. If you are looking for info on a particular product and there's nothing in the index, go to the chapter on the broader category it is in (e.g. dried seafood) and it will probably be there.

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: greygarious

                                                                    sounds great thanks-I'll look for it- the most confusing to me are the vegetables (and yes the sauces as well)

                                                                    1. re: madeliner

                                                                      Aside from the usual items that don't need refrigeration, the main thing that lures me to Asian supermarkets is the array of non-Western leafy greens. In the refrigerator, placed loosely in open plastic bags or wrapped in paper towels, most of them stay in good shape for up to a week.

                                                                  2. PRODUCE! I've been buying most of my fresh veggies & fruits at the local pan-Asian supermarket for awhile now. They don't carry a lot of salad greens but the prices are significantly lower than mainstream supermarkets for most everything else. And they stock smaller quantities so I think the turnover is fairly fast, meaning it's fresh.

                                                                    +1 on gummy candies,a mild addiction of mine- I can't keep away from the Kasugai lychee gummies. Also kiwi and melon.

                                                                    Endless varieties of crunchy salty savory snacks!

                                                                    For a soya sauce I highly recommend Wuan Chuang. This stuff was as much a step up for me as when I switched twenty years ago from black saltwater to Kikkoman. Adds real depth and dimension anywhere you'd use soya, and it's naturally brewed. Has undertones reminiscent of miso. Can be a little hard to pick out because the only English on the front is small print at the bottom, but it's worth looking for. Label is orange and yellow; I'll try to find a photo.

                                                                    Another convenience product I like to keep on hand is the boxes of curry sauce in cubes. A great easy meal for when I'm feeling lazy. They come in several grades of spiciness.

                                                                    1. Here's a link to a photo of the Wuan Chuang bottle- next to it in the picture is a truly excellent hot sauce, Lao Gan Ma, which I also enjoy in small amounts despite its MSG and preservatives- a little bit goes a long way. The Wuan Chuang is all natural though.


                                                                      You might check out the post that photo is linked to, for much more info about the two products and a good spicy noodle recipe.

                                                                      1. There seems to be more variation in the quality - and prices - of oyster sauces than in the quality and prices of any other "sauce." My rule is to ignore price - they're all relatively inexpensive - and find the label that lists "oyster extractives" as the first ingredient, The only one I've found that does so is the Lee Kum Kee "Premium Oyster Flavored Sauce". The label sports an unforgettable "painting" of what seem to be a mother (paddling) and a son (poling) a "sampan" loaded with mega-oysters whose shells are in various stages of open-ness.

                                                                        25 Replies
                                                                        1. re: SichuanFan

                                                                          The LKK Premium Oyster Flavored Sauce is the best one according to my HK wife. This is the only one she will use. We've found good deals in the past in the Korean stores (H-Mart) where they apparently mispriced them (along the lines of the inferior brands), and we snapped them up.

                                                                          1. re: SichuanFan

                                                                            Since we are talking about Oyster sauce, then I am going to discuss it as well. There are indeed great variations in quality of oyster sauces. Oyster sauce was in fact invented by Lee Kam Sheung (李錦裳), the founder of Lee Kum Kee.

                                                                            Lee Kum Kee Premium Oyster Flavored Sauce is very good. It has oyster extract as the first ingredient which means it is the heaviest ingredient. The other Lee Kum Kee (LKK) Oyster sauces are of lower quality by diluting the oyster ingredient. The other oyster sauce which I recommend is Sa Cheng. It also has oyster extractives as the first ingredient, but its ingredient list is even more pure than LKK. Here, the first photo displays the two oyster sauce.

                                                                            The second photo shows the ingredients of LKK:
                                                                            Oyster extractives, sugar, water, MSG, salt, modified corn starch, wheat flour, and caramel color.

                                                                            The third photo describes the Sa Cheng ingredients:
                                                                            Oyster extraotives [spelling?], water, corn starch, color with caramel.

                                                                            In short, Sa Cheng oyster sauce has no added MSG.

                                                                            To make this slightly more complicated, there are a few brands of oyster sauce which also are called Sa Cheng, but the one I show here is the best one. So be careful and check out the ingredients.

                                                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                This 14-year-old comparative tasting of oyster sauces may interest you, if only because the tasters did not like whatever type of Sa Cheng oyster sauce it was that they tried. It interested me because two brands I think are inferior to Lee Kum Kee Premium - Amoy and LKK's lesser Panda - were preferred over LKK Premium. Chacun a son gout....


                                                                                1. re: SichuanFan

                                                                                  Thanks. I have not read it, and will find time to do, but this following statement bothers me:

                                                                                  <Amoy and LKK's lesser Panda - were preferred over LKK Premium>

                                                                              2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                Thanks for enlightenment about oyster sauces and for Sa Cheng pic. Look forward to comparing that sauce with LKK Premium ("sampan" picture).

                                                                                BTW, since I'm unfamiliar with the producer address shown in the Sa Cheng label pic, would you tell me exactly where in China (province/city/county/town) the Sa Cheng you like is manufactured?

                                                                                1. re: SichuanFan

                                                                                  <Thanks for enlightenment about oyster sauces and for Sa Cheng pic>

                                                                                  Yes, it is indeed a very cool story. Lee Kam Sheung was an oyster stand seller. He accidentally invented the oyster sauce by overcooked his foods. Then he decided to serve it. Got famous. Aborted the restaurant business and opened his sauce factory -- thus the beginning of Lee Kam Kee. The story also includes bandits and stuffs. :)

                                                                                  By the way, just to be clear, I wasn't criticizing what you wrote. My previous post was more for the original poster than for you, but I decided to "reply" to your post just to kept the oyster sauce discussions all together.

                                                                                  I don't know exactly the address either. The only one I know is that it is (obviously) from China, Canton -- a southern province. On the label, you can see Kwung Tung, which is also spelled Canton or Gungdong.

                                                                                  "Guangdong is a province on the South China Sea coast of the People's Republic of China. The province was previously often written with the alternative English name Kwangtung Province. "


                                                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                    No criticism felt - I was quite pleased by your "enlightenment" re LKK history and would even appreciate links to your sources (English only or computer-translatable, I'm afraid).

                                                                                    As Pearl River Delta (Guangdong) seems to have been where Lee Kam Sheung invented oyster sauce, it makes sense that Sa Cheng, too, would be operating from that area.

                                                                                    1. re: SichuanFan

                                                                                      Wikipedia has the story too.

                                                                                      "The founder, Lee Kum Sheung ... formed the Lee Kum Kee company in 1888....

                                                                                      Lee Kum Sheung made his early living by running a tiny eatery that sold cooked oysters. One day, he was cooking oyster as usual, but he lost track of time until he smelt a strong aroma. Lifting the lid of the pot, he noticed that the normally clear oyster soup had turned into a thick, brownish sauce which astonished him with an unparalleled aroma and incredibly delicious taste. He started to sell this new invention which turned out to be very popular. So in 1888, he formed Lee Kum Kee Oyster Sauce House to mass produce oyster sauce for sale."


                                                                                      I think most people know Lee Kum Kee brand of oyster sauce is very good, but most do not know that the founder of Lee Kum Kee invented the oyster sauce, and in turn, the oyster sauce gave birth to the company.

                                                                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                        The Wikipedia entry sounds to me like a corporate P.R. myth - but an appealing one, absent other sources.

                                                                                        And one must admire the enormous business success of LKK.

                                                                                        1. re: SichuanFan

                                                                                          Which part sounds mythical to you? That you don't think this person actually existed or that this person invented oyster sauce.

                                                                                          PR. maybe, but it is not a myth. There was indeed a person called Lee Kum Sheung, and we know he was the first to sell oyster sauce ~1888, so we are not talking some mythical figures with little historical record. In fact, LKK used to ONLY sell oyster sauce. It wasn't until later that the LKK starts to sell other stuffs.


                                                                                          Think of it just like the invention of Coca Cola. It isn't that mythical. They are both invented in the same timeline.

                                                                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                            No issue with the basic facts/timelines of the LKK and Coca-Cola narratives. As an investigative journalist, I'm prone to checking the tiniest details and hypersensitive to spin. For examples: Did the Coca-Cola inventor really formulate his beverage to be one of the many cocaine-based tonics of 19th C. America? (The record says, probably yes.) Did Lee Kum Sheung really forget to check his oyster pot? (Don't know the record, but other cooks/chefs are supposed to have discovered recipes by having inadvertently overcooked something.)

                                                                                            No offense. I am indeed grateful for your enlightenments re oyster sauces, both LKK Premium and Sa Cheng (Premium?).

                                                                                            "All people have opinions; some people know facts; no person can say for sure what happened."

                                                                                            1. re: SichuanFan

                                                                                              <Did Lee Kum Sheung really forget to check his oyster pot?>

                                                                                              I see what you are getting at. Good point.

                                                                                              <but other cooks/chefs are supposed to have discovered recipes by having inadvertently overcooked something.>

                                                                                              It is more than just a mild overcooking. It really really really overcooked. In other words, it wasn't a difference between cooking 10 minute vs 20 minutes. More like 10 minutes vs 5-6 hours or longer.

                                                                                              In addition, I don't see the benefits of lying about something like this. It being an accidental discovery or an intentional invention does not matter. Either way is a good story. Because the important point is that this person invented oyster sauce, and in turn the oyster sauce created the company.

                                                                                              Think chocolate chip cookies or Teflon or StickyPad or microplane...etc.

                                                                                              I am a research scientist by training and by career. You will be amazed how many of the things are accidental discoveries vs designed discoveries. Most accidental scientific discoveries were observed many many many times before, but it takes only one person to "see" it.

                                                                                              Newton discovery of gravity may very well be sparked by an apple falling on him. Obviously, that was just the spark, and it took much more works and effects to understand gravity, but it got him interested. I doubt the very first overcooked oyster sauce is anywhere close to the produce we have today. Most likely he completely overcooked the oyster, and it turned into some thick gummy ugly thing, but all of its faults, it gave a strong scent. Some people would simply toss it. Other people would toss it and then see a potential "Hmm, maybe if I keep trying and make a few twists....maybe it will taste good." I understand where you are coming from, but I am just saying that from my experience many findings are started by accidents. I would actually be more surprised if oyster sauce is a pure design discovery as opposed to an accidental finding. I don't see, say someone wakes up in the morning out of the blue decide: "Today, I am going to cook my lobsters in pot of water for hours until it turn black and gummy to make a special sauce".

                                                                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                This isn't (entirely) a tease: If anybody makes a much-reduced sauce of lobsters comparable to the much-reduced oyster sauces of LKK and Sa Cheng, please tell me the producer's name so I can find some to taste.

                                                                                                1. re: SichuanFan

                                                                                                  :) You can always do it yourself and tell us.

                                                                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                    Lack experience re much-reduced seafood sauces and would rather somebody else find out....

                                                                                                2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                  I concur with the prevalence of accidental discovery vs. intentional design. Also - strongly - with simultaneous, inter-dependent, somewhat aleatory development of breakthrough technologies, most famously, planar semiconductors.

                                                                                                  Perhaps accidental discovery is likeliest when the product is most practical, like oyster sauce or the microplane (whose designers, having extrapolated from centuries of rasp design, had no idea that a wood-working tool would achieve its greatest success as a culinary tool).

                                                                                                  I would demur about chocolate chip cookies (not an invention: non-standard recipe, neither patent-able nor copyright-able nor trademark-able). Also, on balance, about Teflon, which was the product of DuPont's famously fecund - and targeted - research program. But I don't know enough facts about the history

                                                                                                  The narrative about Post-It notes does lend support to the accidental discovery viewpoint, but Post-It notes were, after all, a product of 3M's uniquely large and steady investments in R&D targeted to adhesives ("uniquely" compared, anyway, with Eastman Chemicals, Bayer, and even DuPont.) Super Glue - cyanoacrylic - may well be another story, but I know nothing about it..

                                                                                                  1. re: SichuanFan

                                                                                                    <about Teflon, which was the product of DuPont's famously fecund - and targeted>

                                                                                                    No. Teflon was an accidental discovery. You can look it up. Just to be clear, DuPont owns Teflon through indirect relationship. It did not invent it. In other words, I won't credit DuPont involvement too much.

                                                                                                    This is getting rather far from the original topic. Anyway. :)

                                                                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                      ...except that Roy Plunkett was working in a lab co-funded by DuPont and GM :-)

                                                                                                      1. re: SichuanFan

                                                                                                        Kinda of distance though. :) Regardless how you see Kinetic Chemicals, Teflon was an accidental discovery. :P

                                                                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                          No argument about accidental-ness of the discovery of Teflon and of many other "discoveries." I meant only that "discoveries" such as Teflon and Post-It notes are more likely to be made by people working in corporate-funded or government-funded or university-funded labs. As you know, a usual price one pays to work in such labs is assigning one's patents and most of one's royalties to one's employer.

                                                                                                          Fortunately, when Lee Kam Sheung invented oyster sauce, he was self-employed.

                                                                                                3. re: SichuanFan

                                                                                                  Your post sounds like spin to me. ;-)

                                                                                                  1. re: huiray

                                                                                                    Issue isn't whether or not the LKK narrative is spin - most narratives are exactly that: stories, and thus not susceptible to rigorous fact checking.

                                                                                                    The verifiable histories of science and technology - the verifiable histories of new principles and new applications - support Chemicalkinetics' view that accident is more frequent than intention (and that perception of nexus, a.k.a.the "aha moment" or "creativity", underlies all; anybody - LOL - want to found a thread called "Perceptions of Culinary Nexus"?)

                                                                                                    But I do draw the line at chocolate-chip cookies: non-standard recipe, not an invention, neither patent-able, nor copyright-able, nor trademark-able. Maybe Chemicalkinetics was referring to the technology for making "chocolate chips," but I don't know anything about the verifiable history. (Don't much like cookies.)

                                                                                                    1. re: SichuanFan

                                                                                                      <But I do draw the line at chocolate-chip cookies>

                                                                                                      My point is that many creations (patent-able or not) were started by accidents. I did mean the chocolate chip cookies, not just the chips.

                                                                                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                        Point taken, though I'd deny that chocolate-chip cookies are a "creation" of anything unique or new, or the result of an "aha" moment. But yes - I've been too rigorous. specially about the history of a cookie.

                                                                                2. in addition to what's already been suggested, i just made a list of "less common" items in the normal US supermarket, unless you can get them, i'm not sure whether you actually want them. these will keep for some time (not all) and you can look for recipes to fit them in. these are items that are specific in terms of flavour and important to some commonly known "Asian" dishes (thai, se asian, etc)

                                                                                  - gulah melaka or palm sugar
                                                                                  - small chillis - chili padi, or large red/green chillis
                                                                                  - kaffir lime leaves (these will not keep long i think)
                                                                                  - kalamansi limes
                                                                                  - tempeh beancurd
                                                                                  - salted fish
                                                                                  - dried shrimp

                                                                                  - various thick shrimp-infused pastes/sauces should be available
                                                                                  - various superior sesame oils (dark)
                                                                                  - various superior rice wine vinegars
                                                                                  - some pre-packed rempahs, or curry pastes would be a good idea if you are inclined

                                                                                  starches that you may want to try
                                                                                  - black or forbidden rice
                                                                                  - sushi rice
                                                                                  - red rice

                                                                                  - ghee

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: timpani_mimi

                                                                                    I wouldn't consider tempeh that unusual of an ingredient.

                                                                                    1. re: jpc8015

                                                                                      Yes, rice by all means. There are so many kinds of fantastic rice that never make an appearance in a regular supermarket. My favorite is Tamaki Haiga, in a beige-colored plastic bag.

                                                                                      1. re: woodleyparkhound

                                                                                        There have been a lot of varieties of rice that have shown up in traditional markets in recent years but the variety you can find at a good Asian maret may blow your mind.

                                                                                        1. re: jpc8015

                                                                                          So scary. :P

                                                                                          In reality, the Asian markets also have great variety of noodles too. Yes, there are many pasta in normal supermarkets, but they are usually made of the same ingredients into different shapes. The Asian markets have noodles of all kind of ingredients. Wheat vs rice vs mung beans vs sweet potatoes....etc, etc.

                                                                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                            I love Asian noodles. It really is a weakness for me.

                                                                                            1. re: jpc8015

                                                                                              asian noodles are good. but i seldom get to an asian store. so for wheat noodles costco spaghetti makes a pretty good substitute, esp for pan fried noodle pancake.

                                                                                            2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                              After a ChowDown at an Asian market, Bob_G dragged me around the place, finally landing in the refrigerated noodle section, trying to find Rice Cakes (Nian Gao) which are glutinous rice noodle (cake) slices, cut into ovals 2 inches long, 1 inch wide. The rice cakes have to be soaked for 2 hours (up to overnight) to become soft enough to be enjoyed. The dried soup packet included was similar to ramen but was very tasty. You can also include them in stir fry like noodles.

                                                                                              1. re: GraydonCarter

                                                                                                Great! I love these plain rice cakes. I always keep one bag in my freezer, so I can always make it when I want to. Thank for this suggestion. Madeliner, ya hear?

                                                                                                1. re: GraydonCarter

                                                                                                  One of my favorites. We have frozen packets but I rarely plan ahead enough for them. If I could plan a chowdown, it would be to my MILs because she makes the best nian gao I've had anywhere.

                                                                                        2. Forgive me while I barrel in, utterly disregarding what pedantic PC definition of "Asian" is flying today, and base my answer on the grocery list you've already started. I don't have to "assume" what kind of Asians frequent your market because I have one very similar to it near me. It sounds like you are at the beginning stages of preparing some standard American-Chinese dishes. You need Fish Sauce. Even if you don't like it in bigger doses, it's an important element in Chinese and SE Asian food. If you're going to an Asian market in an attempt to make your food more "authentic" tasting, I highly recommend you discover fish sauce. Although I'm sure there are Chinese brands that would suit the food it looks like you want to cook, I really like Korean bean paste, my self, and it comes spicy (typically in the container with more red!) or non-spicy.

                                                                                          I noticed that you kind of breezed past the produce, which is where you might want to spend more of your time. The in-seeason greens (try Chinese broccoli, or gai-lan; it's similar to broccoli rabe; also some different types of cabbage like bok choy) and herbs and vegs and fruits are what make the most difference in Chinese and East Asian food that it sounds like you're going for. Things like green papaya, ginger, cilantro, and different types of basil can really elevate your meal to another level, especially if you'd like to make Thai or Vietnamese food. As you go up and down the dry-goods aisles, the sauces and pastes and noodles and the other goodies (like shirmp chips!) will naturally jump out at you, but PLEASE don't have that produce section as a "maybe/I suppose" option. It is a necessity.

                                                                                          34 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: staughton

                                                                                            >> You need Fish Sauce. Even if you don't like it in bigger doses, it's an important element in Chinese and SE Asian food.

                                                                                            Point of clarification-- fish sauce is not an important element in Chinese cooking. If anything, it's used only in border regions that share Southeast Asian cooking techniques (since it definitely is a central ingredient in several Southeast Asian cuisines). See Chiu Chow cuisine for an example of this culinary geographic/cultural "fusion".


                                                                                            Mr Taster

                                                                                              1. re: timpani_mimi

                                                                                                i like the yellow takuan japanese pickled radish that is bottled in hilo,hawaii. a small jar is on the high side of $6. has anyone found a good brand of the whole yellow pickled radish in a plastic pouch? it is much cheaper but the flourescent yellow color scares me.

                                                                                                has anyone had a good experience with the fre fish frying service comnly available?

                                                                                                when getting sesame oil check if it is pure sesame. many cheaper brands are blended with other oils.

                                                                                                1. re: divadmas

                                                                                                  Oh, MAN that takuan radish (pickled daikon) is addictive. I ate so much so quickly a couple months ago (having a little on the side of every dish, including scrambled eggs, delicious) that I started to smell a bit...off. Use with caution.
                                                                                                  ..I have a quick pickling recipe for daikon that I use myself, but of course it isn't half so delicious as the neon yellow stuff you buy in the shops.

                                                                                                  1. re: khh1138

                                                                                                    Yeah, there's something addicting about it that can't be matched w/ home made. Maybe it's the yellow dye. I love it with rice porridge (along w/ pork floss)--it adds crunchy texture, sweet, salty goodness.

                                                                                                    1. re: chowser

                                                                                                      It is definitely the yellow dye. It looks almost like some phosphorescent light

                                                                                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                        i just tried some of the whole takuan in a plastic pouch. i don't know if different brands are much different but the bottled one (spicey version with chili flakes) from hilo tastes much better. i am open to trying your favorite brand as the bottled one is getting kind of spendy. ill have to get some pork floss now.
                                                                                                        even eating small amounts of takuan can be an odoriferous experience. i like it with chau shu with chinese mustard and molded rice balls wrapped in pre seasoned and pre toasted nori. i got a plastic jar of 100 packs of nori strips for about $8. the jar contains a dessicant so leave nori in original container or it will lose crispness in a few days even though it is in plastic wrap. get the nori strips that have several nori strips wapped in plastic rather than having them loose. much more convenient and they store better.
                                                                                                        furakake flavoring for sprinkling on rice balls comes in several versions and is good. rice molds for making different shapes of rice balls are cheap and easy to use.
                                                                                                        umeboshi pickled plums are also good with rice balls. get the soft looking ones with shiso leaves. watch out for the pits.

                                                                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                          Next time I'll eat it under black light.

                                                                                                      2. re: khh1138

                                                                                                        Do you have a good brand on the pickled daikon or is it made in store?

                                                                                                        1. re: Bliss149

                                                                                                          i have never seen daikon pickld in the store, though pickled greens or store kimchee is not uncommon.
                                                                                                          i just got some 12 oz bottles labbled kula maui pickled products spiced takuan pickled radish. it is dated au 14 12 but if you dont eat it up really keeps much longer. they were high end of $6.
                                                                                                          a >footlong daikon in plastic pouch was only about $2. i really would like to find a good brand for those. the one i tried as chemically tasing.

                                                                                                2. re: staughton

                                                                                                  Actually, while Chinese Broccoli/Gai-lan is similar in APPEARANCE to Broccoli Raab/Rapini, it's flavor is completely different. Where Broccoli Raab has a somewhat bitter flavor, Gai-lan is sweet - in fact, sweeter than regular heading broccoli.

                                                                                                  1. re: Bacardi1

                                                                                                    <Where Broccoli Raab has a somewhat bitter flavor, Gai-lan is sweet - in fact, sweeter than regular heading broccoli.>

                                                                                                    Incorrect. Gai-Lan is bitter which is why people blanch it just like they do to broccoli raab. While it is not quiet as bitter as brocooli raab, it unquestionablely has bitterness to it.

                                                                                                    "Gai lan is actually not that bitter, certainly not to the extent of bitter melon. "


                                                                                                    " Its flavor is very similar to that of broccoli, but slighty more bitter"


                                                                                                    Chinese websites which also mention the bitterness (苦) of gai lan.

                                                                                                    "入口鮮嫩爽脆,**苦** 中帶甜"

                                                                                                    "用放糖和盐的水焯芥兰,可以去除芥兰的 **苦** 味"

                                                                                                    "有人話芥蘭苦, 所以要加少少糖就可以去 **苦** 味"

                                                                                                    It is likely that you have never cooked Gai Lan on your own. There are methods to minimize and to take out the bitterness of Gai Lan, but Gai Lan inherently is bitter -- which is why these methods exist in the first place. Many people also add sugar when they prepare Gai lan, so you probably confused the added sugar.

                                                                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics


                                                                                                      In addition, the commonly-found commercially-available Gai-Lan doesn't look that much like broccoli raab. It has similarities, but Gai-Lan is much bigger, both stouter and more big-leaved, and with far less flowering heads than broccoli raab.

                                                                                                      1. re: huiray

                                                                                                        A bit off topic.... but suddently these talks are making me hungry. :)

                                                                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                          Heh. Some trimmed Gai-Lan blanched in oiled boiling water, drained, drizzled with LKK Premium oyster sauce and a grind of white or black pepper - classic, simple, yummy...

                                                                                                          1. re: huiray

                                                                                                            <Some trimmed Gai-Lan blanched in oiled boiling water, drained>

                                                                                                            I do just that, although I use very little oil.

                                                                                                        2. re: huiray

                                                                                                          this comprehensive discussion is all very odd. to my mind gai lan doesn't look much like broccoli raab at all. and it isn't bitter. i have tasted both, often. not the same. they are the same dark green colour though. Bacardi1 is correct. i don't even know if i would say gai lan was "inherently" bitter. i ve actually used it in juice fasts and crunched it raw before and it has a very pleasant taste (to me).

                                                                                                          also - gai lan isn't that great. its just a vegetable, like bok choy, or chye sim. i mean - yeah, buy it if you like, but its not like... heirloom tomatoes or anything like that. i hope i'm not offending any rabid gai lan fans (hard to believe there would be any).

                                                                                                          1. re: timpani_mimi

                                                                                                            Indeed my point was that Gai-Lan does not look that much like broccoli raab, nor taste like it for that matter. But as for the bitterness, there *is* an inherent slight bitterness to it - it *isn't* just sweet like bacardi1 and you claim. The slight "bitterness" falls into the category of what is called "kum" in Cantonese, rather than a harsh bitterness. Whether it is the greatest veggie since creation or not - uhh...nobody here has said that it is. It's your projection. As for heirloom tomatoes, folks will disagree with you about *that*, even though I for one love Black Krim; but your opinion (e.g. about disbelieving there are any Gai-Lan fans) is just that - your opinion. :::Shrug::: To each his/her own.

                                                                                                            BTW one aspect of Gai-Lan that is appreciated by many Chinese folks is its crunchiness and texture that may not be thought about by other folks.

                                                                                                            1. re: huiray

                                                                                                              sorry - i was just commenting on the whole thread (its bitter, its broccoli, its not broccoli , its kind of like broccoli, chinese people say its bitter, etc) - i think i replied to your post specifically but didn't mean to. i think it was cz yours was the last post i saw in the whole Gai Lan Exchange before I replied.

                                                                                                              its a common vegetable so i just found the whole discussion odd. thats why i said it was not that great - it was in reference to someone (i think) saying not to skip buying this veggy if they go to an "Asian market." I'm just voicing out loud that.. uh, its not that great. skip it, by all means. and by saying "its not like... heirloom tomatoes or anything like that", what that means is that its not a great discovery or something that special, even if you don't encounter it every day. unlike heirloom tomatoes, which i've seen people rave about. i don't know why i pulled that example.

                                                                                                              also: i didnt say gai-lan was sweet, i said it was pleasant. i did say it wasn't bitter. i'm trying to think now.. is it really? it really isn't..

                                                                                                              and yes - everything i say is my opinion. and as a Chinese folk .. person (?), i don't appreciate gai-lan for its crunchiness, because i don't think we chinese folks eat kai-lan prepared raw and crunchy (i have, but as part of a juice fast thing, which is not normal). do we? i'm sure someone is now going to wikipedia me with some article that we do. once you cook it, its.. chewy. and because all us chinese people act uniformly and are completely homogenous in thought, cooking, belief, and our conspiratorial racial profiling of white people to keep them away from our secret and delicious menus written only in "Chinese" , i'm sure that wikipedia article will be right.

                                                                                                              1. re: timpani_mimi

                                                                                                                <because i don't think we chinese folks eat kai-lan prepared raw and crunchy >

                                                                                                                Raw no.... Crunchy? Very likely.

                                                                                                                <its.. chewy>

                                                                                                                Hmm.... a lot of people do not cook it chewy. I don't even know how it is possible to be chewy. It is either prepared as crispy and crunchy, or it can be prepared as soft and tender. I have never heard of "chewy" as a way for Gai Lan.

                                                                                                                1. re: timpani_mimi

                                                                                                                  "and because all us chinese people act uniformly and are completely homogenous in thought, cooking, belief, and our conspiratorial racial profiling of white people to keep them away from our secret and delicious menus written only in "Chinese" , i'm sure that wikipedia article will be right."

                                                                                                                  ~~~~ ha, i don't often get a laugh around here. thanks for this. ever explore the "why no cheese on seafood in italian cookery" thread? or the bolognese thread? you'll bust a gut laughing at the pedancy.

                                                                                                                  i do often buy greens when i shop at "asian" markets. those that my regular grocer doesn't carry. i don't always know what they are since they aren't labeled in english, but i like variety in my diet. plus they are always super cheap.

                                                                                                              2. re: timpani_mimi

                                                                                                                Maybe some people cannot taste it. I don't know, but it is well known to many that Gai Lan is in fact bitter. Otherwise, you won't have articles after articles talking about the techniques to remove the bitterness. In fact, if you ever go on a Chinese website about Gai Lan, it will mention its slight bitterness. So Gai Lan is certainly bitter to many people.

                                                                                                                Now, there are two main reasons why you did not notice what many can. First, you have always prepared Gai lan in a way which minimize the bitterness. For example, you may have always blanch it for a long time with some sugar and maybe even baking soda. Second, your taste receptors are weaker to notice this bitterness. Some people are more sensitive/alert to taste than others, and our taste buds are not the same. Mostly likely... it is the second explanation.

                                                                                                                ""These data answer a long-standing question about why humans differ in their ability to taste some bitter compounds," explains study co-author Danielle Reed, PhD, a Monell geneticist."


                                                                                                                Please do not take it as a criticism. Some people genetically lack the ability in distinguishing certain tastes, while others have more difficulty in distinguishing colors. I think this answers much about why Bacardi1 thinks fish sauce never goes bad. For most people, fish sauce changes its taste after some time, but Bacardi probably lacks the sensitive taste bud to notice the off tasting favor.

                                                                                                                I do love Gai Lan. It is probably one of my favorite. It is also considered one of the top Chinese delicacy.

                                                                                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                  Folks, we're not sure why anyone cares this much about the definition of 'bitter' or 'chewy', but we'd ask you to please let this sub-thread go as it's getting quite testy.

                                                                                                                2. re: timpani_mimi

                                                                                                                  I am a HUGE gai lag fan from first taste. I called the waitress over after I tried and and immediately asked her what on earth that wonderful vegetable was. Now the I always scour the menu to look to see if there is any gai lan, and I always make sure I stock up at the "Asian" market (because that is what it is near me, a catch-all Asian market).

                                                                                                                  1. re: kubasd

                                                                                                                    <I tried and and immediately asked her what on earth that wonderful vegetable was. >

                                                                                                                    Heh heh. My friend did just the same. Now, that being said, do you think you really liked the dish because of Gai Lan or because of the oyster sauce (which is often used to for Gai Lan)

                                                                                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                      I loved the texture, the flavor.... I steamed it and ate it w/ some soy sauce and sesame the first time I cooked it at home and I loved it just as much..... so I'm guessing it was the gai lan.

                                                                                                                      1. re: kubasd

                                                                                                                        The Old Sichuan in Manhattan Chinatown sautés it with dried red chilis (beaucoup of) and garlic. Spectacular. The only cooked vegetable I have ever eaten cold out of the takeaway carton in front of the fridge.
                                                                                                                        They may be related, but I really do not like broccoli raab, which has a perfumey bitterness to me. Gai lan (or 華蘭花 as they call it at the restaurant) is much tastier.

                                                                                                                        1. re: buttertart


                                                                                                                          Interesting take with soy sauce and sesame. Sounds very tasty indeed. Any sesame oil? Or just sesame? I can see pro and con for adding sesame oil. It will be more favorful, but it may also overpowered the original favor.


                                                                                                                          I agree. I prefer Gai Lan over broccoli rabe, but I don't dislike broccoli rabe. I need to give it a few more trials.

                                                                                                                          <The Old Sichuan in Manhattan Chinatown sautés it with dried red chilis ...>

                                                                                                                          Heh heh. Sichaun cuisine manages to spice up everything now.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                            Sorry, I meant sesame oil.... and by that I meant a toasted sesame oil, I don't know what I was thinking when I typed that.... whoops! I just use a touch of it, then I add some sesame seeds (either black or white depending what I have) at the end so they get a bit toasty with the residual heat... Not enough to overpower the gai lan, just enough to add the flavour :)

                                                                                                                            1. re: kubasd

                                                                                                                              Sesame seeds do sound very good. :)

                                                                                                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                                Another way I dress blanched gai-lan (or choy sum or tong ho) is with ponzu sauce and white pepper.

                                                                                                                                1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                  <ponzu sauce and white pepper.>


                                                                                                                                  I may have even tried hosin sauce once with Gai Lan, and I remember liking it.

                                                                                                                                  I definitely have tried to use soy sauce as kubasd did as well. Good stuff.

                                                                                                              3. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                Uh, I've not only bought Gai-lan at one local regular supermarket that oddly enough carries it, several Asian markets, & my local farmers market, but I've also GROWN IT myself, using seeds from a specialty Asian seed supplier. Have been cooking with it for decades, so I "think" I know what it tastes like. And I've NEVER cooked it in any dish that asked for added sugar.

                                                                                                                Don't know where you obtain yours, but mine has never been bitter at all - certainly not even slightly approaching broccoli raab. Go figure.

                                                                                                                1. re: Bacardi1

                                                                                                                  <I've not only bought Gai-lan at one local regular supermarket that oddly enough carries it, several Asian markets, & my local farmers market...>

                                                                                                                  Some people can taste the bitterness, and some people cannot. Your ability to taste something is unrelated to how many Gai lan you have eaten or how many Gai lan you have grown, much like our ability to distinguish red and green. You can stare at red and green 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,...., but if you lack the ability to distinguish red and green, then you can never see them. It is a natural ability which we are born with or without -- genetic. You cannot train it, just like the fact that you don't need to be trained to know broccoli babe is bitter. I assume you knew it being bitter the first time you tasted it.

                                                                                                                  As for you knowing how it tastes... I suppose you only know what it tastes to you. It is well documented that Gai lan is bitter for many others as I have provided several citations -- it is not just my experience. I can give you one more if you incline:



                                                                                                                  I did not say it is as bitter as broccoli raab. In fact, I said:

                                                                                                                  "While it is not quiet as bitter as brocooli raab, it unquestionablely has bitterness to it."

                                                                                                                  Again, everyone has a different level of sensitivity. I have a reasonable good taste sensitivity. I have an extremely keen sense of hearing. I can hear the lightest sound which most people cannot pick up (it has also been shown in my hearing exam as well). However, I am near sighted. So I understand that without glasses I cannot see what many can see.

                                                                                                                  <Don't know where you obtain yours, but mine has never been bitter at all>

                                                                                                                  The Gai lan itself is not the issue. I think it is our taste receptors. For example, not everyone can be a wine taster or ice cream taster like John Harrison.


                                                                                                          2. where ru located?

                                                                                                            In So.Florida Broward Cnty we have www.NYMart.com
                                                                                                            there r also some online sources

                                                                                                            1. After skimming this thread I did not see many references to asian kitchen tools. I have found that virtually all asian kitchen tools sold at non-asian stores are pitiful at best. You should be able to find much better quality tools at an asian store (and where I live, most asian markets are multinational). My favorite is the half round flat scoop. What a tool!
                                                                                                              Also, if you don't have one, get an Atlas wok. Best quality (and I don't think made in China).
                                                                                                              Finally, get a Japanese Benriner mandoline. Just might be the most used tool (other than a knife) in my kitchen.
                                                                                                              Food wise, go for galangal at a Thai place. Wonderful taste.
                                                                                                              I also second Maesri curry pastes in the jar.
                                                                                                              Many great ideas in this thread.

                                                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: Enigma3

                                                                                                                i believe the flat half round scoop is for rice and is called a shomogi. wet it before use so rice doesnt stick. that is one of the few japanese words i know.
                                                                                                                a rice mold is handy for making rice balls. squeezing them out by hand looks easy but must take practice, the mold is a useful fallback
                                                                                                                an electic hot water kettle is amazingly fast and convenient. the undersink versions seem to develop leaks after a few years and should be avoided.

                                                                                                                1. re: divadmas

                                                                                                                  Good idea on the hot water kettle. It's perfect for winter and a quick cup of tea. I stopped using it, though,because I thought it used unnecessary electricity.

                                                                                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                    it is really really fast esp for a cup or 2. i understand it uses less power than stovetop.

                                                                                                                    1. re: divadmas

                                                                                                                      Oh, definitely if you're making one or two cups at a time. I have only used the ones that are large--we used to keep it plugged in with hot water inside and it kept the water hot.

                                                                                                              2. Oh, if you don't have a rice cooker, pick one up. You'll usually get a better variety there.

                                                                                                                1. I have a korean market near me that has great big containers of toasted sesame seeds for real cheap, frozen kimchi dumplings, and frozen ramen that are delicious.

                                                                                                                  1. I am replying very late in the game and have not read through all the posts so I am likely repeating, sorry for that.

                                                                                                                    Nori (seaweeds)
                                                                                                                    Tea (much cheaper then in western stores)
                                                                                                                    Sesame oil
                                                                                                                    Coconut anything
                                                                                                                    Interesting breads and cakes
                                                                                                                    Cheap cooking utensils/equipment
                                                                                                                    Interesting produce
                                                                                                                    Cheap ice cream bars
                                                                                                                    Kewpie mayonnaise
                                                                                                                    Layu chili oil
                                                                                                                    Japanese curry
                                                                                                                    Larger selection of ramen

                                                                                                                    And so much more that I am forgetting, all the Thai ingredients I like, the Indian curries, I could go on for a very long time.

                                                                                                                    1. Suddenly, I just remember this. I am sure someone has already mentioned, but I want to reiterate it because it is important. If you are going to an Asian market with wide variety of spices (especially Indian and Pakistan stores), then make sure you get the spices. The spices in the typical Indian and Pakistan stores are fresher, better and much much much cheaper than what you can find from typical supermarkets. Nights and days differences.

                                                                                                                      The Chinese, Japanese, Korean markets have ok spices by I presume the turn around is not as quick as those from the Indian and Pakistan stores.

                                                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                        Indeed. I do get white and black peppercorns from my Chinese grocery store, but the usual Indian store I go to supplies much of the rest of my spices. Exceptions include dried basil, thyme, oregano - that sort of thing - which I get from the local Fresh Market or other local supermarkets, or the Mexican Supermercado (e.g. for Mexican oregano).

                                                                                                                        I get most of my rice from Indian groceries, which usually carry both Indian and Pakistani brands - because I tend to eat Basmati rice, which is usually not available in Chinese or Japanese/Korean groceries. I also get stuff like freshly made samosas from one Indian grocery. Oh, another thing I get which is almost always only available from Indian groceries is (of course) Murraya koenigii leaves (kariveppilai; கருவேப்பிலை)

                                                                                                                        1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                          I haven't seen them lately in NY but the black peppercorns from Hainan in the blue, cream, and black cellophane bags are superb and dirt cheap. As good as Pohnpei pepper of happy memory.

                                                                                                                        2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                          i have been to some smaller indian stores and a lot of the stock was pretty old. you have to check.

                                                                                                                        3. Folks, people can't seem to restrain themselves on the subject of Gai Lan, so we're going to lock this thread now.