I can't attest to everyone's taste, but I personally really like to just wander around supermarkets for a good couple of hours. It's kinda like I'm on a treasure hunt; I go for my desired item, but I always stumble across something new or different that piques my interest and has me wanting to pick it up. I go home with my car trunk full and my wallet nearly empty. After a while, however, I get pretty bored going through the same national brand stores and seeing the same products over and over. Which is why I love visiting different ethnic markets in my area and experiencing what they have to offer, especially Asian markets.
Whenever I walk inside any Asian market, I always feel like I've stepped into another world. I can barely read most of the writing that is in these stores, the products that I can make out are usually weird and interesting (like the many different kinds of seafood-flavored potato chips I keep stumbling across), and there are so many products I'm not familiar with in these stores that I basically want to try out all of them. So, I'm going to present some of my favorite Asian markets that I like to visit in the Greater New Orleans Area. Come take a trip with me, and if you haven't set foot in any of these stores before now, you need to remedy that right away.
I wanted to start out by focusing on my personal favorite Asian market to visit on a regular basis (which is actually fairly close to where I live, so that's good for my gas mileage), the Hong Kong Food Market in Gretna. Located on 925 Behrman Hwy., the Hong Kong Market is one of the largest Asian markets I have ever been to. As soon as you go through the entrance, before you even get into the market proper, you are surrounded by a number of different shops like a jewelry store, a beauty salon, and a video and bookstore. There are also two restaurants at the entrance that specialize in different kinds of food: Saigon Noodle House, which serves pho and other types of noodle bowls, and Mr. Bubbles, which makes refreshing bubble tea and delicious sandwiches.
Walking into the market itself, you'll be pretty amazed by the sheer amount of stuff that is in the store. There are aisles upon aisles of anything you could ask for, like traditional Asian spices, sauces, teas, snacks, candies, canned goods, kitchen utensils, and other household items. (Fun fact: I was able to find and purchase a package of Samyang Spicy Chicken Ramen here, which is what is required for the Fire Noodle Challenge. Interesting challenge to try out if you want, but that product will be rough on your body's internal plumbing. Trust me.) There are plenty of meats (like pork and duck), desserts (like mochi balls), and other packaged goods (like meat-, bean-, or cream-filled bread buns) to choose from, as well as a large section of the market dedicated entirely to fresh produce from the typical (tomatoes and cabbage) to the more exotic (durian and dragon fruit). The market also offers ample amounts of fish and seafood, including live lobsters, tilapia, and Dungeness crabs.
Looking to eat something hot and fresh in the Hong Kong Market as you walk around? Then make sure to check out the Hong Kong Market BBQ and Deli, located at the far right side of the market. They provide freshly prepared meats like BBQ quail, duck, and pig, as well as very affordable banh mi sandwiches. The market also provides many different American, Hispanic, and Middle Eastern products, just in case you're too skittish to try something different. Don't forget to check out Hong Kong Market's sizable alcohol section for many different local and imported drinks ('cause I know how New Orleanians are and what y'all need 24/7). Honestly, I could talk about the Hong Kong Food Market ad nauseam, but I've got a limited amount of space to work with here.
As much as I love the Hong Kong Market, I can recognize that its size and the number of things in there are a bit overwhelming for people who really aren't that used to Asian markets. So, as a good starting point for beginners, or if you just want a smaller place to roam around, then the Dong Khanh Oriental Market in Harvey is a good spot to visit. Located on 3709 Westbank Expy., and within spitting distance of Westside Bowling Lanes, Kim's Restaurant, and The Four Columns banquet hall, Dong Khanh has a simple and friendly atmosphere. If you're not sure what something is in the store or you don't know how to prepare it, you can ask the owners who are there and they will be sure to explain everything to you.
Despite its size, Dong Khanh Market has a lot of variety in its products. Some of the items you'll find here include fresh pork and fish, canned and frozen foods, fruits, vegetables, sauces, spices, fresh and dried noodles, rice, tea, and coffee. You'll find products from many different Asian countries and cultures like Vietnam, Thailand, China, Japan, and Korea. Their prices are also very reasonable, so make sure to keep an eye out for those while you're browsing for something interesting. Sometimes, all you really need is something simple, and Dong Khanh Oriental Market is happy to provide just that.
Continuing our trip around the Westbank, we also have the Kien Giang Market on 1900 Lafayette St. in Gretna. Located near the Chinese and Vietnamese restaurant 3 Happiness (which is very delicious and I highly recommend trying out), Kien Giang Market is named after a province in Vietnam that is known for its fishing and rice farming. Not only does this market have plenty of fish and rice, but also a good selection of produce, canned food, instant meals, Asian drinks, and more.
Maybe you're not in the mood to trek across the river for your Asian market fix. (First off, that's rude. We Westbankers are perfectly nice over here.) Well then, get yourself over to Metairie and stop by the Golden City Asian Food Market. Located off of Veterans Memorial Boulevard at 2712 N. Arnoult Rd., Golden City Market welcomes customers with an entranceway decorated with what looks like a paifang (a traditional Chinese gateway), two lion statues, and a little bridge over a small fishpond.
This market is fairly well-sized (bigger than Dong Khanh Market, but smaller than Hong Kong Market) and offers a number of fresh produce and seafood options, rice, noodles, eggs, seasoning, drinks, snacks, and so forth. Golden City Market also provides many household items like pots, pans, bowls, and incense. Along with selling handmade buns, rolls, and banh mi every day, the market also does a special on Saturdays and Sundays where they serve hot and fresh roasted duck and pork. For a charming spot with plenty of variety, Golden City Asian Food Market is there for you.
Any of these places piqued your interest? (Or are you a regular customer and need to get your shopping done?) Then head on over to any, or all, of these wonderful Asian markets. Don't fall into the loop of constantly going to Walmart or Rouses. Go out and be adventurous. Who knows? You might even learn another language from all the shopping you'll be doing at these places.