If you’re looking to add some flavor to your cooking, an Asian grocery store is a great place to start. Here are some essential ingredients that you’ll find at most Asian markets.
Shopping at an Asian market can be intimating, there is a lot going on, there are many food and produce native to specific Asian cultures. Reading labels and understanding what kind of foods are versatile across many different cuisines is also difficult to navigate at first. It took me years to figure out how to utilize certain foods across multiple cuisines to avoid buying too much stuff I don’t regularly use. This is why I comprised a list of items that I frequently get that is versatile across multiple cuisines.
Best time to go to Asian Supermarket?
If you have the availbility, the best time to go is later in the morning or early afternoon. You don’t want to go right when markets open, because sometimes the fresh seafood delivery isn’t there yet. But when you go too late in the afternoon, all the freshest seafood will most likely be gone. Picking the right time is important for you to get the freshest produce and seafood!
When I first walk into the market, I go to vegetables first to see what is in season. The top two vegetables that I pick that is in season all year long are bok choy and choy sum. These two vegetables are subtle in flavor and compliments Asian cooking really well. Bok Choy is even more mainstream and used as a vegetable in American cuisines. You can saute these vegetables with other ingredients, boil, steam, and pan fry these anytime of the year!
- Pork is a really popular protein in Asian cuisine, most likely because it is inexpensive. There isn’t as much diversity in pork parts in other supermarkets, which is why I like bulking up on my pork at Asian supermarekts.
- Pork Loin – This part of the park is very lean with barely any fat, which is perfect for Asian soups.
- Pork Butt – This is the most popular pork used in restaurants due to the nice ratio of meat (80%) and fat (20%). You can use this protein for making char siu (BBQ pork), sliced meat in saute dishes, or noodle soup dishes. This protein is really versatile and I have used it in Korean cuisines as well.
- Pork Belly – is more mainstream with popularity now, but a lot of other markets discard the skin, but the skin is the best part! You can make roast pork with pork belly with the crispy skin, pan fry pork belly for korean bbq, and use it in a variety of stewed and braised Chinese dishes.
- Pork Sparerib – The perfectly sliced sparerib into 1 inch increments are food at Chinese markets, and it is the perfect size for making black bean sauce spareribs or sweet and sour ribs. Just make sure you get the meat (70%) and fat (30%) ratio correctly so your spareribs don’t dry out.
- Silkie Chicken – is the black chicken that is used for most Chinese soups. The reason why is because this type of chicken has double the antioxidants than regular chicken.
- Free Range Whole Chicken – Free range chicken has a chewier texture but this type of chicken is the one that Chinese people use to make steamed chicken, soy sauce chicken, and chicken pho.
One main factor that differentiates Asian supermarkets from other supermarkets is live seafood. This means everything! Fresh seafood taste so much better in terms of texture and freshness. There is also a fish monger at hand that can help you clean, gut, and scale your fish so you can easily steam and cook at home. Eating fresh seafood that day is key, that way you really taste the freshness and enjoy the texture of the protein.
The variety of seasonings is unlimited across multiple asian cultures. I like to pickup soy sauce, oyster sauce, black blean sauce, just to name of few to stock up on the essentials! With these three main sauces, you can make multiple asian dishes.
My favorite noodles to pick up is the vermicelli from 3 ladies brand. Chinese and Vietnamese culture uses this type of vermicelli which means I can use this noodle to make two different types of cuisines when I need to! I also like picking up Japanese Udon to make a quick lunch in less than 10 minutes