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Thread: Ethnic grocery stores

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    Elder Contributor Underseer's Avatar
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    Ethnic grocery stores

    Mitsuwa


    (View video on YouTube)

    The Epicurious channel on YouTube did a short tour of the New Jersey Mitsuwa.

    Mitsuwa is a chain of Japanese grocery stores in America, and if you've been to one, you've been to them all. What you see in the above video is pretty much identical to the Mitsuwa here in the Chicago suburbs. Part of their target audience is Japanese executives who are working in America, and thus some of the prices are outrageously high.

    While I can make many Japanese dishes from shopping at non-Japanese grocery stores in America (and in some cases, even the non-ethnic grocery stores), when I need a specialty item peculiar to Japanese cooking, Mitsuwa is where I go (although when shopping for Thanksgiving dinner, the bastards were all out of chrysanthemum leaves). Because the prices are higher at Mitsuwa, I will often by staple ingredients at other Asian grocers, then go to Mitsuwa just for the specialty items that can't be found anywhere else.

    The food court at Mitsuwa is especially nice and offer a variety of Japanese dishes from tonkatsu to tonkotsu.

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    Elder Contributor Underseer's Avatar
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    Tensuke

    https://www.tensuke.com/


    Taken from Yelp, hey is that the one near me? That looks like the one near me.

    If you're ever in Japan, here's a tip: buy your sushi at the fishmonger. The fishmonger will usually sell good quality sushi at a low price as a way of convincing you to buy their fish. Because the sushi exists largely to convince you to buy their fish, the price-to-quality ratio is all out of whack with anything you will find in a sit-down restaurant. Yes, you can find higher quality sushi in a regular restaurant, but you'll also pay a whole lot more for the experience.

    Tensuke is a chain of Japanese fishmongers in America.

    Their stores generally include a tiny grocery that sells other Japanese ingredients, so you can theoretically buy all the necessary ingredients for a Japanese meal here, but the grocery part of the store is nowhere near as large as, say, Mitsuwa. Heck, I'm pretty sure I can find more Japanese ingredients at H-Mart (a Korean chain). The store itself contains a few items clearly meant to appeal to American Japanophiles.

    The main reason to go to Tensuke is for their fish, or for the food court.

    As previously mentioned, the sushi has a price-to-quality ratio that is all out of whack with anything you will find in restaurants, and that's the primary attraction. The other Japanese dishes available at the food court are also of good quality at a decent price.

    Food images from the intarwebz:


    Fair warning: the Tensuke chain is owned by Moonies (followers of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, who in addition to being an ultra-right-wing nutbar, also believes He is the second coming of Christ). Sometimes, I decide against going because I don't want to give money to insane morons, but the sushi is sooooo good for the price you pay.
    Last edited by Underseer; 12-20-2018 at 02:44 AM.

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    I shop at a kind of catch-all Asian grocery store, I believe with Chinese owners. It has a number of aisles dedicated to different ethnic products sorted by Nationality, but what I really go there for is their produce section, which is massive, of decent quality, and well-priced.

    When I shop there it also has a bit of a quaint feel where I feel like I'm shopping at a traditional food market, rather than some capitalistic grocery store with bells, whistles, fireworks, and misleading signs everywhere.

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    Elder Contributor Underseer's Avatar
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    H-Mart


    (View video on YouTube)

    A few years back, the H-Mart chain thundered into the Chicagoland area like an 800-pound gorilla. They put a store on seemingly every other street corner, and overnight most of the smaller Asian grocery stores went out of business.

    Although it's a Korean grocer, you can find lots of stuff from other Asian cuisines, including but not limited to Japanese, Chinese, Philipino, Vietnamese, etc. I can honestly make almost any Japanese meal by shopping at H-Mart, thus saving myself a longer trip to the more expensive Mitsuwa, at least in most cases. I might have to substitute one or two ingredients, but I can get nearly everything I need for nearly any Japanese meal I want to make.

    Oh, and as you would expect, the kimchi selection is phenomenal, including kimchi made right there in the store. If you've ever been to a Korean restaurant and love the large number of tiny dishes they brought you filled with a bewildering assortment of pickles, salads, etc., you'll find many of those ingredients in the same part of the store as the kimchi.

    In the meat department, you'll find a wide assortment of already-marinated meat ready to go, so you can make a nice fancy bulgogi dinner even if you're completely ignorant of Korean cooking.

    Easy-Peasy Bulgogi Dinner Courtesy of H-Mart
    Just buy the pre-marinated bulgogi meat, go to the produce section and buy an assortment of pickles and side salads for the large-number-of-tiny-dishes thing, but a head or two of red-leaf lettuce. Make a pot of Japanese rice (you can also buy that at H-Mart).

    Then all you need is one of those table-griddles that many American families use to make pancakes at the table on Saturday mornings. If you want, H-Mart sells a specially-made table griddle meant for bulgogi, but an American-style table griddle works just fine in my experience. As long as the meat gets browned a bit, it's all good.

    You just let everyone cook the marinated bulgogi meat for themselves at the table, and they can make their own lettuce wraps. You start with a piece of red-leaf lettuce on your hand, add a wad of rice, add cooked bulgogi straight off of the table griddle, then add whatever pickles or salad-thingies you like from the assortment of tiny dishes set on the table.

    Last but not least, give each dinner two small dishes or bowls with sauces to dip their lettuce wraps in. In one of the sauce cups, put gochujang (basically super-spicy miso paste) in one, and in the other a good dark sesame oil (preferably Korean or Japanese) with a bit of sea salt.


    Example of the bunch-of-tiny-dishes you might get at a Korean restaurant. I never know what half of this stuff is, but it all tastes good in the lettuce wraps. Also worth adding to the small dish assortment in a bulgogi meal: thin slices of jalapeño, thin slices of garlic.

    Again, you can get all of this stuff right at H-Mart and make a big fancy Korean dinner for your family or friends for a fraction of the work it would take otherwise, even if you understand very little about Korean food.

    Their meat department includes lots of thinly-sliced meats that I just can't get at non-ethnic grocery stores for some reason. I don't understand why American butchers have yet to figure out how to cut meat this thin, nor understand why people who like to make Asian food would want to buy it. Whenever I see "stir fry" meats at non-ethnic grocery stores, I cringe and wonder if the butchers there have ever made Asian food. Anyway, at the H-Mart meat department I can easily find the meat cuts I need for shabu-shabu, sukiyaki, yakisoba, etc., as well as a bewildering assortment of thinly-sliced meats intended for dishes unfamiliar to me.

    As you can see from the above video, H-Mart has kind of a cult following in America, and people can get pretty excited about an H-Mart moving into their area. As also shown in the above video, they have a large selection of spicy ramen (and some of the super-spicy ramen you've seen in those "spicy ramen challenge" things).

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    Elder Contributor Underseer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    I shop at a kind of catch-all Asian grocery store, I believe with Chinese owners. It has a number of aisles dedicated to different ethnic products sorted by Nationality, but what I really go there for is their produce section, which is massive, of decent quality, and well-priced.

    When I shop there it also has a bit of a quaint feel where I feel like I'm shopping at a traditional food market, rather than some capitalistic grocery store with bells, whistles, fireworks, and misleading signs everywhere.
    That's one thing I like about ethnic groceries in general (including Italian, Mexican, etc.).

    It seems that every culture other than Americans place greater emphasis on quality produce.

    We used to have a bunch of smaller Asian grocers like the one you describe, but H-Mart swooped in and drove them all out of business. If they ever come to Canada, that will be both a good thing and a bad thing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Underseer View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    I shop at a kind of catch-all Asian grocery store, I believe with Chinese owners. It has a number of aisles dedicated to different ethnic products sorted by Nationality, but what I really go there for is their produce section, which is massive, of decent quality, and well-priced.

    When I shop there it also has a bit of a quaint feel where I feel like I'm shopping at a traditional food market, rather than some capitalistic grocery store with bells, whistles, fireworks, and misleading signs everywhere.
    That's one thing I like about ethnic groceries in general (including Italian, Mexican, etc.).

    It seems that every culture other than Americans place greater emphasis on quality produce.

    We used to have a bunch of smaller Asian grocers like the one you describe, but H-Mart swooped in and drove them all out of business. If they ever come to Canada, that will be both a good thing and a bad thing.
    Yea I get the sense that most of it's customers:

    a) prefer real, whole foods
    b) also don't have the money to spend on frilly, artificial crap

    Based on the sum total of everything in the store it looks like it's customers eat a lot of produce/meat/rice/noodles with nice sauces as a complement.

    North Americans? We just eat a lot of literal garbage for some reason.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Underseer View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    I shop at a kind of catch-all Asian grocery store, I believe with Chinese owners. It has a number of aisles dedicated to different ethnic products sorted by Nationality, but what I really go there for is their produce section, which is massive, of decent quality, and well-priced.

    When I shop there it also has a bit of a quaint feel where I feel like I'm shopping at a traditional food market, rather than some capitalistic grocery store with bells, whistles, fireworks, and misleading signs everywhere.
    That's one thing I like about ethnic groceries in general (including Italian, Mexican, etc.).

    It seems that every culture other than Americans place greater emphasis on quality produce.

    We used to have a bunch of smaller Asian grocers like the one you describe, but H-Mart swooped in and drove them all out of business. If they ever come to Canada, that will be both a good thing and a bad thing.
    Yea I get the sense that most of it's customers:

    a) prefer real, whole foods
    b) also don't have the money to spend on frilly, artificial crap

    Based on the sum total of everything in the store it looks like it's customers eat a lot of produce/meat/rice/noodles with nice sauces as a complement.

    North Americans? We just eat a lot of literal garbage for some reason.
    Yeah, every time I've ever been to one of the Mexican groceries near me, I always see store employees picking through the produce and paring or throwing out anything that doesn't pass muster, while the non-ethnic groceries (even the upscale ones) will leave things on display in the produce aisle that are well past their prime.

    - - - Updated - - -


    (View video on YouTube)

    This video reminds me: I haven't been to an Italian grocery in many years.

    I just did a Google search and found out that there are more Italian groceries near me than I thought.

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    Patel Brothers serves the large Indian community in my area and has the best prices by far on many types of spices, but also very competitive with the larger chain grocers for produce. Garlic is really cheap and it's the only place I can find Kirby cukes for making pickles. But being lower volume the quality can falter occasionally to where you need to pick through the loose onions or celery. Lots of greens I have no idea what to do with. Also largest variety of rice at decent prices as well as dried chickpeas and lentils. Strange but the ethnic customers seem to lean heavily on pre packaged concoctions, which tends to mean lots of salt.

    Key Foods is the best local source of Latino foods with a wide variety of fresh and dried chilis and an amazing variety of dried beans from several brands. Also the only place to find fresh epazote herb.

    Only one small oriental grocer in the area which is sad. It's where I go for toasted sesame oil. I used to buy dried wakami seaweed there until I found it on line.

    Small chains have a hard time being inexpensive and fresh on a consistent basis, except when (it seems) they have a smaller supplier that doesn't serve the big chains. I make the rounds every week for the best prices. I use the big chain store for meats and fish and for stocking up on canned goods and such when they go on sale. We also have a Whole Foods but I've always found it dissappointing. And I can't afford their meats, fish, cheese or artisan breads. More's the pity.
    Last edited by Treedbear; 12-20-2018 at 08:35 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Treedbear View Post
    Patel Brothers serves the large Indian community in my area and has the best prices by far on many types of spices, but also very competitive with the larger chain grocers for produce. Garlic is really cheap and it's the only place I can find Kirby cukes for making pickles. But being lower volume the quality can falter occasionally to where you need to pick through the loose onions or celery. Lots of greens I have no idea what to do with. Also largest variety of rice at decent prices as well as dried chickpeas and lentils. Strange but the ethnic customers seem to lean heavily on pre packaged concoctions, which tends to mean lots of salt.

    Key Foods is the best local source of Latino foods with a wide variety of fresh and dried chilis and an amazing variety of dried beans from several brands. Also the only place to find fresh epazote herb.

    Only one small oriental grocer in the area which is sad. It's where I go for toasted sesame oil. I used to buy dried wakami seaweed there until I found it on line.

    Small chains have a hard time being inexpensive and fresh on a consistent basis, except when (it seems) they have a smaller supplier that doesn't serve the big chains. I make the rounds every week for the best prices. I use the big chain store for meats and fish and for stocking up on canned goods and such when they go on sale. We also have a Whole Foods but I've always found it dissappointing. And I can't afford their meats, fish, cheese or artisan breads. More's the pity.
    A Patel Brothers just opened near me!

    I took a quick gander, but at the time, I was trying to track down a particular obscure ingredient and didn't have time to browse.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Underseer View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    I shop at a kind of catch-all Asian grocery store, I believe with Chinese owners. It has a number of aisles dedicated to different ethnic products sorted by Nationality, but what I really go there for is their produce section, which is massive, of decent quality, and well-priced.

    When I shop there it also has a bit of a quaint feel where I feel like I'm shopping at a traditional food market, rather than some capitalistic grocery store with bells, whistles, fireworks, and misleading signs everywhere.
    That's one thing I like about ethnic groceries in general (including Italian, Mexican, etc.).

    It seems that every culture other than Americans place greater emphasis on quality produce.
    That's not what we see here.

    While we get most of our produce from a Mexican market. They aren't nearly as careful about removing inferior produce so it takes more selecting to get good stuff, but it's often a half or a third of what the American places charge.

    The various Oriental places here are no better than the American places and usually a bit more expensive except when it comes to things which are primarily Oriental. (Example: Ginger is generally around $1/lb, but can easily be $4/lb in the American stores. On the other hand the Mexican places often have it as low as $.50/lb.)

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