All the Tea in China…in AlbanyFebruary 18, 2010
This week’s posts have taken on an Asian theme, so I thought I’d continue the trend today by imparting a recent experience at an unexpected gem in the suburbs of Albany – the Asian Supermarket, located at 1245 Central Ave. That’s its name – “Asian Supermarket,” and I can’t think of a better way to describe it. I went to China in November of 2008, the memories of which are still quite vivid in my mind, and upon entering this market, it really made me feel like I was on the other side of the world again. This is no ordinary Asian market – it’s much bigger than any I’ve ever seen outside of L.A. or New York City, and certainly larger than anything you’d expect in Upstate New York.
While the emphasis is on Chinese items, it really runs the gamut – Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean and Indian foods are all well represented, particularly in the sauce aisle and in the frozen food section. There is a butcher shop that sells fresh-cut conventional meats, along with organ meats and appendages that are common in Asia but not here. They also have a hot food area, serving full meals as well as whole roast ducks and various roasted pig parts; the ducks and pig sections are hanging from posts, like you’d see in Chinatown. One of my favorite things in China was the steamed buns they offered at breakfast each day – fluffy white dough stuffed with roast pork, spinach or sweet bean paste. They were so delicious, and I nearly giggled with joy at seeing giant steamed buns in the hot food area of the Asian Supermarket. Plus they sell them in the refrigerated section as well as the frozen food aisle – in fact, I’m enjoying a pork bun right now, in between sentences.
Their produce section is quite extensive, from common U.S. fruits to some more exotic items like daikon radishes, durian fruit, and Asian pears.
Your nose will notice the fish section, not because of a fishy smell, but because of the salt water smell. Giant tanks of live fish swimming around greet your eyes, along with large fish heads chilling in icy display cases. You can pick your own lobsters, crabs, and a variety of other common and exotic seafood specimens. It really smells like you’re at the ocean.
Those of you who are ramen fans will find it hard to decide what to buy, as their ramen aisle has as many different varieties as a regular supermarket’s cereal aisle, including a flavor I’d never imagine – kim chee (spicy Korean pickled cabbage)! A college-age guy walked by me and said to his friend, “Look at all the different ramen!”
The noodle aisle is not easily missed either – dozens of varieties of noodles from various countries await you. And as this post’s title implies, their aisle of tea goes on and on, with varieties from a slew of Asian countries. Plus there are weird snacks like candied papaya and corn balls; they have lots of different tofu varieties, and all the while Chinese music pumps through the overhead speakers while the employees speak in a foreign tongue. Like I said, it’s really like stepping into another world. The Mouse House Kitchen definitely recommends a visit to the Asian Supermarket!