Chan Oriental Market brings Asian street food alive in Bloomington

Jessica Yeang (left) and her sister Doeum Meas.

Chan Oriental Market in the Great Bear Center in Bloomington (you know the place—it’s the one with the huge iconic neon sign of a polar bear at Lyndale and 90th) is what you would expect from a little neighborhood store if your neighborhood were Chinatown. You can get all the basics here from China, Vietnam, Cambodia and even the Philippines. It’s family-run, bought from Jane Chan five years ago. The current owners kept the old name.

Family member Doeum Meas runs day-to-day operations. Meas was born in Cambodia, moved here in 1985, then spent three years in California, returning to the North Star State in 1991. “I don’t like California,” she says. “Minnesota is cold, but it’s a good place to raise kids. I like it here.” Meas’s younger sister, Minnesota-born Jessica Yeang, works the cash register two days week after morning nursing school classes.

The store is usually busy with Asian shoppers, chatting and socializing while they pick up what they needed to make dinner. Non-Asians shop there too, including regular customer Leopold Price, originally from Africa, who buys mangos and some ramen noodles. “It’s my survival kit,” he jokes. It’s a friendly place.

Chan

Chan Oriental stocks packaged foods like ramen, spices and cooking sauces. Many Asian packaged goods have enough English on them to know what they’re used for, even if you don’t have a clue exactly how to make anything. Banh tieu is doughnut flour, banh da lon is for making steamed layer cake, pyramidal rice flour is for dumplings, and gahn bot lot is for finest flour cake. It says so right on the bag.

Chinese Crullers

You can also get Chinese sausages and meatballs, pork meat paste to make meatballs, frozen variety meats, and even Chinese crullers. There are freezers filled with dozens of types of fish not found in local lakes such as mud fish, Indian mackerel, the classic yellow fish, wild caught spiny eel fish, and the very bony milk fish. There are choices of mushrooms including the giant-stemmed king mushroom, baby bananas, and other vegetables.

Eel fish

But, it was the eggs that caught my attention. I’ve tried salted red eggs, used in a Filipino tomato salad. There are quail eggs for sushi and black eggs (also called one hundred year-old eggs) and eggs labeled simply "duck eggs," displayed unrefrigerated and selling for $1.25 each. “Choose the heaviest,” Yeang advised me as I looked through them.

Duck eggs

“Do you really eat this?” a customer asked. That’s when I was the little red symbol stamped on the end. These weren’t duck versions of chicken eggs. These were balut, the notorious fertilized egg with a duck embryo inside.

“Sure,” I told him. “I love them.” I lied. Actually, I’d never tried them. But, how bad can these be? I eat eggs. I eat duck. What’s not to like?

Back at home with my four eggs,  I tried to figure out how to prepare them. Everyone I asked told me to boil them, but for how long? I got different answers, everything from 10 to 30 minutes. That meant I had to experiment.

I washed off the eggs and set a pot of water to boil. I first tried 30 minutes. The yolk was hard, the white was like a bike tire (although I’ve never actually tried a bike tire), and the fetal duck was barely visible, cooked down to a quarter teaspoon of protein.

Duck egg

The 10-minute version was better. In the Philippines and Vietnam, China, and Cambodia, this is a street food. You are supposed to take the top off the egg and sip the juice, a messy business. I opened the egg into a bowl instead and used a spoon on the broth. It tasted like duck, light and salty. The yellow was soft with a rich egg taste. Again, the white was like a bike tire. And the duck was only a bite. I’m still not sure I cooked it right. It didn’t look anything like the photos I’d seen.

They were good, but apparently my eggs were only about a week old, with the duck barely formed. In another 10 days, the embryo would have taken up most of the egg and there would have been bones and feathers. Maybe next time. Or, maybe not. And, yes. I still feel kind of weird about them.

You can get these eggs (you don’t have to buy the eggs) and much more at Chan Oriental Market in the Great Bear Center, 9016 Lyndale, Bloomington. They are open 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

POINT(-93.2886953 44.8398959)
  • GLAD TO see more diversity in MN. :) - by MG Spunky Gaenicke on Thu, 04/10/2014 - 9:49pm
  • First.... you cook the balut duck eggs wrong. It's usuallly not boiled. Second.... that's not how you eat Balut Eggs. YOu don't just get the balut egg plain, if you haven't a taste for it.. Every Asian who loves to eat balut eggs will rarely eat one like you just have. You can eat it like thay, but it just taste better with other items that really go well while eating balut eggs. Most Asian while eating balut eggs will perfer eating it this way. I myself will eat balut eggs any way. Your very "Lucky" you didn't get 'Sick' from eating the balut egg that wasn't fully cooked all the way. Next time If you want to learn how to eat Asian food, from the bizarre or just the "What is it?", you should contact me before you seriously end up hurting yourself. "Seriously!".... Like food poison. I'd be happy to help you out when it come to Asian Food Culture or Asian Culture. Why? Because I don't what people to get the wrong idea about Asian Food agian, and people like yourself are doing that to the Asian food culture from the Philippines to Thailand with columns like this to TV shows like Bizarre Foods. I dislike that show. There's pro's and con's of the show. If you don't know how to cook it, or eat it. Than you shouldn't be writing columns on it tell you have talked to someone who knows of it and would be willing to dimenstrate how to cook it and eat it. You would publish just hlaf a book? well that's what your doing when trying Asian food. You can't just try it nor just try to taste it. To me it like if I came to your home saying and doing what ever I please in front of your guess, family or friends and not haven learned the custom of your culture and western family. What kind impression would that be about me and where am from, let alone Asians it self. Am from Thailand, raised in Las Vegas, Nv. By the way. Thai/ Laos food "Mean Very Much To Me" I get emotional about it, especially when it come to our "Rice". Westerners don't know this about Asian dishes. A lot of the foods we eat are the some dishes, not matter what parts of Asia you may be. The only diffrence is either what the dish is called and some times the taste. other than that it's all the same,. It's like sausage, every part of the world has some form of sausage. That is what A Lot of the Asian food is like. So Please! if your going to put out columns about Asian foods, get with someone who knows of Asian food, like myself before you start having others read your columns and start thinking all Asian Foods are someones pets. It's just not true. Most of us Asian, like me perfer stray's over a pampered tail. ; ) I still see a lot of faces that squint when it come to tasting Asian Foods. Wondering if it's black brown meat or white meat. - by Aude Saiko Komon on Tue, 02/19/2013 - 6:55am

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Stephanie Fox's picture
Stephanie Fox

Stephanie Fox (stephaniefox2 at tcdailyplanet dot net) has a Master's Degree in journalism from the University of Oregon. She moved to Minneapolis of her own free will in 1984.

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You cooked it Wrong.

Hello Stephanie Fox,

My name is Aude`.

First.... you cook the balut duck eggs wrong. It's usuallly not boiled. Second.... that's not how you eat Balut Eggs. YOu don't just get the balut egg plain, if you haven't a taste for it.. Every Asian who loves to eat balut eggs will rarely eat one like you just have. You can eat it like thay, but it just taste better with other items that really go well while eating balut eggs. Most Asian while eating balut eggs will perfer eating it this way. I myself will eat balut eggs any way. Your very "Lucky" you didn't get 'Sick' from eating the balut egg that wasn't fully cooked all the way.  Next time If you want to learn how to eat Asian food, from the bizarre or just the "What is it?", you should contact me before you seriously end up hurting yourself. "Seriously!"....  Like food poison. I'd be happy to help you out when it come to Asian Food Culture or Asian Culture. Why?... Because I don't what people to get the wrong idea about Asian Food agian, and people like yourself are doing that  to the Asian food culture from the Philippines to Thailand with columns like this to TV shows like Bizarre Foods. I dislike that show. There's pro's and con's of the show.   If you don't know how to cook it,  or eat it. Than you shouldn't be  writing columns on it  tell you have talked to someone who knows of it and  would be willing to dimenstrate how to cook it and eat it. You would publish just hlaf a book?  well that's what your doing when trying Asian food. You can't just try it nor just try to taste it. To me it like if I came to your home saying and doing what ever I please in front of your guess, family or friends and not haven learned the custom of your culture and western family. What kind impression would that be about me and where am from, let alone Asians it self.? Am from Thailand, raised in Las Vegas, Nv. By the way. Thai/ Laos food  "Mean Very Much To Me" I get emotional about it, especially when it come to our "Rice". Westerners don't know this about Asian dishes. A lot of  the foods we eat are the some dishes, not matter what parts of Asia you may be. The only diffrence is either what the dish is called and some times the taste. other than that it's all the same,.  It's like sausage, every part of the world has some form of sausage. That is what  A Lot of the Asian food is like. So Please!..... if your gonna put out columns about Asian foods, get with someone who knows of Asian food, like myself before you start having others read your columns and start thinking all Asian Foods are someones pets. It's just not true. Most of us Asian, like me perfer stray's over a  pampered tail.  ; )  I still see a lot of faces that squint when it come to tasting Asian Foods. Wondering if it's black brown meat or white meat. 

Thank you Aude`

Thanks for the comments.

Thank your for the information. Global Groceries is not a column about Asian foods or Asian culture, which I greatly admire. My column is less about what to eat and more about my experiences in these stores. It's kind of an 'Innocence Abroad' approach. Sometimes the column has to do with the people I meet, the friends I make and their stories. Sometimes it's about the food and sometimes about my confusion.

I didn't plan to cover balat when I arrived at the store, but while I was looking at the duck eggs a customer and the cashier both commented about the eggs. They seemed amused at my bewilderment. So that became the story – a Midwesterner (me) does her best to figure out something very foreign to her.

But, I appreciate your comments. I don't want anyone to get sick from eating anything, including me. And, I don't want anyone to think that all Asian food is strange. In fact, it contains some of the world's best cuisines.

I'd also like to point out that Americans aren't the only people who find foods they haven't tried (and at least I tried them) strange or confusing. I remember while I was in Turkey, I tried to convince a group of Turks that pumpkin pie wasn't disgusting. They simply wouldn't consider the possibility and insisted that American food was only fast food hamburgers.