Navigating Asian grocery stores if you have never been inside one can be a daunting venture.
The smells, the packaging with different languages on it, the variety of groceries that you’ve probably never seen before can be quite overwhelming.
I’m here to show you how you can broaden your horizons and how to explore your local Asian market before you step foot in it. Not only will you find amazing and glorious foods that you won’t find anywhere else, you’ll also find that A LOT of products that are less expensive than at your current grocer. There are aisles of larger varieties of snacks, vegetables, sauces, spices, condiments, and seafood you may have never seen in any grocery store.
I will tell you that when you walk into an Asian grocer for the first time and start looking at labels, you may find that some of them are not in English, and if they are in English, some of it may be misspelled or incomprehensible. I totally get it. But trust me on this, push past this, and you won’t be disappointed!
Get Recommendations from Friends on Facebook
If this is your first trip, I would highly recommend seeking out recommendations from friends on Facebook some of the better ones to go to first. Say something like, “I’m looking for an Asian grocery store in town. Any recommendations?”
I’m sure that you might be asked “Why?” (which could provoke a whole slew of topics you didn’t really want to talk about), I would just ignore those comments until you actually get recommendations.
Once you’ve narrowed down the list and compared the reviews to Google, I would then set a plan of just ONE thing you want to purchase.
Narrow your list of one item to get while navigating an Asian grocery store
I know, I know. You probably want to get a TON of supplies for your list of recipes you want to try. Trust me on this. This trip is specifically to EXPLORE the amazingness of an Asian grocery store and experiencing it for the first time.
On your list, go with ONE thing in mind. And typically, I would recommend, a snack you could only find at an Asian grocery store. Just peruse the aisle and pick your favorite!
Things That Are Less Expensive at an Asian Grocery Store
If you have not shopped at an Asian grocery store, I want you to take note of what you typically buy at a regular grocery store and compare the prices. Sure, the labels may have other languages on it, but the Asian alternative is typically a fraction of the cost.
Fresh Herbs & Vegetables
You can literally find cilantro for $0.50, green onion for $0.50, Thai basil for $1.00 a bunch, the list goes on and on with herbs. It is literally insane how much money you can save on herbs versus spending a fortune on two stems of herbs. I would pick up some Chinese broccoli, which as a similar taste to regular broccoli, but with a little bit of bitterness for stir frying.
Sauces, Vinegars, Oils, and Condiments
If you want to be in for sticker shock, check out the cost of a SUPER LARGE bottle of soy sauce as compared to your local grocer. You will be surprised. I would stock up on soy sauce, hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, and Thai curry paste if it’s your first trip!
Canned foods are so inexpensive. If you take a look at the price of coconut milk and compare it to your local grocer, then you are going to save a lot of money.
When you start discovering spices at your Asian grocer, you will never buy spices like you did before. You can buy LARGE containers for a fraction of what you could purchase at Walmart or Target.
If you’ve heard about the smell of Asian grocery stores, it’s true. The seafood area has a pungent smell, but if you can get through it, seafood at Asian grocery stores are clean and can be found inexpensively (and normally fresher).
If you buy rice on a regular basis, RUN to purchase these in 25 pound bags. It is amazing how much of a steal rice is at an Asian grocer.
Pre-packaged noodles are so inexpensive AND there is a larger variety, you can’t go wrong! These varieties are MUCH BETTER than the American counterparts. If it’s your first time, pick up some udon noodles, because they are delicious and inexpensive.
You can also pick up dried noodles, egg noodles, and flour noodles like vermicelli noodles for your next dish! Make sure you also stock up on rice paper for fresh spring rolls.
If you are Jonesin’ for some potstickers, check out the price tag on these. It is truly amazing how much you can save in the frozen food aisle!
There are entire aisles of delicious, loose-leaf tea. There is typically a large variety with a ton of different favors to choose from.
You will be able to find a TON of Asian cookware for a steal. They’ve got an amazing frying utensil that is absolutely amazing you must grab!
Make sure you pick up what our family calls “duck spoons” which are larger soup spoons! I grew up with the metal kind, but the plastic ones work well too. Oh, and chopsticks!
Bowls are INSANELY inexpensive at Asian grocery stores. There are varying sizes for anything you’d want to eat in!
You cannot GO WRONG with snacks at an Asian grocery store. There are so many delicious snacks that you probably have never tried. I would recommend getting the jello cups as your first snack that you purchase.
If you want to try Kim Chi, pick up a jar at your local Asian grocery store. While you are at it, try some radishes, artichokes, and other cabbage in brine.
Have you heard of longan? If not, try a can of these delicious, round fruits in syrup. It is way better than mandarin oranges in syrup, guaranteed!
Tapioca Pearls for Boba
If you love bubble tea, you can make it at home if you pick up some inexpensive tapioca pearls. Make sure you get the black tapioca pearls!
Pots, Pans, and Woks
I would pick up woks, skimmers, and steamers in this area!
You’ll be able to find pretty inexpensive pots, pans, and woks less than at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Slowly Explore These Sections in This Order
Here is my FAVORITE way to explore the grocery store for the first time:
- Snacks area
- Pre-cooked meals
Baked and Premade Goods
Typically near the register, you’ll see baked goods that are set out. You’ll be able to find cakes, sweet rice, desserts, and sweet porridge. You’ve got to at least try one as an impulse buy.
Shop Asian Grocery Stores and Stock Your Pantry Up with Affordable Groceries
If you are not in the routine of shopping at your Asian grocery store, I hope that this post gives you some insight on how amazing the variety of foods you can find here are and how super affordable food, snacks, drinks, unique produce can and utensils can be there.
You can get a LOT of your regular grocery store supplies, and as you continue going to an Asian grocer after your inaugural visit, you might find yourself coming back to get your normal staples! I’ll be willing to bet that you’ll also be able to not only pay half the price, but you’ll be able to venture out of your comfort zone and start cooking new dishes at home. Venturing into an Asian grocery store for the first time is an absolute great way to introduce new ingredients into your kitchen and into your belly!
You will ABSOLUTELY be suprised by the sheer variety of options for the one product you thought you knew (soy sauce).
That’s all the tips I have for now! This is the inaugural post and just wanted to share high level of how I would navigate an Asian grocery store for the first time.
What on this list are you willing to try on your first visit to an Asian grocery store?