Bargains at the Chinese market

I sometimes shop at a local Chinese market in Gardena, CA called 99 Ranch.  I go rather infrequently, usually when I want some specific items I can’t find at the regular supermarket.  There are always great deals there, like Shitake mushrooms (the Chinese call them “Black mushrooms”) for $2.99/lb or less.  These are often $12.99/lb at the regular grocery!  There are lots of great deals there but for some reason I haven’t worked this into my regular shopping routine.

Last night I was waiting to get into a restaurant in the Little Saigon area of Westminster/Garden Grove and wandered into a Vietnamese supermarket.  They had the best looking ribeye steaks I think I’ve ever seen for $2.99/lb.  I was blown away.  This must not be a very popular cut of meat among the regulars.  Even the beef short ribs (sawed across the bone for Korean galbi) were $3.49/lb.

If you’ve never been to your local Asian market, you should definitely give it a try.  It’s certainly different from most American markets but you’ll be rewarded with some great deals and special items you can’t find elsewhere.

Here are some great deals I’ve come across at my local 99 Ranch:

  • The freshest ginger you’ve ever seen for dirt cheap.  I didn’t know ginger could be this good.  Great produce, in general, although I don’t know what to do with many of the items.  I usually pick up the various bok choy varieties and stir fry them.  I also pick up green onions, fresh chiles, black mushrooms, melons and sometimes jack fruit.
  • Seafood is fresh and cheap.  Much of it is alive.  This is the only place to pick up crab and lobster.  I can’t remember seeing live lobsters for more than $9.99/lb- not that I buy lobster that often.  Many fish counters will also clean and deep fry a fish for you.  They usually have a big chart above the back wall showing what they can do.
  • Meat in all sorts of cuts, some I don’t even know what to do with.  I’m definitely going back for some ribeyes!
  • Sauces and spice mixes are cheap and better than what the American market carries.  Check out how many different types (not brands) of soy sauce there are.  My favorite is the dark superior- it’s much less salty and as dark as kitchen bouquet.  It has a much better flavor for stirfrying than Kikkoman.  Many spice packets have directions in English so try something new!
  • A butane burner for $13.  I love Sichuan hot pot and you need one of these burners.  I also got three large butane canisters for $5.  I’ve made hot pot quite a few times and haven’t even gotten through one.  They also have all the ingredients for hot pot.  I’ll post about my hot pot experience some time soon.

Well, I’m sure there are many more deals there.  I’ll try to get some specifics on my next trip and post some photos too.  If you shop at your local Asian market let us know what you buy by posting a comment!

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