When I first became interested in Asian cooking nearly 50 years ago there were very few Twin Cities’ resources for Asian cooking ingredients or information on how to cook Asian food. Today, there are dozens of markets specializing in Asian foods as well as several sources for cooking instructions.
While general supermarkets are carrying more Asian ingredients, those hard-to-find items are usually available in area Asian markets. Here are just a few to try along with their particular specialties. Most stores are open daily, but call for hours.
New Orient Market
Complete Thai selection and other Asian foods
When you are looking for those special fresh herbs so important to Thai cooking, go to New Orient Market. Owner Xayasack (Cy) Ratsamy is one of the most helpful people in the business. He helps shoppers find specific foods and often makes suggestions for just the right selection. He also carries a wide range of fresh herbs including holy basil, Thai basil, and lemon basil along with pac peow and culantro. He usually has fresh Thai eggplant, cherry eggplant and green papaya along with other Thai vegetables and fruits. A full-service market, New Orient offers meat, fish, canned and dry goods as well as barbecued selections. Located at 28th and First Avenue South in Minneapolis. 612-871-7946.
Phil. Oriental Foods
Specializing in foods of the Philippines, India, Middle East
The first Filipino grocery in the Twin Cities, Phil. was opened in 1977 by Ely and Yvonne Arcilla. It stocks ingredients for the Filipino cuisine that combines Indo-Chinese and Spanish flavors. Here you will find longanisa sausage, Philippine soy and fish sauces. pancit canton, bitter melon and other items necessary for authentic cooking. There are also a wide range of items used in Japanese, Indian and Mid-Eastern cuisines. Located at 789 University Avenue in St. Paul. 651-292-1325.
Chinese herbs and Asian food ingredients
The area’s first Chinese herbalist, Xuong Mau Duong, and his family opened this store originally on 18th and Nicollet then moved to its present location at 25th and Nicollet 14 years ago. Still a family operation, Truong Thanh can be counted on for items such as fresh water chestnuts in season, fresh crabs and some of the best fresh greens in the area. It is one of the few stores that almost always has fresh, crisp watercress at a reasonable price. The store also has a wide range of canned and frozen foods, meat, fish and vegetables. Located at 2520 Nicollet Avenue South, Minneapolis. 612-879-0561.
Kim’s Oriental Supermarket
Korean food plus Japanese, Chinese and other Asian products
Founded in 1977, this area favorite offers fresh, dried, canned, and frozen products important to Korean cooking. It also has a wide array of CDs, videos and gifts including traditional Korean folk music, rock, pop and rap imported from Korea. Located at 689 North Snelling in St. Paul. 651-646-0428.
Asia Import Food & Video
Specializing in the foods of India
Come here for the area’s largest assortment of spices and herbs so essential to Indian cooking. Cumin, coriander. sesame, fenugreek, and fennel are here along with fresh karhi leaves, jaggery, turmeric root, and lentils. Whole raw cashews are available at reasonable prices along with fresh, canned and frozen food. There are also coconuts, fresh fruit and nearly everything else you need for flavorful Indian cooking. Located at 1840 Central Avenue NE in Minneapolis, the store is closed on Tuesdays. 612-788-4571.
Golden Lion Supermarket
Full service Asian market with a good Thai selection
Opened just a few years ago, this bright, cheery market offers the north Metro a full service Asian market with fresh, canned, frozen and dried foods along with meat, fish, cooking utensils and cookbooks. The owner is very helpful and happy to answer questions. Located at the northwest corner of Highway 252 and 85th Avenue North in Brooklyn Park. 763-493-4180.
Area’s oldest market selling to consumers and the trade
Founded in 1972 as a noodle supplier for local restaurants, United Noodles has grown into a large, full-service market handling Chinese, Japanese, Thai and other Asian ingredients. It also has a complete meat department, fresh vegetables, and now, a takeout area for prepared dishes. You’ll also find cooking equipment and Asian gifts as well as a selection of herbal medicines. Near 24th and Minnehaha Avenue in Minneapolis. 612-721-6677.
Full line of Asian groceries, meat, fresh seafood and barbecue
A family affair, Shuang Hur has grown from a small store off Nicollet Avenue to two large, full-service stores – 27th & Nicollet in Minneapolis and Dale and University in St. Paul. The stores are large enough to handle fish tanks with live fish, a complete selection of cooking utensils and serving dishes, a wide array of fresh vegetables and fruit, and one of the area’s most popular barbecue sources. Operated by the Haung family, Shuang Hur sells to restaurants and grocers throughout the Midwest as well as to local consumers. The Minneapolis store has barbecued pork, duck, and chicken as well as whole roast pork to order, and St. Paul offers barbecue on weekends. In Minneapolis 612-872-8606; in St. Paul 651-251-2196.
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