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Asian groceries in U district and elsewhere


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Yesterday I had a brisk walk from Fremont to the U District, intending to stop at that new Thai place on the east edge of Wallingford along the way.  Turns out they're closed Tuesdays.  (Closed Tuesdays?  Come ON!)  But it wasn't a total loss--I stopped in at City Greens on 45th, and they've converted it to an Asian grocery, complete with all the sauce and seasoning items you'd find at an I-district store.  The prices are pretty competitive, too.  They have a number of fish sauces to choose from and I got a bag of dried Thai chiles for 59 cents.  They're not doing anything unusual, but it's nice having an Asian grocery so close to campus.

Where do the rest of you like to shop for Asian ingredients?  I go to Uwajimaya a fair amount, but I buy Chaokoh coconut milk by the case at Hop Thanh (12th and Jackson) for 59 cents a can.  At QFC they charge $2 for the same stuff.

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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Uwajimaya is the place for me, but I don't end up buying a lot of Asian ingredients precisely because I haven't had easy access to a good store.  I only end up going to Uwajimaya when I go to PFI for lots of cheese, olives and bulk spices.

Good to hear about City Greens.  I used to go there for produce or Woodchuck Cider, but their organic veggies always looked a little depressing and they didn't have enough variety to warrant frequent visits.  So it's good to hear they've gone Asian, I think they'll get better business that way.

Also, they just haven't been the same since they stopped using their "beer vault."

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Many years ago, a good Vietnamese friend of mine recommended Viet Wah Supermarket (in Little Saigon, 1032 S Jackson St., Seattle) as her favorite Seattle Asian market (& the place where her Vietnamese friends like to shop as well), so that's where I like to go.  It's not as fancy, (or as clean) as Uwajimaya, but I like it none the less, and prices are cheaper there than at Uwajimaya.  btw, I do think Uwajimaya has fresher greens.  Here is a link to an older article I found on google about the owner of Viet Wah:

From Dishwasher To Durian King :article on Viet Wah owner

There is another store up in Little Saigon I also go to for cheap asian ingredients, I forget the name, but it is kitty corner from Viet Wah.

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How funny you started this topic because I JUST finished my grocery list for shopping at the 99 Ranch Market, a sort of cheaper and slightly smaller Uwajimaya in Kent at the Great Wall Shopping Mall (for the record, my grocery list: nam pla, tamarind juice, 4 limes, 1 package firm tofu, dried shrimp and peanut oil. And if I'm hungry when I get there, some prepared bbq pork at the deli counter).

99 Ranch inside the Great Wall Shopping Mall is located at 18230 East Valley Hwy, Kent;425-251-1600. They're a few blocks from IKEA.

Prices at 99 Ranch are great, but not rock bottom. A can of Chaokoh is usually 69 cents. Still much cheaper than QFC, but not a steal like some places in the ID. They've got big seafood tanks at 99 Ranch full of lots of sea creatures. They'll also fry a whole tilapia for you for a grand total of $4, including the fish! BARGAIN! It's even a bigger bargain that you don't stink up your kitchen making it. Ewww! They have aisles and aisles of ingredients categorized by geography, not ingredients -- meaning Thai ingredients are on the Thai aisle and Indonesian staples are in the Indonesian section.  They're also got a deli with lots of ready made items and a bakery with a nice assortment of buns and sweets. I could spend a whole day at the Great Wall Shopping Mall, ending with dim sum at Imperial Garden, of course.

Hubby and I take his mom to the ID to shop at least once every few months or sometimes more. Our tour starts at PFI (which is located next door to the cheapest studio in the city to jam at... Hush Studios) where we buy bulk spices and herbs (SO MUCH CHEAPER THAN ANYWHERE ELSE!). The concrete floor, dim lighting and stained plastic containers filled with bulk spices can seem scary for all those accustomed to pretty, pristine grocery stores, but I think you'll find a lot of the same great quality imported goods at a fraction of the price as Larry's. Everything at PFI is cheaper, even the cheese. One drawback with the cheese, though, is you have to either a) buy it by the pound or b) sweet talk the staff for 5 minutes into letting you buy only a half pound.

After PFI, we drive over and find parking near the Viet Ho Seafood Market at 7th and Jackson (206-622-5297) because they sell big packages of tripe, which my mother-in-law turns into this fantastic curry soup (being Indian and Japanese, she comes up with some really funky combos). We eyeball all the stuff swimming in the big tanks, then load up on tripe and other meats there and fill up the cooler we always bring with us in the car. Anyone who shops there might notice that for some reason they've started selling a lot of Mexican groceries there. I have no idea why, but it's added an interesting mix to the variety there.

Next, we cross the street to what I think now is called the Chinatown Market (which used to be called something else) and load up on very reasonably priced produce (lemons at 10 cents each) and inside we get bottles of sri racha (CHEAP!) and rice noodles (EVEN CHEAPER!). There's another produce place across the street that we sometimes go to, but there quality is sometimes iffy.

We then zigzag down Jackson, stopping in at whatever store looks interesting, and cut over to Uwajimaya, although sometimes it's so busy, we don't even bother. We always eat lunch at Bangkok House (I think the address is 606 S Weller). Not because it's a fantastic restaurant, which it's not, but because it's our tradition. Then, we amble back to the car, our stomachs loaded with pad Thai and rama, and usually drive to an ethnic grocery store near my mother-in-law's house called Valley Harvest  (23636 104th S.E., Kent; 253-856-8462). They're a multi ethnic grocery store and bakery. My favorite thing about them is they sell 10 pound bags of Golden Anchor brand Jasmine Rice for $5.95. BARGAIN! They also carry lots of Russian baked goods, which can be difficult to find unless you live on the East Hill of Kent where there's a grouping of Ukrainian grocers. Of course, a discussion about Ukrainian grocers is for another topic...

My, I've typed a lot. Hopefully, your eyes didn't glaze over. I'd love to hear about all the other Asian grocery stores out there. Anyone a fan of Central Market in Shoreline? Doesn't that place ROCK?!! I rarely go because of its location, but I've been blown away by the selection there.

A palate, like a mind, works better with exposure and education and is a product of its environment.

-- Frank Bruni

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By the way, 99 Ranch Market is the only place where I've seen fresh lychee fruit. It's very difficult to find -- at least for me. My mother-in-law loves the stuff, so if anyone knows of where to get it fresh (NOT CANNED), please let me know!

According to the produce workers at the 99 Ranch, it's only in season in June, so that's why it's hard to find. If anyone knows otherwise, please post!

A palate, like a mind, works better with exposure and education and is a product of its environment.

-- Frank Bruni

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I love going to Central Market, it has all of the quality of Whole Foods but less expensive and has more space.  Plus you have to love a place that sells durian!  They have a pretty good wine and beer selection and I always drool when walking past the meat counter: brisket, rib eyes, lamb, gorgeous pork, rabbit and game hens to name a few.  I also like the fact that you can easily park there and it doesn't take to long to get to if 5 isn't a parking lot.

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Central Market is a winner.  I have still never been to the Great Wall Mall.  The idea of regionally organized groceries sounds brilliant.  GC, want to bring me along next time?

I've gotten fresh lychees at Whole Foods, but probably not as cheap.

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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Hey Mamster! I'd be happy to drag you along if you're ever in my South County hood -- and anyone else who'd like to come along, of course. Maybe an egullet outing at some point? As a life rule, I generally avoid malls, but this place truly is awesome. I can roam there for hours. The dim sum restaurant Imperial Garden and 99 Ranch both anchor the mall and there are at least six smaller restaurants  (Chinese/Japanese/Thai/Vietnamese/Korean/Filipino), a bakery and herb store, a jewelry and video store and assorted businesses. It's about 5 minutes from my office, so I'm there all the time eating pho and slurping up bubble tea. Of course, the ID (much closer for you all), beats on quantity and sometimes quality, but for those of us who don't want the drive, it's a nice alternative. Plus, the Great Wall is all indoors... BONUS!

Here is a link: Great Wall Shopping Mall

Mamster, do you remember at what time of year you saw lychees at Whole Foods? Was it recently? I'd love to surprise my mother-in-law with some. She says eating the fruit reminds her of home. I'd love to indulge her nostalgia :)

A palate, like a mind, works better with exposure and education and is a product of its environment.

-- Frank Bruni

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Mamster, do you remember at what time of year you saw lychees at Whole Foods? Was it recently? I'd love to surprise my mother-in-law with some. She says eating the fruit reminds her of home. I'd love to indulge her nostalgia :)

This isn't mamster here, but after reading about your quest for fresh lychees, I did a search and found an article that while not saying where to find them in Seattle, does give a calendar of when they are available and from where they come at which particular month: Fresh Lychee season calendar   It appears at least LA might get them into November?

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Thanks Blue Heron! That article was great. Now all I have to do is find a local supplier who has them on a regular basis, or at least during the summer months. 99 Ranch, I'm afraid, says they only get them periodically during the early summer. If anyone sees them (they've got a weird, reddish looking shell that sort of looks like a fake raspberry), please let me know. I will happily scout out any store south of Seattle on your behalf for any ingredients, as well :)

I think fresh lychee is just OK, although the texture takes some getting used to (it's almost gelatinous). I most definitely do not like them from a can. Uck. That's nasty.

A palate, like a mind, works better with exposure and education and is a product of its environment.

-- Frank Bruni

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  • 5 months later...

uwajamaya had lychees (I think) last weekend. either that or a close relative (it wasn't longan, probably lychee). i also saw jackfruit a while ago, even more expensive than the durian. they both look a bit sad from the shipment, and the durian smell seems to be gone.

june makes sense for lychee... if you're ever in Tha Ton (north thailand near the burmese border), stay in Garden Home, which is a bunch of bunaglows in a lychee orchard, with a good restaurant. i was there mid april and we stole some almost-ripe fruit at dinner.

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Welcome, mb7o, and thanks for the post. I've never been to Tha Ton, but I've been to Thailand twice and it's my favorite place in the world to eat.

Except (adjusting coordinator cap) the Pacific Northwest, of course.

Happily, and unrelated to lychees, Uwajimaya seems to have a more reliable supply of green mangoes these days. It used to be they were often either out or, worse, lousy half-ripe mangoes would be crouching duplicitously in the green section.

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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girlchow, thanks so much for the comprehensive post! You always have such excellent and thorough information, and it's greatly appreciated.

I have seen fresh lychees in the past few days at Pike Market (in the main market).

I do love Uwajimaya's produce, but of course some things are overpriced. I also get my coconut milk much cheaper up the street. Mamster mentioned that coconut milk is $2 at QFC. I saw it for $2.99 at DiLaurenti's! Yikes!

Uwajimaya is the only place I know of that carries a decent selection of good sake. Is there anywhere else in the Seattle area? I have searched to no avail.

Kathy

"Save Donald Duck and Fuck Wolfgang Puck."

-- State Senator John Burton, joking about

how the bill to ban production of foie gras in

California was summarized for signing by

Gov. Schwarzenegger.

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Yes! Lychees are here! I talked to my mother-in-law last Thursday and she had gotten some at a grocery store in SeaTac. I've been to 99 Ranch twice in the last week, but they were out. I'm hoping they'll have some this afternoon.

I recently discovered street after street of Asian grocery stores in South Tacoma on South Tacoma Way. I went into a few and I think they were Korean. My plan is to explore these stores more and give a full report! I had no idea that Tacoma had its own little International District. Interesting!

A palate, like a mind, works better with exposure and education and is a product of its environment.

-- Frank Bruni

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This is so juvenile, but I just cant' help myself. An Asian grocery opened in my neighborhood (Boulevard Park) a few months ago. The name.....Hung Lo. I $#!^ you not.

Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.

- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

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In case you're interested, I was just at the 99 Ranch Market (thanks for the tip girl chow!) and they had big bags of fresh lychees in the produce section. They only had them by the bag so I didn't get any. I'm not sure I would like them and I just wanted to buy a few to try them. I'll try Uwajimaya to see if they have them in bulk.

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Of course the obvious difference is Uwajimaya is larger and therefor has a bigger selection of items. Beyond that I would say 99 Ranch seems to have more southeast Asian items while Uwajimaya has more Japanese products. I happen to love Japanese snack foods, candy and soft drinks so I shop at Uwajimaya at least once a month. I saw several things at 99 Ranch that Uwajimaya doesn't carry, and the fish (still swimming!) and meat looked good and fresh, but I didn't see anything that I would make a special trip for - if I was in the area I would make a point of stopping, though. I wasn't paying too much attention to prices, so I couldn't say which was less expensive, though I would bet 99 Ranch is cheaper for most.

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Mamster, I am so laughing my ass off right now. I would go anywhere if "Project" was in the name, but especially if the place was called the Hung Lo Project. hehehe.

I got lychee!! Thanks for the reports on that people ;)

And I agree with nightscotsman about his summary of Uwajimaya and 99 Ranch. I'd say 99 is cheaper for the most part, but I think Uwajimaya has a better selection. The real draw of 99 Ranch is that it's the only store of its kind south of Seattle where we southenders can get a broad selection of Asian ingredients at great prices. I can't believe people pay $2.79 for a can of coconut milk at QFC when 99 Ranch is just down the street with the same thing for 69 cents.

Plus, the Great Wall Mall is a trip worth making. Besides 99 Ranch, there are all kinds of stores in the mall that merit exploring. I especially like the herb store and the bubble tea stand ... not to mention the housewares store.... yada yada yada...

A palate, like a mind, works better with exposure and education and is a product of its environment.

-- Frank Bruni

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  • 1 month later...

Just to let everyone know, Uwajimaya is now having an anniversary sale where EVERYTHING in the store is 10% off, even sale items.

Today I bought daikon and ginger to go with my tobiko, albacore sashimi (frozen), salmon, izuma tai, unagi and scallops. Mmmm, sushi.

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I went there the first day of the sale and picked up a Benriner mandoline. The small version is on sale plus the extra 10% off, but I had to have the "Super" sized one.

I also came this close to buying the Hello Kitty waffle iron. Somebody stop me! :shock:

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