What should I buy from the Asian supermarket?
August 2, 2018 9:07 AM   Subscribe

I want to get some gochujang in a squeezy bottle (in the UK). The easiest way seems to be to buy it online from a specialist Asian grocer. I was looking at this one but it doesn’t have to be. But if I’m going to be paying more for delivery than for the actual goods I might as well put a couple more things in the basket.* Give me ideas!

I’m open to all kinds of suggestions: cooking ingredients, snacks, tea… just a few relatively inexpensive things that you think I might like.

*I know, the logic of this is dubious.
posted by Bloxworth Snout to Food & Drink (31 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
1) What do you want to eat.
2) Which bit of the UK?
posted by pompomtom at 9:13 AM on August 2, 2018


I just took a trip to my awesome Asian market to stock up. I mostly got basics, but its what I like and what I use: Sesame oil; Soy sauce; Noodles of all shapes and sizes; Panko bread crumbs; Chili Garlic (this one is great, but I don't see it on your site.); Sweet chili sauce (I don't see this on your site either); Coconut milk.

If you eat instant soup, stock up on all types of ramen and other instant noodle soups. If you like sweets, you can find lots of unique sweets. If you like snacks, you can find lots of wasabi and rice cracker snacks.

Think about what you like to eat and how you like to cook.
posted by hydra77 at 9:17 AM on August 2, 2018


Summer suggestions.

1. Matcha green tea ice cream + sweet red bean paste.
2. Barley tea bags, brewed in pitcher in fridge = super refreshing summer drink.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:20 AM on August 2, 2018 [2 favorites]


Sorry, I left it intentionally vague but I should clarify: I’m really looking for relatively unusual things. I have a lot of basics already or can easily get them at the normal supermarket: things like sesame oil and coconut milk and sweet chilli sauce. But if go into an Asian supermarket there are lots of things that look interesting but I am paralysed by choice. I want specific suggestions of a few random things to try that I might not know about.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 9:27 AM on August 2, 2018


Do you have this Chinese bbq sauce? It will change your life. I use it for stir fry, noodles, and hot pot.

Also I saw they sell moon cakes. If you’ve never tried, you should get a small assorted pack. Some people love them, some do not. I am in the once a year camp and like the ones with yolk for a sweet/salty combo.
posted by inevitability at 9:31 AM on August 2, 2018


I got some Japanese Yuzu Mayo a while back and it's fun.
posted by vunder at 9:33 AM on August 2, 2018


I cook a lot with fermented soybean paste, though that may be something already available to you. There's generally two kinds, Korean (Doenjang) and Chinese (Doubanjiang), and as someone who can read neither language it confuses me but they're both similar broadly speaking, if different in specifics. I originally got it to make a recipe for chinese noodles in meat sauce (Zha Jiang Mian), but it's super great to add depth of flavor to all sorts of dishes (I sneak it into risottos, heavy sauces, braised/shredded meats, etc).`
posted by tocts at 9:46 AM on August 2, 2018 [3 favorites]


I always get tons of noodles. Authentic Asian noodles are (at least in the U.S.) wildly overpriced in a regular supermarket, and dirt cheap in Asian grocery stores.
posted by something something at 9:48 AM on August 2, 2018 [1 favorite]


Check out different soy sauces. There's a whole world of them out there. I personally love to have kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce) on hand for noodles.
posted by General Malaise at 9:51 AM on August 2, 2018 [1 favorite]


It looks like they changed the name for the international market, I usually see it sold at my nearest H Mart as Chungjungwon. I see over there, they call it Chung Jung One. If that's the same brand, that's the one you want to get.
posted by cazoo at 10:13 AM on August 2, 2018


I'd second the green-tea or red-bean ice cream, but it's mail order, right?

Second the noodles. Especially the non-dehydrated udon. Dehydrated noodles that you buy in regular supermarkets can't touch the toothiness of real udon.

I'd get seaweed sheets for making sushi. Also, brown sushi rice. And good toasted sesame seeds.
posted by Dashy at 10:17 AM on August 2, 2018


Chinese (Doubanjiang)

Specifically pixian doubanjiang, which is the Sichuan kind. Made with broad beans, which are not universal in Chinese doubanjiang. link on OP's online store

Here's a kick-ass recipe you can make with that, along with the chili garlic sauce mentioned above, and also tianmianjiang: pork in garlic sauce
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 10:24 AM on August 2, 2018 [1 favorite]


Two things I recently discovered at our asian supermarket: dried tofu skin and green bean/mung bean starch for making noodles

Mochi is also really easy to make in the microwave with some glutinous rice flour.
posted by Bibliogeek at 10:47 AM on August 2, 2018


If you get Hon Dashi you can make delicious miso soup any old time you like (assuming tofu is a grocery item where you are). Wakame is also commonly added.
posted by ftm at 10:50 AM on August 2, 2018


Came here to post the very same suggestion as qxntpqbbbqxl. In a similar vein, Sichuan peppercorns. The two together give you authentic má là flavor. Black rice vinegar is also nice to have on hand for Chinese dishes, especially sweet-and-sour. It's mellower and with a deeper flavor than the clear stuff.
posted by serathen at 11:00 AM on August 2, 2018 [1 favorite]


Cooked and peeled chestnuts in perma-fresh foil packs are delicious and a lot cheaper than in common grocery stores; also, sunflower seeds.
posted by batter_my_heart at 11:00 AM on August 2, 2018 [1 favorite]


Try some pickled vegetables! I've only seen them in Asian supermarkets, but they're very tasty. I grew up eating them with rice. Pickled bamboo shoots, pickled radish, pickled mustard, pickled greens. Also, you say you have access to chili oil, but have you tried Lao gan ma? Serious Eats did a feature/recipe on its Spicy Chili Crisp Oil recently, but it's a fantastic brand for all things spicy. My dad also likes their spicy bamboo shoots...

I'll recommend some treats/sweets that I grew up eating as a kid, though I can't vouch for whether or not you'll like it! (Asian snacks are sometimes very different taste-wise from European/American snacks...)
- pineapple cake
- Shrimp crackers!
- flour cakes (they've got a strange texture... it's hard to describe. there's also a sesame version)
- dried mandarin orange peel (my mom kept this around for whenever anyone had stomachaches, but she also likes this as a snack)
- dried squid
- choco pies! (the asian version of a moonpie basically. These were apparently once black market currency in North Korea!)
- hello panda cookies
- preserved plum (I personally dislike most preserved fruit in Asian supermarkets, but my mom adores these. It was the only kind of sweet stuff she got to eat growing up in China, so it's basically candy to her)
- hawthorne rolls

For most of this stuff, I just picked the closest thing I could find to what I remember, so don't get hung up on brand if you find a better deal! Other than Lao gan ma, that's a definite brand name.
posted by devrim at 11:01 AM on August 2, 2018 [1 favorite]


I second the sunflower seeds recommendation--way tastier than in American grocery stores at least! I like the ChaCha brand of sunflower seeds.
posted by devrim at 11:02 AM on August 2, 2018 [1 favorite]


Laoganma Crispy Chilli Oil
posted by Ferrari328 at 11:05 AM on August 2, 2018


If you end up at a site with Japanese products, some of my musts are seasonal snacky things-- flavors of pocky, pretz and kit kat that come and go, like plum and chestnut, and flavors that are not seasonal but appear only on and off in brick and mortar stores by me. Matcha kit kats are amazing.

And definitely different kinds of furikake.
posted by BibiRose at 11:26 AM on August 2, 2018


I tend to go ham on furikake when given options. I eat a lot of rice though, YMMV.
posted by phunniemee at 11:27 AM on August 2, 2018


You said you can get sesame oil at the grocery store; how about garlic oil and ginger oil? I love these for lazy stir fries when I don't want to chop fresh garlic and ginger.
posted by Former Congressional Representative Lenny Lemming at 11:34 AM on August 2, 2018


Haw Flakes
posted by Sassyfras at 11:40 AM on August 2, 2018 [1 favorite]


Thai red curry paste from the Asian stores is way better and cheaper than what is available in the regular groceries by me.
posted by RoadScholar at 11:52 AM on August 2, 2018


I just had a quick look. Things that you cannot get through Ocado/ the big four supermarkets that I would recommend are:

Mooncakes, as a poster said above. It's nearly Mooncake Festival/ Mid Autumn Festival!! Single yolk white lotus paste is the traditional one, but you can go all kinds of fancy.
Good instant noodles. I like the Korean ramen ones, or Indomee ones.
Glutinous rice balls. So much amazingness. I linked the salted egg yolk ones but they are all good.
Frozen dim sum, great for a quick snack.
posted by moiraine at 12:08 PM on August 2, 2018


Thank you everybody!

I have ordered gochujang, mandarin peel, hawthorn rolls, Laoganma crispy chilli oil, assorted mooncakes, kecap manis and mustard pickles. And I am going to stop there before it gets any more out of hand. Thanks again!
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 12:25 PM on August 2, 2018 [1 favorite]


For future readers:
Japanese okonomiyaki sauce. You can find okonomiyaki recipes online or memail me for mine.
Japanese furikake toppings to shake on rice.
posted by dancing leaves at 12:56 PM on August 2, 2018 [2 favorites]


Instant naengmyeon!
posted by soren_lorensen at 1:39 PM on August 2, 2018


I'm a sucker for "unusual" candy flavours: milk, tea (black & green both), coffee, melon, guava, lychee. Haw flakes, as mentioned above, are also good. Jelly cups are tasty, especially chilled.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 1:47 PM on August 2, 2018


If you make your own chicken stock, adding chicken feet will improve it immensely. I rarely find them outside Asian grocery stores.
posted by sapere aude at 4:27 PM on August 2, 2018


Just an update, since I had a ham sandwich with preserved mustard on it yesterday (wholemeal wrap, mayonnaise, ham, shredded cabbage, watercress and the pickled mustard: very nice), which means I’ve now tried everything.

As everyone says, the crispy chilli oil is fantastic. The hawthorn rolls were nice and I ate them all. I’ve tried two of the mooncakes and enjoyed them. I’m still experimenting with the sweet soy sauce — I put some in a chicken soup with ginger and lime juice for a generically Asian flavour, and that was nice.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 2:27 AM on September 8, 2018


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