I want to share with you my absolute favorite things to get in an Asian grocery store or market. These are tried and true items that you won't go wrong with. I'll also link to recipes where you can use some of these ingredients and products.
My non-Asian, American friends and coworkers have told me that they feel intimidated going into a store where they don't recognize the products or understand the labels on the packaging. However, they are aware of the wonderful flavors that are available if they could just figure out how to navigate and what to buy. I've written all about how you can overcome that dilemma in this post about taking your first trip to an Asian grocery store.
Specifically, I wanted to talk about the frozen food aisle of an Asian grocer. There are so many wonderful ingredients and premade meals that you can find in the frozen aisle. Often, you'll find it less expensive here as well! While I know most of you would prefer fresh foods, when you need the food to last and store, frozen foods are definitely a good alternative for keeping food until you are ready to cook with them.
Asian Supermarket Frozen Vegetables
Banana leaves that are frozen are great when you are trying to make Banh Tet and Banh Chung. Generally, you'll need to dethaw them for about 30 minutes, wipe them down with a damp cloth to remove any residue, and be good to go for using them.
Lemongrass - Minced and Sliced
Lemongrass is so great to have on hand. While you can always freeze the fresh lemongrass in the refridgerated section, frozen lemongrass that's already cut for cooking Tom Yum Soup is perfect for a busy weeknight.
Kaffir Lime Leaves
Thai Bird Chilis
Thai Birds Eye Chilis are great for cooking soups and any dishes that require a bit of simmering. While I wouldn't recommend dethawing them and eating them, I would definitely have some on hand to spice up some of your dishes in off season months.
Curry leaves are also great to have on hand so that you don't have to go run another errand at an Asian grocery store. These curry leaves can be found with the other frozen vegetables and herbs aisle.
If you love edamame, but can't always eat all of it in one sitting, having a bag of frozen edamame will allow you to add it whenever you need to without it going bad in stir-frieds, boiled, or mashed into a dipping sauce.
Frozen Meat at Asian Grocery Store
While the selection varies which stores you go to, if you are making a soup broth like Vietnamese pho or Lao Khao Poon, the frozen section will have a wide selection of both pork, chicken, and beef bones to choose from.
Vietnamese Pork Ham Rolls
If you don't know what these are, you definitely need to try it on Banh Mi sandwiches, as a topping on Bun Bo Hue (or any ramen noodle really), and Banh Cuon. They are essentially made of pork mash that is then cooked an cured. There are various versions which include the plain variety as well as ones with black peppercorn for some spice. My kids and grandkids love the plain variety.
Pork and Beef Meatballs
Pork and beef meatballs can be found in small cryovac packages. These are wonderful when thawed and added to soups like Vietnamese pho. You can also add them to regular packages of ramen noodles.
Frozen Pork Belly
Chances are, if your Asian market can't sell fresh frozen pork belly within freshness, they will freeze to keep them good. If you are wanting to make some delicious Vietnamese crispy, crunchy pork belly, buy two pounds of this to keep it on hand for those cravings.
Seafood in Frozen Aisle at the Asian Grocery Store
Shrimp and Prawns
An Asian market is one of the best places to get seafood at steep discounts. Be forewarned, if you get shrimp and prawns, chances are the heads are intact. If you can't stomach this, you might just confirm that the heads are not included in the packaging.
The frozen fish aisle at an Asian grocery store will not compare to any western grocer. You'll be able to find a variety of species (probably some you've never heard of) at the market.
Korean Seafood Pancakes
Need a quick meal? Seafood pancakes can be found premade. These are savory pancakes made with scallions that you can just heat up!
Premade Frozen Meals at Asian Grocery Store
Potstickers are super inexpensive here with a ton of variety. Whether you want vegetarian, pork, chicken, or a meddley of meats, the possibilities are endless. The bags are bigger and you'll get a ton of potstickers for pretty much half the price at your local store.
The variety of dumplings here are absolutely incredible. You'll definitely be able to find just about any combination of fillings for dumplings in this aisle.
Egg Roll and Wonton Wrappers
There are a ton of varieties of dumpling and wonton wrappers available here, moreso than a western grocer. Take your pick of round, square, or rectangular!
This is a brand that has pretty high quality Asian premade meals. I would recommend getting a variety of their meals to see which ones you might prefer.
Frozen Banh Tet
While frozen Banh Tet heated up is not as good, you may be able to find them in your local Asian market, especially around February timeframe when the Asian new year generally kicksoff.
Breads, Pancakes, and Rice in Frozen Aisle
Scalion pancakes are great for an appetizer and even breakfast. They are similar to naan, where you can use it to dip into hummus.
Rice balls can also be found in the frozen aisle. You can pop them into the microwave or even a steamer, and they'll be quickly ready for a snack.
Chinese Donuts (Bread Sticks)
Chinese donuts are a great breakfast item, if it's available in the frozen section. It's widely available generally in the refridgerated section. If you can find them frozen (or you can freeze them yourself), they make an easy snack. They are crunchy, pre-deep-fried light and airy donuts that are absolutely delicious.
Frozen Steamed Custard Buns
Custard buns can be found prepackaged in generally a set of 6. These can be added into a steamer and cooked for a delicious snack or even a meal.
Frozen Spicy Cheesy Rice Cakes
These are generally known as Tteokbokki. You'll want to make sure you rince the rice cakes first before using them. These are chewy, spice, and super cheesy rice cakes that are amazing at absorbing flavor.
Frozen ramen is delicious and way better than the dehydrated ones. If you can find them at your local Asian grocer, consider yourself lucky.
Ice Cream at Asian Super Market
If you like Moshi ice cream, you'll be able to definitely find it at the Asian grocery store than your traditional local grocer.
Mochi are cakes that are round buns made of chewy, soft rice. They are filled with generally a red bean paste, which is really sweet. You'll want to make sure you thaw this before eating.
Gari Gari Popsicles
These popsicles are super popular in Japan and are available in a variety of flavors, the most popular one being Soda.
Taiyaki Ice Cream
This is a Japanese fish-shaped waffle (not made of fish at all), that has a sweet dessert (red bean paste like in Mochi).
Summary of Frozen Aisle
Those are my best tips for finding delicious ingredients and meals at your local Asian market. If you have any other finds you want to share, please leave a comment below so others can discover the deliciousness that awaits in the frozen aisle.
Other Asian Grocery Store Shopping Tips and Tricks
If you liked this post, the links below are also other blog posts I've written about to help you navigate an Asian grocery store for those that are unfamiliar. While it may seem very daunting to explore a store where you might not be able to read the labels or even identify the product, it can be a very rewarding experience in learning about new cultures right in your own city.
- First Trip to Asian Grocery Store Tips and Tricks
- What to Buy at an Asian Grocery Store
- Asian Grocery Store Haul