The ExPat Returneth

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Asian Supermarkets in the United States

Because we cook Asian food, mostly Japanese, we shop at Asian supermarkets fairly often. I can get my basic Japanese ingredients -- rice, tofu, soy sauce, mirin, sake, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, some noodles -- at my local Kroger, but I can get bigger sizes and better prices at an Asian store. Other ingredients like miso, dashi, prepared sauces, dried foods, and condiments can be harder to find, and I have to go to an Asian specific store. I can also get prepared items, snacks, meat, and vegetables there, too.

Even better, for vegetables, meat, and certain staples these Asian supermarkets are cheap!
Japanese Staples & Sauces at Tomato, Atlanta
Sliced meat ready for various Asian dishes
We go to these stores to grocery shop, but also because they're fun. Looking at familiar foods from your host country is stepping into nostalgia. The kids spot snacks and drinks they used to enjoy. The people shopping with us are a mixture of races and cultures. Various languages mix with English. And most people are like us, excited to find their favorite foods and not in a rush to snatch Monday night dinner ingredients.

In Atlanta, we're lucky to have a wide variety of shopping options. There are a few, small groceries specific to Japanese stores we enjoy, particularly Tomato (one in Smyrna and another in Norcross). There are numerous, tiny Asian food store, even one down in Newnan called Oriental Market
The rice cracker & snack aisle at Tomato

We have gone to the massive Buford Highway Farmer's Market since the mid-90's. This kind of international supermarket has food from all over the world, including Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, and the Caribbean as well as central Asia, but they specialize in Hispanic and Asian foods. I recently brought a friend from Puerto Rico there and she was delighted to find certain fruits and vegetables that she normally could only find in Miami. 

H-Mart is another Atlanta chain that can be found in other cities in the U.S. This is a Korean owned chain that primarily sells Asian foods, but my local one also has quite a bit of Hispanic food because of the large Latino community. H-Mart can be found in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania  Maryland, Virginia, Illinois, Texas, California, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Georgia. 

AND, if they don't have a store near you, they do offer on-line shopping. 
Produce at H-Mart
For a list of other large Asian supermarkets in the U.S., I turned to Wikipedia (use this list to find stores in your state) and found a Chinese grocery chain, Great Wall Supermarket, located in Atlanta. A quick google search for this store revealed an article lauding its praises, particularly for the Asian food court. 

They had me at food court. I am so there.
Variety of greens at H-Mart
In reading the article I discovered a few more stores I hadn't explored. Try a quick google check for Asian groceries in your closest city. The tiny ones probably don't have web sites, but there may be reviews or at least a yellow pages listing. Even the Consulate-General of Japan in Atlanta has a list for the region they serve.  

The rice curry aisle at Tomato
Take a shopping list, but go for pleasure. If you really want an international experience, try a weekend mid-day and enjoy the bustle and crush of what it's like shopping in another country.

Are there international groceries in your area? Do you have shopping recommendations that would help others find these stores?


  1. Shopping at these stores is super fun. You're right. We have few an hour away from my home and I take my mom shopping.

    1. Hey Brinda! Aren't they fun? It's like walking into another world. And you can always find something particularly yummy and something particularly strange.

  2. You're lucky to have such a nice selection! We have one Asian store that I know of at the City Market in KC. Now I want to go check it out and try something new!

    1. Terri, you should! It's so much fun. You might find Hello Kitty and anime stuff, too!