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If you’re getting tired of shopping at Walmart and Hy-Vee, try some new flavors with Columbia’s local Asian grocery stores. Currently, Chong’s Oriental Market is mere blocks from campus, while Hong Kong Market on I-70 Drive Southeast is well worth a trip. Another grocer, Asian Lucky Market, is due to open soon in the old Sideshow location, below Jingo’s and Gumby’s Pizza on Broadway.
Chong’s Oriental Market is the winner when it comes to instant noodle varieties. An entire aisle is devoted to various brands of Maruchan ramen, Sapporo Ichiban noodles, and much more. The store also has a wide array of sauces, frozen goods, snacks, produce and fish. You have to wander a little bit, because the arrangement doesn’t always make sense (why isn’t the Kikkoman soy sauce next to the Lee Kum Kee soy sauce?), but overall, it has the basics. If you live downtown or are only willing to walk a block north of Peace Park to explore your food options, Chong’s is your best bet. They have all the basics for beginners, and then some.
Hong Kong Market has just about everything you may need to cook just about any Asian-style dish. Neatly organized with aisles of rice, noodles, specialty ingredients, sauces and more, the market also has helpful staff who can help you find what you’re looking for, and often remember their customers. In addition, Hong Kong Market is the winner in the frozen foods category. If you have a steamer, they have the dumplings, shumai, filled buns and potstickers to fill it to your heart’s content. It’s also the only place in town I’ve ever found char siu bao, albeit frozen. The market also has a wide array of produce and meat (including the rarer items—you’ll find anything from ground pork to pigs’ feet). The prices are consistently even with or cheaper than Walmart prices, with a much wider array of choices.
The best part of Hong Kong Market, though, is the deliveries they get on Fridays. Around 5 p.m., and sometimes a bit earlier, the market gets deliveries of freshly baked goods straight from St. Louis. The deliveries include egg tarts, duck, banh mit sandwiches, filled rolls, sweets, and various goodies in bakery boxes marked with hasty characters. Whatever those are, they’re consistently delicious.
So go ahead! Whether you’re looking to train yourself as a Ramen connoisseur or you’re already a stir-fry superchef, visit these stores, get inspired, and enjoy some great food.
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