While Portland’s Asian population may be small in comparison to that of other West Coast cities, this fact means little when it comes to seeking Asian fare in PDX. Portland’s east side boasts what is coming to be labeled as “New Chinatown” along the 82nd Avenue corridor, a blanket term for the cuisine and markets here which traverse the full terrain of east Asia from Hong Kong to Vientiane. Meanwhile Old Town Chinatown is a hub of Chinese food and business downtown. In fact, the entire city is rife with authentic eateries from the East. However, we all know that the best food is often made at home and prepared to one’s own tastes and liking. If you are seeking to make a succulent Asian dish in your home kitchen, these are some Portland markets that you can’t afford to miss:
There’s an eye-catching building on 82nd with a gargantuan circular archway. Inside you’ll find a variety of Asian businesses, but the focal point is the gigantic Fubonn Supermarket, which is really an Asian superstore. It’s not focused on any one area of Asian continental food, instead providing a multitude of options from nations across the continent’s spectrum.
There’s a decent seaweed collection for sushi making, a seafood section replete with fresh fish, clams, and live oysters, and a meat department for all the unique Asian tastes you may crave. Duck heads, kidney, uterus, and lung? Yes, absolutely. Beef eye round and chicken feet? Yes to these as well.
Fubonn offers sauces ranging from Japanese teriyaki to Korean BBQ, Thai chili to Indian tandoori, while the frozen foods span from southeast Asian basa fish to northern propeller clams, Japanese mochi dessert to Filipino ube ice cream. The produce also runs the gamut: lemongrass, jackfruit, bitter melon, holy basil, as well as the basics like mint, mango, and potatoes abound.
Imported beer, wine and sake are available in the liquor section, and if you at some point find yourself overwhelmed by the size and breadth of this market you can always grab a warm bite from the deli: chow mein, pho, and banh mi sandwiches are some of the menu items regularly awaiting. Whole peking duck shines from the rotisserie, and other pre-prepared foods are also available to go; items like hum bao buns, Chinese star cakes and seasoned octopus. There is also a decent kitchenware section where you can find many items basic to Asian cooking, and a small section of Chinese beauty, skincare and herbal tinctures. The prices are affordable and the options plentiful, making this market a go to for foods, cosmetics and cookware from across the East.
2850 SE 82nd Ave
Hong Phat is packed floor to ceiling with Asian provisions. You can find lychee, rambutan, and even the dreaded durian in the fruit section. There’s bok choy, gai lan, and thai basil amongst the greens and herbs. The sauce and oils aisles are stocked with all of the Asian staples: sesame oil and fish sauce to chili and curry pastes. In the frozen section you will find the items you thought may be impossible to uncover stateside. Parrot fish? They’ve got it. Whelk? Check. There is a variety of tofu: breaded, unbreaded, soft, or firm. An ample import coffee and tea aisle awaits, and you can also find chopsticks, tea pots, and chinaware for an affordable price alongside the wasabi peas and Japanese strawberry cakes. And of course, don’t forget the noodles. Pad thai, soba, udon, rice vermicelli — they’ve got it all, in addition to abundant ramen and rice selections.
This market is very well-priced, and in addition to their wide variety of popular Asian foods, it has a welcome bit of Vietnamese flare. The vital ingredients are at hand for pho, banh mi, and lesser known dishes in the Western world such as goi cuon (salad rolls in rice wrappers), banh xeo (savory crepe-like rice flour pancakes), and goi (Vietnamese salads giving off tangy, green flavor). There’s also sumptuously earthy and brackish rau muong (water spinach eaten widely across Vietnam), a hard to find green that will transport your tastebuds to the squat, crowded seats of a Saigon street eatery.
101 SE 82nd Avenue
9818 N Prescott St.
Finding Lily Market is like finding a purple orchid in the dense jungle — while small, its impact is great. This market is Thai based, but the necessities of many Southeast Asian dishes can be found here: think coconut milk, fish sauce and curry pastes — red, green, yellow, and massaman. There is a tiny but useful produce section including essentials like lychee, mango, and ginger, alongside harder to find fruits and vegetables like the dense and delicious Asian purple yam.
Many Thai specialties are also on hand, from periwinkle meat to yanang leaf, beef bile to frozen baby milkfish, and cow knuckle and stomach for stews. Thai palm and betel nuts don a small end cap rack. While the front of Lily Market is a bit crowded by kitchenware and knick knacks, the market opens up in the back. It proffers a nice sized import tea and coffee section completed by the inclusion of Thai tea powder for home Thai iced tea creation, as well as a tantalizing homemade bakery case stuffed with authentic Thai sweets like mung bean dessert and three layer tapioca custard. The side wall also includes a prepared food and made-to-order section where you can order the likes of pad thai, larb, and pad see ew for a quick and savory lunch.
11001 NE Halsey St.
Srider’s Indian Imports
This market is small but so very necessary as Indian foods and spices for home cooking can often be overlooked in larger Asian marketplaces. Srider’s provides the chutneys, pickles, cumin, and aniseed you have been searching for. Atta flour and dhal lentils are readily available for cooking, or if you would prefer a quick frozen Indian meal to satiate your hunger there is a great selection of masalas and ready-to-eat meals like Palak Paneer (a smooth spinach curry), and Dal Makhani (a creamy lentil curry). For an at home taste of India with little effort, pre-packaged spice mixes Seekh Kabab and Sindhi Biryani can be purchased, as can frozen oven-heated staples like pakoras, paratha, and samosas. For a snack, addictive Mirch Masala papadi and peanut bhujia stack the shelves. There are also many loose leaf teas to choose from, and you can’t forget the essential clay oven naan bread available either frozen or as a dough you can make at home.
Srider’s does lack a satisfactory produce and fresh herb section, but it fills a void in the arena of Indian cooking fundamentals to be found in the local area. What this market lacks in fresh ingredients, they make up for in traditional Indian garments, however, and almost one half of the shop is dedicated to a colorful spectrum of textiles and saris, bangles and bindis.
Srider’s Indian Imports
12945 SW Pacific Hwy
Uwajimaya is a large market in the vein of Fubonn and Hong Phat, however, at its core, it’s a Japanese market. One can easily find the makings of a basic dish — ginger, soy sauce, large sacks of rice — but you will also be entreated to Japanese specialties.
There is an entire aisle dedicated to seaweed, and in another aisle, an abundance of sauces: yakitori, katsu, and okonomi to name a few. In the snacks and chips aisle you will find shredded squid, candied crabs, and shrimp chips, while the canned food section hosts pickled quail eggs and lychee in syrup. There is even a gourmet Asian sea salt cornucopia with flavors such as matcha, ghost pepper, and Thai ginger.
The noodle aisle is expansive (think chow mein, guan miao, and on and on). If you are a fan of tofu this market offers the widest variety of tofu of all the Asian marketplaces in PDX. You can get tofu fermented, stewed and spiced, fried, silken or firm.
As if this were not enough, there is a butcher and deli replete with all the necessities for everything from sushi and sashimi to delicacy meats and poultry for a traditional curry or clay pot meal. Speaking of clay pots, there is an entire housewares section that will equip you for preparing a tantalizing Asian dish. Whether it’s steamers, bento boxes, or sake cups you need, you will find them all here.
Top off your meal with imported Japanese beer or sake, or pick up a green tea sponge cake or red bean mochi. And if you’re feeling like you truly want to turn Portland into your own private Osaka, drop in to the attached Kinokuniya bookstore for a lucky daruma doll, a JoJo’s Adventure manga, or Japanese language magazine to enjoy as you await the tastes of Japan at home.
10500 SW Beaverton Hillsdale Hwy
(Image accompanying Srider’s courtesy of Flickr user saramarlowe)