The US is such a diverse country. There are pockets of ethnic communities and markets in almost any city and even rural towns. Have you ever driven by an ethnic market and wondered what was sold in it or what kind of bargains are to be had? Do they only have selective groceries? Can you buy regular items? Will they speak English?
Well I am here to give you a fast and friendly breakdown of a typical Asian grocery store and what you can expect to find when you step into these fun and busy markets.
These are my picks for the top 8 buys from an Asian supermarket:
1. Rice–all types of rice, any type of rice. White rice-well what type? Jasmine, California, Basmati, sticky, long grained? You name it-they have it. They also have brown rice and black rice used for Asian desserts and a whole lot more. Rice here will cost you half of what you will pay at the local grocery store. It is usually of better quality and they certainly will have a larger variety.
2. Produce-they carry a large assortment of Asian fruits and vegetables but you can also get regular produce at great bargains. Green, red and yellow peppers, lettuce, herbs (like mint, basil, chives), apples, pears, etc… My point is this-they sell outstanding usually locally grown produce and usually at better prices than even your farmer’s market. What are you waiting for?
3. Meat particularly seafood-Sure they sell unusual meat parts like pork knuckles, chicken feet, tripe, etc… But they also sell prime rib, organic chicken, fresh fish, oysters, mussels, etc. I especially love getting specialty cuts of meats like thin sliced pork, beef and chicken which I use for phos and sukiyaki and butterfly sliced pork ribs for Korean barbecue like kalbi. The seafood selection is outstanding and a lot of Asian grocery stores will fry the fish for you at minimal cost while you wait so you can have fresh fish tacos at home! Need I say more?
4. Tofu-if you’re vegetarian or vegan then search no more. The selection for tofu is amazing. Soft tofu, firm tofu, silken tofu, fried tofu, spicy tofu, inari tofu-my only advice would be to maybe buy small selections per trip so that you can take your time deciding which types you like best.
5. Noodles-oodles of them. Dried noodles, fresh noodles, rice noodles, egg noodles, whole wheat noodles and yes, even pasta. And are you ready for this-they even carry Shirataki noodles and tofu noodles-yes the no carb and low carb noodles which pairs great with tomato sauces and pesto!
6. Coconut milk-I feel like I maybe on auto repeat on this if you have read any of my previous recipes using coconut milk. Yes- they are cheaper, much,much cheaper in most cases with 10 times the variety. They have canned, dried, fresh coconut milk, coconut flesh and even the uber trendy coconut water. Here’s my easy recipe for sticky coconut rice with mango sauce that puts coconut milk to good use.
7. Chill sauce-are you still buying Sriracha chili sauce at your local grocery store? Sriracha has cleverly introduced different flavored chili sauces but guess what? The different varieties and flavors have been around for a long, long time. Sriracha just made it main stream. So if you’re a lover of things hot and spicy, then come check out the chili sauce aisle. There are so many varieties from so many countries and again-pace yourself and your tummy. Working up to different spicy hot levels takes time and practice little grasshoper.
8. Deli and Bakery-most Asian stores have fresh hot foods that are made daily onsite or from local bakeries. They have sweet buns, savory buns, cakes-little ones, big ones and fancy ones. Lunch plates, hot entrees, dim sum goodies, fresh fruit drinks and boba teas and just about everything in between.
Honorable mentions: really good selection of dried spices(cumin, oregano, cinnamon sticks,etc.) which you can buy in small quantities. Insane selection of Asian candies and sweets like Pocky, Hello Panda and honey balls,etc. which are packaged in impossibly cute containers.
Lila’s Tips and Tricks:
Please read labels carefully. Watch out for high sodium content and monosodium glutamate. Even though there has not been any definitive studies about the negative effects of MSG, it is still good to be cautious especially for those with food allergies.
Asian grocery stores represent more than just a shopping outlet. They are frequently de facto community centers where information is dispersed and collected.
They sell international newspapers in different languages and cheap phone cards to Asia-a way to stay connected and be connected. They help local businesses advertise their services-realtors, doctors, lawyers,etc. who are bilingual. They help link the community locally and internationally. An important criteria when you are new or foreign and looking for a way to belong.
Have you ever wondered what life is like in Asia? Well, here is the perfect opportunity for you to have a microscopic glimpse at what daily life is like in a lot of Asian countries. So the next time you pass an Asian grocery store, don’t just drive by. Wander into this bustling, thriving and sometimes crowded and noisy centers and discover a new world! The best part is that you didn’t even have to buy an expensive airline ticket or fly in a cramped airplane for umpteen hours to enjoy this experience. Come and browse a while and delight in the deliciousness of it all!
p.s. Why Yes, they do speak English!
Fun Facts about US:
- Population: 313 million
- Asian population: 5.3% which equals ~16 million