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Market Variety

Looking for the Freshest Asian Ingredients? Southern California is Rich with Sources.

November 11, 2001|LINDA BURUM | Linda Burum is a contributor to the annual restaurant issue

In some American cities, tracking down fermented fish, fresh rau ram leaves or acorn flour might pose a challenge, but not in L.A. As the gateway to the nation for the majority of Asian importers, Los Angeles ports handle vast inventories of ingredients from the most obscure regional Thai nam prik to sleekly packaged stir-fry sauces from major Asian condiment manufacturers. Exotic produce from California immigrant farmers also floods into our wholesale Central Produce Market, giving local stores first choice for such finds as ngo gai, bai horapa or kaiware sprouts before the crops are shipped nationwide. As the list below reveals, world-class Asian supermarkets abound in the Southland. These gleaming temples of gastronomy can be found near almost every neighborhood, so cooks won't need to drive far to find an elusive ingredient. Although many Asian stores are culture specific--for instance, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese or Chinese--a good many markets are Pan-Asian, catering to ethnic Chinese who settled in other parts of Asia, such as Vietnam or Malaysia. Such is the case with many of the following stores, where you will easily find ingredients for the recipes in this issue.

Chinatown

Ai Hoa Supermarket

860 N. Hill St. (213) 629-8122

The oldest Vietnamese market in the neighborhood still attracts fussy Vietnamese grandmothers with an excellent produce section that spills out into the parking lot. Everything else is tightly packed into this medium-size store.

Far East Supermarket

758 New High St. (213) 628-8708

This well-kept store is small yet still boasts a live fish section and such esoterica as fresh banana flowers and frozen blood (for soups).

Gardena/South Bay

99 Ranch

1340 W. Artesia Blvd., Gardena (310) 323-3399

Located in a neighborhood where most Asian markets cater to Japanese customers, this branch of the Taiwanese-owned 99 Ranch chain stocks an inventory that attracts a Southeast Asian and Chinese clientele.

Hollywood

Bangkok Market

4757 Melrose Ave., Hollywood (323) 662-9705

Medium-size Thai-owned neighborhood market associated with a much larger food-importing company. Good for basics if you're close.

Orange County

Little Saigon Supermarket

9822 Bolsa Ave., Westminster (714) 531-7272

Vanco Foods

10932 Westminster Ave., Garden Grove (714) 530-2999

Both under the same ownership, the two markets have a particularly good variety of Pan-Asian condiments. The only problem: non-Vietnamese may be overwhelmed by choices.

Vien Dong III Superfood Warehouse

13861 Brookhurst St. (corner of Westminster), Garden Grove (714) 530-2762

The newest contender in the supermarket-giant competitions of Little Saigon. Needless to say, you will have no trouble finding just about any Vietnamese ingredient.

Long Beach

Vin Hao

1145 Long Beach. Blvd., Long Beach (562) 436-2332

Kim Heng

1241 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach (562) 599-3188

Close to America's largest Cambodian enclave, these medium-size supermarkets serve the South Bay and Long Beach Cambodian, Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese communities.

San Diego

99 Ranch Market

7330 Clairemont Mesa Blvd. (858) 974-8899

San Fernando Valley

99 Ranch Market

6450 Sepulveda Blvd., Van Nuys (818) 988-7899

The largest, splashiest Pan-Asian supermarket in the San Fernando Valley. Look for live fish, fresh noodles and Thai, Vietnamese, Malay and Chinese condiments, spices and produce.

Tai Lee

20922 Roscoe Blvd., Canoga Park (818) 882-8882

This medium-size Vietnamese-owned market has served the West Valley for more than a dozen years. You'll find good Thai, Vietnamese and Filipino basics, a small selection of live fish and fresh Vietnamese herbs.

Bangluck Market

12980 Sherman Way, North Hollywood (818) 765-1088

This medium-size Thai-owned market stocks many Vietnamese ingredients--although you won't find the more obscure Vietnamese items here--along with Thai, Chinese and Filipino goods. Convenient for East Valley cooks.

San Gabriel Valley

San Gabriel Superstore

1635 S. San Gabriel Blvd. (at Valley Boulevard) San Gabriel (626) 280-9998

You'll feel like you've flown to Asia while browsing the mind-boggling selection in this huge space that's part department store and part supermarket. Even if you don't buy, go for the fun of entering a different world.

Hawaii Market

120 E. Valley Blvd., San Gabriel (626) 307-0062

A huge, recently remodeled Pan-Asian store that's favored by many Vietnamese shoppers in the neighborhood.

99 Ranch Market

140 W. Valley Blvd., San Gabriel (626) 307-8899

The mega-mart anchors a two-story mall teeming with specialty Chinese restaurants.

Hong Kong Market

18414 Colima Rd., Rowland Heights (626) 964-1688

Asian shoppers say this, the best branch of the often-lackluster Hong Kong chain, has the finest produce in this area.

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