Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Shopping Ethnic Markets

In case you didn't catch the sidebar to my article "A Ramen Renaissance" in the Oregonian's FoodDay section, I think this advice from Susana Holloway of Portland's Culinary Workshop is good to keep in mind when going to any ethnic grocery.

Don't be afraid!

Looking at a list of ingredients that includes things like kombu, dried sardines and bonito flakes (aka katsuobushi) might make you run straight back to the arms of Bobby Flay or Marcella Hazan.

I asked Susana Holloway of Portland's Culinary Workshop, who teaches classes on Asian cooking, what she'd recommend for someone who finds the thought of going to an Asian market intimidating if not downright scary.

First, she said, go to one of the larger Asian markets (see list of stores, below). They tend to be laid out more like Western-style grocery stores, with wide aisles and distinct departments for produce, meats, fish and dried goods. Plus, they'll often have signage in several languages, including English.

And while they are stocking more and more organic produce and gluten-free products, expect to find conventionally grown, though very inexpensive, vegetables and fruits and packaged goods with long lists of ingredients.

She also recommends first-timers going to an Asian market without a list in hand.

"What has worked for me has been to not necessarily come in with a recipe where I have to go around and find stuff," she said. "Give yourself some time to wander around the aisles and look at things. If you're the type of person who likes to go to grocery stores, it's the perfect place to do that. I've literally found myself wandering around the aisles in a grocery store for hours."

The larger markets, because their product mix attracts a diverse customer base, also tend to have better customer service departments. "Don't be afraid to ask for help," said Holloway. "After all, the shopping should be part of the overall experience."

Fubonn Supermarket
2850 S.E. 82nd Ave.

H Mart
13600 S.W. Pacific Highway, Tigard

10500 S.W. Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, Beaverton


Paul said...

Making hot and sour soup is a good way to get comfortable with chinese markets. It will force you to find Black fungus, lily buds, etc

Kathleen Bauer said...

Have you got a good recipe you'd be willing to share?

Ivy said...

Nice piece, KB! Any time you want to go on a little adventure, H Mart on Saturdays is where I'll be.

Kathleen Bauer said...

Thanks, my dear…you are one I look to for inspiration! And H Mart? Any time you wanna go, I'm there!

Trainer, Crafter, Kristin said...

I really like Boo Han Market on 82nd at Madison. I got all my ingredients to make kim chee there. Not as overwhelming as Fubonn, super clean and they have tasty bulgogi marinating on the deli case to take home and stir fry up yourself. Ya know, for when you're feeling hungry and lazy at the same time.

Kathleen Bauer said...

Boy, do I know that feeling! And thanks for the recommendation, Kristin!

Anonymous said...

While not the size of Fubonn or Uwijmya, Lily Market on NE Halsey and about 100th, is great. The owner is quite friendly and there always seems to be someone speaking English. Rarely have I found the clerks at Fubonn friendly or English speaking.

- Sasha Kaplan, And She Cooks

Kathleen Bauer said...

Thanks for the tip, Sasha! As for Fubonn, I've had good luck going to their customer information counter behind the checkout counters.