If you have never been to an Asian market before, this is your sign to go! Like go, go, go right now! Actually, wait. First, finish reading this article, and then you should go. You will find that they are a treasure trove of awesome foods, snacks, ingredients, and flavors you have never tried and have never heard of but will love. Moreover, you won’t find them anywhere else!
These markets import quintessential foods, services, and goods from many Asian countries and serve as cultural hubs where immigrants, specifically, can continue cooking familiar and traditional dishes from home with goods they would not otherwise be able to get. The markets are most widespread in Asian communities across Canada and America; they can be found in major cities like New York City, San Diego, Philadelphia, and Atlanta. These cities all have ethnic neighborhoods like Chinatown and Japantown that feature specialty businesses like markets. The rise of Asian markets took off in the 1960s and 1970s as immigrant families began putting down roots in American towns after the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 lowered immigration restrictions. Families needed a source for the foods and ingredients they regularly used back at home, and traditional American supermarkets definitely did not make the cut.
Inside these markets, you will find a sprawling selection of specialty sauces, toppings, spices, seafood, noodles, produce, meats, and teas. For example, some interesting noodles you could try are rice vermicelli (a thin rice noodle), udon, and other noodles made from bean flours and tapioca.
You can also find different fresh produce like soursop (a fruit with a soft, white inside and a prickly, green skin), jujube (a red date), and longan, a fruit in the lychee family whose name literally translates to “dragon eye.” Also, be sure to keep an eye out for the infamous durian fruit, which is easily spotted by its hard, spiky rind. Durian, which has a soft yellow fruit inside, is known for its divisive smell and taste – people either love it, or they can’t stand being near it. It is even banned in many public places in Asia like hotels and on public transportation!
Besides produce, you can also try out some new ingredients like dried shiitake mushrooms, fresh bamboo shoots. You can also make an interesting, new dish with the unique sauces and condiments lining the shelves like plum sauces, chilis, and seemingly infinite types of soy sauce. These ingredients are perfect for first-timer shoppers because they can be used in so many different ways, and even the pickiest of eaters will be able to find something they'd be excited over. You can make a stir-fry with some meat or seafood, soy sauce, bok choy, and rice noodles. Or, you could create a delicious sweet and salty marinade with chili sauce and soy sauce. Alternatively, if you are looking for something easier to execute, we suggest you go with one of the market’s many prepackaged ramen noodle bowls! And, before you head over to the check-out line, make a pit stop in the beverage aisle where you can find many kinds of bubble teas and tapioca balls. And, at many Japanese markets, there will be an entire aisle dedicated only to varieties of green teas!
So onward and upward to your city or town’s Asian market! There is no end to the novel things you will find to try. Just like Bokksu, these markets introduce you to a whole new world of snacks, flavors, and ingredients that you would never find elsewhere. Since the New Year is upon us, make it a resolution to head to an Asian market and pick out a snack to taste or select some ingredients you’ve never had before to incorporate into your next dish!