Let’s Go To A Chinese Supermarket!

April 22, 2015 | By | COMMENTS

IMG_9032

Recently I became friends with an Amateur Gourmet reader named Peggy who works in T.V. out here in L.A. and who comes from a Taiwanese family. Over the course of our first lunch at Pizzeria Mozza, she casually mentioned that her family frequents the San Gabriel Valley (home of some of America’s best and most authentic Chinese restaurants) and that she’d be happy to show me around there the next time we met up. “We can even go to a Chinese supermarket!” she added and that was like the moment when you pull the handle of a slot machine and all the bells and alarms go off and coins start pouring out. As you all know, I love visiting unfamiliar supermarkets.

So last week, my friend Diana joined Peggy and I for lunch at Mama Lu’s Dumpling House in the San Gabriel Valley where we ate Hot & Sour Soup:

IMG_9022

My first beef roll, which I absolutely loved (it’s like thinly sliced beef wrapped up in a scallion pancake):

IMG_9030_2

And, oh, just a few other things:

IMG_9031_2

But that’s not why we’re here. We’re here because afterwards, Peggy loaded us into her car and drove us to 99 Ranch Market—a Chinese supermarket that may not look like a Chinese supermarket from the outside, but wait ’til you see what’s inside.

IMG_9033_2

We started by cutting a hard right towards the produce aisle. Before we got there, a table was set up with this Miso salmon lunch and fresh mochi; nothing too out of the ordinary, but not anything I’ve seen at Gelson’s:

IMG_9036_2

First up at the produce aisle was Yucca and other things that look like Yucca that I can’t really remember because the text is too blurry in this picture:

IMG_9037_2

These were beautiful bags of pea sprouts; if I were feeling more cheffy, I would’ve bought them (they’d be pretty on top of a spring risotto, etc.):

IMG_9038_2

What’s Gailan? Sounds like a character from Star Trek!

IMG_9039_2

And what’s Opo? Sounds like a character from Beetlejuice (oh wait, that is a character from Beetlejuice) (oh wait, never mind, that’s Otho):

IMG_9040_2

Dried red chiles galore! And a bargain at $3.99 a pound.

IMG_9041_2

The dreaded Durian, which apparently smells like sewage when you cut into them. Peggy told a story of someone throwing a durian on to her college dorm’s roof; a cruel prank that I’m going to use some day if I ever pledge a fraternity.

IMG_9042_2

Fish balls, for putting in soup:

IMG_9044_2

Plenty to choose from!

IMG_9043_2

Chinese sausage, which I first encountered when Grace Young taught me how to stir-fry for my cookbook; it’s thinner and more dense than regular sausage:

IMG_9046_2

Dried anchovies; not sure how I’d use these—I love oil-packed anchovies, so if I were feeling more cheffy I’d blitz these in a food processor and sprinkle them on a Caesar salad. Where’s my James Beard Award?

IMG_9047_2

Boiled Bamboo Shoots; you’d shoot too if someone boiled you.

IMG_9048_2

A whole wall of Kimchi, which isn’t Chinese but let’s not quibble:

IMG_9049_2

“These noodles are great for dropping into soup,” Peggy explained about these noodles. Apparently they’re bundled into clumps that are for each individual portion.

IMG_9050_2

Peggy also talked about salting mustard greens at home and then we came upon these salted mustard greens, which seem like a nice way to add some green to your diet:

IMG_9051_2

These are rice cakes, which Diana bought up to cook at home. DIANA IF YOU’RE READING THIS TELL US HOW IT WENT IN THE COMMENTS.

IMG_9052_2

Turnip cakes, rice cakes, birthday cakes…juts kidding about the birthday cakes:

IMG_9053_2

Peggy bought these buns and said they’re delicious filled, as they are, with chopped scallions; all you have to do is steam them:

IMG_9054_2

More buns to make at home; this is what Sir-Mix-A-Lot was talking about when he said, “My anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns, hun.”

IMG_9055_2

Now comes the meat!

When I was younger, and I’d walk through Chinatown, I’d squirm at the site of unfamiliar cuts in the windows of butcher shops. Now that I’ve been schooled by the likes of Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern, I realize that this was a product of my own xenophobia and that using all of the parts of the animal is something to be celebrated, not ridiculed. That said….

EWWWWW ROOSTER BALLS!!!

IMG_9058_2

Just kidding about that “ewwww.” I’m mature, I swear! See, look, pork stomach… no big deal:

IMG_9063_2

And this isn’t a chamber of horrors, these are delectable cuts that I’d like to cook someday. Who wants to come over for some pork uterus?

IMG_9082_2

PORK UTERUS???!?!?!

Ok, moving on….

Look at all the rice options:

IMG_9066_2

And something I’d never seen before: sugar cane in light syrup. Do you just eat the sugar cane? Wouldn’t that hurt your teeth?

IMG_9067_2

Quail eggs in a can!

IMG_9068_2

Mock duck meat in a can!

IMG_9069_2

Is this fried gluten gluten-free?

IMG_9070_2

Seasoning sauce is the only way to treat your chili turnip:

IMG_9071_2

Preserved Taiwan Seeds… what are they?!?! Anyone???

IMG_9072_2

I believe these are toppings for shaved ice:

IMG_9073_2

“We were doing soy milk before your trendy coffee shop.”

IMG_9075_2

Peggy told us about “Pork Fu” and how her mom would sometimes make her sandwiches of just bread with pork fu sprinkled on:

IMG_9076_2

She also told us about these drinks which she’d enjoy as a kid; apparently the fun part is that when you open the top, a marble floats to the surface and then it’s, like, kind of there while you drink?

IMG_9077_2

There was a whole section of papers to burn at a Chinese grave; if you burn paper money, for example, you’ll give your loved one cash in the next world (can someone burn some for me now so I can have cash in this world??):

IMG_9079_2

It was really hard for me and my brother when our Mung Beans split:

IMG_9080_2

I don’t think you’re ready, for this…

IMG_9081_2

Couldn’t decide, so bought all three options:

IMG_9083_2

This is Peggy’s dad’s favorite dessert:

IMG_9084_2

Crab chips:

IMG_9085_2

Rice cooking wine, which I should have bought because I’m always making Chinese recipes that call for “rice cooking wine” and I don’t have it….

IMG_9087_2

“I’ll fight you if you don’t eat these Haw Pieces!”

IMG_9088_2

Jujube candy:

IMG_9089_2

Now for the fish section:

IMG_9091_2

They’ll actually fry a portion for you that they’ll put in a container and you can eat it for lunch:

IMG_9092_2

And look at these specialty items; no not the lobster tails, the abalone and sea cucumber:

IMG_9093_2

There were some very crowded fish tanks in this area:

IMG_9101_2

And some pretty harsh signs about not washing your hands in the shell tank:

IMG_9105_2

Check out the mollusks:

IMG_9102_2

And these giant crabs and spot prawns:

IMG_9107_2

And the Dungeness crabs (not a bad price):

IMG_9108_2

And these rock crabs:

IMG_9104_2

After washing my hands in there, I studied some of the packaged seafood options:

IMG_9109_2

(How do they get the balls off the fish? Must be painful.)

IMG_9111_2

I’ve never seen cooked clam meat before:

IMG_9112_2

Phew…. are you exhausted yet? Anything else we missed?

Let’s see: tea with real flowers in it.

IMG_9097_2

Say Yes To Noh!

IMG_9099_2

Peggy was super psyched to see Bubble Tea turned into a popsicle:

IMG_9116_2

And that, my friends, is the end of the ride.

IMG_9119_2

Call me lame but I only bought one thing: oyster sauce.

IMG_9120_2

What?! I need it for this beef and tomato recipe in my book. And I promise to go back and buy all of the things.

Peggy, as it happens, bought for us these fruit flakes that we tried in the parking lot:

IMG_9125_2

They kind of tasted like dry, flaky apricot…in the best possible way.

Thank you, Peggy, for being such a great tour guide! Can’t wait to have you over for pork uterus some day.

Other Supermarket Posts:
Let’s Go To An Australian Supermarket!
Let’s Go To A British Supermarket! Then Let’s Go To A German Supermarket!

Tags: , , , , ,

Categories: Food Bits

  • http://www.foodnerd4life.com/ FoodNerd4Life

    I love visiting my local Chinese supermarket. I like the element of Russian Roulette in that I’m not 100% sure what every thing is but at least giving it a whirl. I love all the veggies and a total sucker for frozen custard buns!

    Rachel x

    http://www.foodnerd4life.com

  • http://deliciousnotgorgeous.blogspot.com/ Heather

    I’ve grown up going to Chinese supermarkets (still squeamish around the pork uterus, though), and it’s so funny/interesting to see what struck you.

  • luisa

    I think this is the one near my parents’ house! There is an awesome dim sum place in the same plaza that is always crowded.

  • Melissa

    Omg. These are all the ingredients from the show CHOPPED on the Food Network. I mean, I’ve never worked with Durian, but I hear it’s really gross smelling, and pig uterus, how do you even begin to cook this? It sounds like a food challenge.

    http://askmelissaanything.blogspot.com/

  • Diana

    The rice cakes are still in my freezer! Thanks for reminding me they are there – think I will stir fry them with some veggies…

  • Ellen @ CheapCooking.com

    We’ve got two of these near us. It’s fun to browse but a challenge to find some things. I went looking for fish sauce and finally had to ask someone. There were so many different kinds of sauces!

  • chickenfeet

    That gailan (gai lan) is Chinese Broccoli…… Goes well with that oyster sauce you bought. The stalks are very good thinly sliced and added when making fried rice…

  • boeufdaisy

    I thank you for sending me down the path that opens when you Google “pig uterus recipes.” What an interesting world we live in…

  • Jessica Wagman

    I like to take people to the Seattle downtown Uwajimaya, which is an Asian super grocery store. It’s so big, it has a food court attached, and a huge bookstore. Love that place. Next time you’re in Seattle, stop by and eat there! (Also, they sell roasted peanuts and chestnuts out of a stand out front!)

  • Daryl

    You are bold! Next to that sign that said Do Not Wash Hands, there was a sign that said Do Not Photograph.The Chinese market police could have whisked you away. Anyway, I wonder why they did not want customers taking pictures.

  • Cathy

    Is this super market in Arcadia? I have been there and it is amazing, didn’t buy much but looking around was enlightning. There is also one in Temple City near to my parents house which has much of the same, it is also called Ranch Market and has Susie’s Restaurant, with very good soups and other foods also. I do believe the Asian Restaurants in this area are indeed some of the best!

  • Anonymous

    Oh I MISS the Ranch99! One of the few things I miss here in Montana. I lived in Taipei for a winter in my 20s, and the Ranch99 has EVERYTHING. There was one right behind my office. I once bought a roasted duck there, along with aluminum foil and ziplock bags, and wrapped it to bring home after a business trip to my sweetheart (bought it right before leaving for the plane). The TSA agent in San Jose was bemused.

  • Amy

    Black soy milk is made from black soybeans, and it has a rich smoky taste compared to regular soy milk. Also, check out if they carry peanut ice pops. Skip the taro flavor, ugh. If you drop some of the grass jelly into iced milk tea, it makes it tastes like Thai tea. I love the herbal flavor. It takes a while to soften up in liquid. then it really becomes like “jelly”. When you pop it from the can it’s hard as rubber. I’m so glad you wrote about Chinese supermarkets, but at the same time I feel like there were a lot of other great stuff that you didn’t get to see. I used to eat a lot of the trashy snacks too, but my tastes have changed, and now I like to buy very different things from Chinese supermarkets. Next time, gotta take you to the big supermarket on Main Street, Flushing called J-Mart. It’s right above the food court that’s always crazy busy. In fact, J-Mart has its own lunch counter which is delicious and such a bargain. There’s a whole world of Chinese home-cooking that you have yet to discover, and I can’t wait for you to discover it, and the Chinese supermarket is a great place to start.

  • Carol

    Re: the marble soda, the marble actually is at the top of the bottle like a stopper. You push it down to open the bottle and it sits in a little chamber at the top of the bottle, rolling around as you drink. It’s cute but the drawback is that once you open the bottle there’s no way to close it. The soda itself is delish though.

  • RV Goddess

    I loved your post. Just visited two Asian grocers in Los Angeles myself, looking for ingredients to use while cooking from the new THE FOOD OF TAIWAN cookbook. We lived for years in Taipei, and enjoy cooking Taiwanese foods. Can’t wait to visit a Ranch 99 store – heard they are awesome! I visited LAX-C near Chinatown and A Grocery Warehouse in Echo Park: http://www.rvgoddess.com/BLOG/2015/APRIL/041315.aspx

  • Jodi

    Those dried anchovies is for making dashi, the Japanese (almost) all purpose broth. Don’t to eat them just as it is!

  • Buckeye conservative

    The pork uterus broght a memory of a “goodby dinner” in Korea. Usually bulgogi was beef muscle but for a special occassion I was taken to a “real” place. No roasts or steak. However lung, spinal cord and uterus were the ones identified for me. God knows what the others were. Still, marinated, broiled and sauced they were fine. Something about rooster testicles that makes me curl up so I don’t think I would go that way.

  • Nora

    That is one of my favorite places too! I love all of the different types of potatoes they have.

  • http://www.nearbychefs.com Rafael Avila

    Great post on Asian supermarkets! We have one (H&Y) here on Long Island, in New York, and it is outstanding. I first found it trying to find fresh Lychee fruit, which was recommended to me by Steven Seagal (that’s another story). Anyway, now I’m hooked; I go back every week!

  • http://www.nearbychefs.com Rafael Avila

    Yes! Russian Roulette! Finally someone perfectly described it! You never know whether you’ll discover a great new food, or feel your taste buds squirm in agony! We have a tradition, called Wacky Snack Wednesdays. We send our kids to school with a strange snack from the Asian supermarket. Last week they got a Japanese snack; tiny dehydrated crabs, covered in sugar. They were awful, but oh-so-interesting!!!

  • VinnieDCaballero

    ♥❧♥❧♥❧Set Profit From your Home with Google Marketing@nj25:::

    ,,

    ➨➨➨➨http://ViewpointsWork32Net.uk/let/tabs…

  • Venny Claudia
  • Venny Claudia
  • Venny Claudia
  • kalsonmandela

    ☁☁☁☁it’s Easy Make With amateurgourmet < i started working online, completing some basic jobs that only requires from you a computer and internet access and I am happier than ever… It's been 6 months since i started this and i got paid so far total of 36,000 bucks… Basicly i profit close to 80 bucks/h and work for 3-4 hrs most of the days.Best part to whole this thing is that you can decide when to work yourself and for how long and you get a paycheck
    at the end of each week.
    Here’s A More Detail

  • http://www.nearbychefs.com Rafael Avila

    I just went back to the local Asian Supermarket and snapped a pic of the Japanese snack, dehydrated crabs. The packaging is outstanding! I wish I could post the picture here. I’m posting it to twitter until i figure out how to post it here. http://twitter.com/NearbyChefs/status/597585157361504257

  • GenderEquality

    It’s Easy for make with amateurgourmet < i started working online, completing some basic jobs that only requires from you a computer and internet access and I am happier than ever… It's been 6 months since i started this and i got paid so far total of 36,000 bucks… Basicly i profit close to 80 bucks/h and work for 3-4 hrs most of the days.Best part to whole this thing is that you can decide when to work yourself and for how long and you get a paycheck

    at the end of each week. SEE MORE INFO

  • Venny Claudia
  • UnionDues

    It’s simple to work with amateurgourmet < my neighbor's mom makes $64 hourly on the computer . She has been without work for 6 months but last month her check was $14236 just working on the computer for a few hours.

    learn the facts here now SEE COMPLETE INFO

  • jamesbond

    ♫♫With♫♫ ♪♪♪amateurgourmet♪♪♪.-. < my neighbor's mom makes $64 hourly on the computer . She has been without work for 6 months but last month her check was $14236 just working on the computer for a few hours.

    learn the facts here now GET MORE INFO

  • TruthExposed

    It’s Easy with yahoo google utube and amateurgourmet < my roomate's mom makes $85 /hr on the internet . She has been without work for eight months but last month her paycheck was $17976 just working on the internet for a few hours.

    Try this site. SEE MORE INFO

  • Cyndi

    I love 99 Ranch. But it’s not (just) a Chinese supermarket, it’s an Asian one. Has a wide variety of products from many countries/cuisines/cultures.

    You left out the hot prepared foods. You can fill a carton with individual items or fill a tray with a full meal.

    My favorite things to get when I drive the hour to get to my closest 99 Ranch (I don’t make a special trip, so I don’t go often) are: pea spouts, snow peas, different kinds of bok choi-like greens, fresh basil (something other than Italian), unusual fresh mushrooms, eggplant (not unusual to find Japanese/Chinese eggplant in stores but these are high quality and cheap), puffed tofu cakes, fresh wild fish, spring roll wrappers, fresh rice noodles, seaweed/sesame candy, and a big mess of cooked food for dinner.

    Oh and my new favorite food: fresh jackfruit! (hint, wash your hands with oil when you’re done)

  • paul_gracia@mail.ru

    I have earned 104000 dollars in last twelve months by working on-line from my house and I was able to do it by wo­rking part-time f­­o­­r 3 or sometimes more hours each day. I used a business model I stumbled upon from this website i found online and I am amazed that I was able to earn so much money. It’s so beginner-friendly a­n­d I am just so blessed that i found this. This is what i did… FRIENDLY52.COM

  • http://curiousxcharlie.blogspot.com Curious Charlie

    Such a fun afternoon! We’re often asked to leave XD What is Haw exactly? I hate it, reminds me of incense…