East Africa Market
7830 NE Glisan St., 516-9378.
Covered in stickers and lottery signs, this small store would be completely indistinguishable from its convenience-store neighbors were it not for the large orange banner proclaiming its ethnic offerings. Aweuys, the shop’s friendly young owner, escaped Somalia when his home country erupted in civil war, living first in Kenya and then moving to the United States. Most of the folks who patronize his store come for a steady supply of rice and spices, along with his freshly prepared sambusas (better known to us as samosas) filled with zesty potatoes and herbs. NB.
Shopping list: Pilau (pilaf) mix, sambusas, mango pulp, coconut powder.
4516 NE 42nd Ave., 493-2737.
If you want to discover a new food or seasoning, head to the bright red, yellow and green Caribbean Spice and give yourself some time. Although the shop isn’t too large, you’ll find everything from unusual flours (plantain, fufu, farina) and spices (jerk and adobo blends) to a huge selection of frozen foods, including cow feet, cassava leaves and goat meat. There isn’t too much of any one thing on the shelf, and most aisles are packed with double the diversity of a normal market aisle. Keep in mind the shop used to house a kennel, and there’s still a loud alarm every time someone walks through the door. No, you did not just activate a bomb. LC.
Shopping list: Adobo seasonings, Jamaican yams, Jamaican beef patties, large wooden mortars and pestles, frozen oxtail.
Mingala International Market
2548 SE 122nd Ave., 954-1346.
Myanmar native Yusuf Iqbal and his partners had trouble finding many of the ingredients they needed for Burmese cooking. So they opened a small market in an outer-southeast strip mall, stocking it with everything from dried betel leaves and ngapi fish pastes to fried bean snacks, and expanded to include arguably the most eclectic, well-priced selection of Indian and East Asian goods on Portland’s east side, including a rainbow of dirt-cheap lentils, fresh spices, desi snacks, and frozen shrimp and fish. Plus, Iqbal runs his own impressive halal, cut-to-order meat operation sourced from local cows and goats in the back of the shop. KC.
Shopping list: Dried lily bulbs, mango pickles, frozen samosas, custom-cut beef ($3.99 a pound).
Dutch American Market
9575 SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, 646-1518, dutchstore-oregon.com.
You’ll feel like you’ve left Portland as you listen to regular customers conversing in Dutch while they pick out Dutch pantry staples like jars of pickled peas or packages of chocolate sprinkles (served on buttered toast for breakfast!). There’s an entire aisle of licorices, chocolates and other European sweets to choose from—but beware of the licorice marked “very salty.” By the deli case, co-owner and cheese connoisseur Hans Middelhoven encourages customers to sample the 20 or so varieties of cheese available, including a hard Frisian filled with whole cloves, and a muted soft, goat-milk Gouda. MHW.
Shopping list: Fuzzy or traditional wooden klompen, licorice by the pound, stroopwafels, blue-and-white pottery and tchotchkes.
1710 NE 122nd Ave., anoushdeli.com.
This unassuming little market, nestled in a strip mall anchored by a WinCo, sports a mishmash of Greek and Eastern European sundries, including an entire aisle devoted to ajvar, the Serbian pepper-eggplant relish; wafer-cookie sheets the size of a boogie board; Croatian and Russian canned goods; a rainbow of berry syrups; Russian beers; and Bosnian teas. The clientele appears to be mostly Greek, and mostly concerned with the fresh sausages and gyros available at the deli. You might be mostly concerned with the extensive and creatively packaged Armenian wine selection, in bottles shaped like everything from a goldfish to a high-heeled shoe. KM.
Shopping list: Plastic keg of Greek olives, Moldovan Kagor wine (comes with free crucifix!), rose hip jam.
9151 SE Powell Blvd., 927-8485.
I think they just use the produce to lure you in. The most intriguing items line the shelves and coolers along the wall: a cornucopia of goods imported from former Soviet countries. There’s an entire shelf of tinned fish, a cooler with Bulgarian cheeses, and row upon row of loose candies with undecipherable names, sold by the pound. Adventurous eaters might pick out sweets based on the cryptic pictures or grab a jar of more unusual pickled goods. ABC offers several brands of imported sodas with flavors such as citron and tarragon, paired with a bottle of vodka at the liquor store on 82nd Avenue for a perfect summer beverage. MHW.
Shopping list: Tarragon soda, tinned fish, Kinder treats.
4107 SE 82nd Ave., 771-5171.
More so than at any of Portland’s other Eastern European markets, walking in the door of Good Neighbor feels like entering a foreign country. Almost all the labels are in Cyrillic, and the staff and customers chat in languages that are not your own. The shelves are stocked with produce, preserved meats, multiple sorts of smoked fish, the full lineup of ZerGüt imports from Eastern Europe, buckets of mysterious candies, cheeses, huge bags of flour, and breads, cakes and cookies from Eurobake. BW.
Shopping list: House-pickled cabbage, Czar Nikolas II and other Eastern European tea blends, Ukrainian flatbread.
Roman Russian Market
10918 SE Division St., 408-7525.
What looks from the street like a modest grocery and video store holds a labyrinth of wonders: deli cases of dozens of cheeses, smoked fish, cured meats, fried treats and cosmetics; rows of pickled mushrooms and okra and pepper and capers; curious snack foods; a whole room of baked goods. The women behind the counters are willing to guide shoppers through the various desiccated fishies, and you will need their help—all of Roman Russian’s wares are available in befuddling variety. BW.
Shopping list: Pomegranate juice, “sweet corn sticks,” smoked sulguni, Russian pastries, pierogi from Toronto.
2322 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 281-0844. Call for hours.
There are several Ethiopian grocery stores on MLK, all of which might appear interchangeable to the naked Western eye. To the average dabbler, they more or less are, but Awash eschews massive bulk foods for reasonably portioned packages of spices, dried herbs, legumes and teff flour far more appropriate for those just experimenting with African ingredients and recipes. Much of it is unlabeled, but don’t be afraid to ask. There is usually fresh injera (the delicious spongy, sour flat bread that is a staple of Horn of Africa cuisine), but Awash also stocks electric injera grills—along with a modest range of other cookware. For beginners, the Eleni’s Kitchen kulet sauces are made locally in Hillsboro and produce a truly sensational stew. RB.
Shopping list: Spices, injera, beans, lentils, Eleni’s Kitchen mild red pepper sauce.
1815 NW 169th Place, Beaverton, 533-0424.
Most folks who shop at this Indian market come for the standard fare of spices, lentils, rice and flour (and maybe the experience of buying groceries in a business complex for medical and software companies), but the sheer variety Apna offers should make it a gem for adventurous browsers. As you make your way to the wall of flours made from everything grindable (bajra, chana, besan and moong dal, to name a few), pause to browse the aisles of classic sweets and snacks like murukku and thattai. Head to the back of the store for freezers of kulfi and a small selection of fresh produce, including karela (bitter melon) and chayote. NB.
Shopping list: Mustard oil, black salt, lime pickle, candied fennel seeds.
10255 SW Canyon Road, 641-1352, bazaarfood.com.
Despite its proximity to several upper-middle-class residential enclaves, Canyon Road’s stretch between Highways 26 and 217 is like a classier version of 82nd Avenue with Kuni BMW instead of used-car lots. Packed in between are spots like Bazaar Market, a clean, spacious purveyor of Middle Eastern and subcontinental fare. There’s a fine selection of tea and spices, and enough rice to boggle the mind. The front deli has plump samosas and other assorted delicacies on hand, and the meat department in back is well stocked. JG.
Shopping list: Samosas, stuffed grape leaves, cracked olives, and any kind of rice you could possibly want.
India Sweets and Spices
16205 NW Bethany Court, Suite 110, Beaverton, 690-0499, indiasweetsandspices-oregon.net.
India Sweets and Spices is maddeningly hard to find, but still delights with its selection of Indian mainstays—provided you notice the partially hidden back room. Whether you opt for a prepackaged garam masala or choose to assemble one of your own from the myriad bulk items, the shop has you covered. Once laden with your Spice Road booty, either have a seat and order from the dining room while enjoying the ambience of Bollywood television or grab a spicy sambar cracker mix to munch on the way home. BP.
Shopping list: Urad dal, papadum, whole dried mace.
Martinotti’s Cafe and Delicatessen
404 SW 10th Ave., 224-9028, martinottis.ypguides.net. Closed Sundays.
In a city rife with chichi “European markets” peddling $40 balsamic vinegar and 13 kinds of salt, Martinotti’s is a refreshing holdout: a slightly disheveled grocery and deli that feels most like a neighborhood store in a middle-class Italian town. You got your canned tomatoes, your dozen kinds of Di Cecco and your Perugina chocolates, haphazardly arranged along several narrow aisles. But Martinotti’s also stocks some hard-to-find imports and an impressive cheese case, plus a wine and port collection that goes back several decades and up several income brackets. CB.
Shopping list: Amaretti di Saronno, fregola di Sardegna, nostalgia d’Italia.
736 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 233-5111.
Anzen Hiroshi is a little bunker of wonder amid the shelled-out city surrounding the Convention and Lloyd centers. Like the TARDIS, it’s a lot bigger on the inside—and the 1905-founded store is just as much a time capsule as it is a culinary and cultural transport. As you enter, it looks like a tiny, crowded collection of tea sets and knickknacks, but investigation reveals a generous back room with a beautiful sushi butchery, plus a ridiculous variety of noris, short-grained rice brands, Japanese snacks and pickled preserves. MK.
Shopping list: Sliced marlin, nori, short-grained rice, pickled ginger, spiced pickled radish.
812 SE Stark St., 232-8947. Closed Sunday.
You can now buy this locally made tofu in many grocery stores around town, but the freshest (not to mention cheapest) slices still come straight from the original factory, queitly tucked away behind the Slammer in inner Southeast Portland. Bring your own container and fill it with hunks of soft Japanese tofu, perfect for making miso soup or agedashi tofu. Fair warning: Even the “firm” is pretty fragile, so you’ll need to squeeze the water ot very carefully to do any sort of vigorous cooking with it.
Shopping list: Firm and soft tofu, fried tofu.
Boo Han Oriental Market
1313 SE 82nd Ave., 254-8606.
While this place is smaller than Fubonn, the prices are pretty comparable, it’s certainly less crowded, and it has a wider selection of Korean foods, both packaged and fresh. The stock includes an excellent selection of fresh noodles and dough and an enticing assortment of well-priced housemade kimchee. The produce section is large, quite fresh-looking and very diverse. Really, the only department that’s somewhat lacking in comparison to Fubonn is the tea section, but again, this is dictated by the available space. Last, the people who work here are incredibly friendly and helpful, which is always an enormous plus. JL.
Shopping List: Kimchee, fresh noodles, dough.
5415 SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, 246-1713, albertsons.com.
Any visit to Albertsons is sure to spark flashbacks to the painfully flat neon lighting, lackluster produce display, and drab décor of 1980s food shopping. But this one is different, featuring the city’s largest selection of kosher food. There’s a freezer full of frozen kosher fare, a kosher meat section, multiple varieties of gefilte fish and an entire aisle of rabbi-approved dry goods. The store’s high point, though, is its fresh kosher deli, which sits alongside its ham-slinging gentile counterpart. You may as well save time and start next year’s Seder preparations here. JG.
Shopping list: Kosher meats are an obvious draw, but the Mexican and halal selections are strong, too.
Barbur World Foods
9845 SW Barbur Blvd., 244-0670, barburworldfoods.com.
Barbur World Foods is your average family-run supermarket, if your average market included dozens of options for flatbreads, an entire aisle for olive oil and vinegars, ready-to-grill kebabs and a broad selection of cheeses from Eastern Europe and beyond. The produce section carries a few surprises, including fresh chickpeas, sweet limes and starfruit. The deli counter offers freshly made Mediterranean specialties like dolmas and spanakopita (the owners are also the proprietors of Ya Hala), and a repurposed Jelly Belly display offers some bulk legumes and grains. If in Montavilla, stop by the Attar family’s other store, International Food Supply (8005 SE Stark St., 256-9576, internationalfoodsupply.com.) MHW.
Shopping list: Lamb kebabs, fresh pita bread, Armenian string cheese, Lebanese wine.
Pars International Market
12923 NW Cornell Road, 350-2300, pars-market.com. Closed Sunday.
Situated in a petite strip of yoga centers and acupuncturists, Pars feels like the Pearl’s version of an international market—except it’s in Cedar Mill. The small store is run by Azar and Iraj Talepesand, a friendly Persian couple, and operates as both a grocery and deli, with a few culinary gems (rose petal preserves, for starters) among more customary ingredients. There are the grapeseed and avocado oils, the bulk bins of lemon almonds and red melon seeds, the wide sheets of sangak and Afghan bread, and the compulsory rack of Sadaf spices. Dried fruits abound, most notably golden sour prunes and barberries. Don’t leave without a pint of saffron ice cream in one hand and a hot shawarma in the other. Also your go-to place for personal bidets. NB.
Shopping list: Tamarind paste, frozen mloukhieh, smoked whitefish, housemade tabbouleh.
710 NE Killingsworth St., 719-5361.
This small produce shop and Mexican grocery features a wide array of produce from the familiar, Northwest-grown apples and pears to the more exotic mini-bananas, papayas and coconuts. Amigo’s contains an odd mixture of items you might find in a Mexican corner store, including bags of dried chilies and herbs, cakes of laundry soap, pickled pig skins, spicy candies and tortillas of all sorts. The owner, who treats every customer as an amigo, has made an effort to make his shop a bit different from other tiendas as far as variety goes. He features unique items like Cornbrights, neon-colored corn puffs from El Salvador, and in addition to the familiar Jarritos sodas, Amigo’s stocks two other Mexican brands with flavors such as pineapple and grape. MHW.
Shopping list: Blue corn tortillas, instant horchata mix, plantain leaves, cornmeal for tamales.
18330 SE Stark St., 491-1848.
Because it’s attached to a riotously popular flea market, parking here may be an issue, but don’t give up—this is by far the largest Mexican grocery in the area, well-stocked and sparkling clean. A staggering variety of bulk chilies both dried and fresh ring the extensive produce section, there’s an entire aisle’s worth of spices, and a little freezer case near the meat counter holds all manner of frozen delicacies and supplies, including difficult-to-find whole banana leaves for making tamales and cochinita pibil. KM.
Shopping list: Fresh xoconostle (sour prickly pear), dried chipotle chiles, rock incense.
4265 SW Cedar Hills Blvd., 641-8985.
A change of ownership in the past few months definitely bodes well for this Mexican market just off Beaverton’s downtown strip. Despite a storefront more reminiscent of a shady convenience store, Salsa Market’s interior is bright, cheery and surprisingly spacious. The staff has managed to pack in everything you’d want at a Mexican grocer—bags of dried peppers, a beautiful produce section, a bakery stocked with bollilo rolls and pastries, and a bank of coolers for beer and soda—without feeling overstuffed. The staff is exceptional, too. The store’s welcoming shopkeeper spent a few minutes giving me tips on grilling nopales properly. No one at WW believes me, but there are benefits to living in the suburbs. JG.
Shopping list: Bolillo rolls, pan-ready marinated chicken, pre-sliced nopales, your choice of Jarritos soda.
Tienda El Campesino
6611 SE Powell Blvd., 774-4124.
The entrance to this mini-mercado is hidden in the corner of what appears to be nothing more than an ambiguous warehouse. Inside, it’s surprisingly large, outstandingly priced and decently stocked with everything from fresh produce to authentic piñatas. If on the hunt for any type of chili, dried or fresh, it is certain to be found here along with avocados for only a dollar and mangos for $1.25! Beat that, Whole Foods. There’s an entire wall of Mexican baked goods, a pretty impressive meat department, and a deli section that includes fresh salsa, guacamole, tamales and warm tortillas. Most Mexican basics are stocked here, such as Bimbo and Jarritos, but strangely enough, the hot-sauce selection was disappointing (three or four at most and nothing beyond the basics like Tapatio). JL.
Shopping List: Fresh or dried chilies of pretty much any variety, homemade tortillas, salsa, conchas, piñatas.
Tienda Santa Cruz
24 SE 82nd Ave., 408-4896; 8630 N Lombard St., 285-8222.
Nestled at the south end of a block-wide strip mall, Tienda Santa Cruz’s Southeast location easy to miss but offers an impressive selection of imported goods, especially considering its size. A case of decorative cakes and glistening flans greet you upon arrival. As you weave your way through bulk bags of hard-to-find Mexican candy, colossal cans of pickled jalapeños, and pre-packaged authentic tortillas, you’ll eventually find the wall dedicated to housing their competitively priced, freshly made pan dulce. On your way out, pick up your favorite corridos on cassette or CD from behind the counter. The St. Johns location, however, is larger and sports a killer no-frills taqueria in the back. JL.
Shopping list: Pan dulce, queso Oaxaca, jarred nopales, obleas sin cajeta (at counter), corn husks.
7814 N Interstate Ave., 240-2768, fijiemporium.com. Closed Monday.
This entire store is a testament to the incestuous culinary legacy of the British Empire: There’s Indian curry sauces from England, English tea biscuits from India, Australian potato chips from New Zealand and Fijian-style New Zealand-brand sausages made in America. Walk past the pricey (and often a bit stale) imported snack foods and head straight for the extensive spice shelves, and freezers jammed with Fijian favorites like goat meat, New Zealand lamb, fish, taro, cassava and breadfruit. RB.
Shopping list: Lamb chops, spices, ghee, mango pickles, kava powder, and if you still really want expensive imported snacks, chicken Twisties.
An Dong Market
5441 SE Powell Blvd., 774-6527.
Need an encyclopedic selection of Asian foodstuffs plus a full-service deli, spirits aisle and bubble-tea counter? Well, that’s Fubonn. But if you’re just after cheap, huge containers of Chinese and Vietnamese staples without a crowd, An Dong is a great alternative. For more than two decades, this big supermarket has supplied local Asian restaurants and adventurous neighbors with 30-pound bags of jasmine rice, giant packs of rice noodles, East Asian veggies, and a whole wall of jarred, mostly minced, fish (including the terrifying “snake-head fish”). Play snack roulette with brightly colored bags of dried sweet potato and sesame fish crisps, then head to the centrally located meat department for shabu-shabu-ready sheets of beef and pork. The store smells funky. You have been warned. KC.
Shopping list: Five-pound bag of curry powder, fresh whole gutted catfish, 8½-pound tub of sambal oelek.
2850 SE 82nd Ave., 517-8877, fubonn.com.
Michael Liu’s mall boasts Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese restaurants, a Starbucks, tea shop, bakery, jeweler, bulk-candy bin, bubble-tea counter, dentist and marble-statuary seller, but the core of the beast is the expansive Fubonn supermarket itself, which stocks every Asian staple your heart could desire—including actual animal hearts as well as intestines, ears, feet and even bung. For the less organ-obsessed, there are acres of rice, noodles, frozen seafood, cheap local and exotic produce, sauces, curries and arcane health tonics, plus kitchenware. Visit the refrigerated beverage aisle to have your mind blown—artichoke soda? KC.
Shopping list: Dried cuttlefish snack, taro root bubble tea, hoisin and chili sauce, fresh and dried noodles, banh mi from the deli.
13600 SW Pacific Highway, Tigard, 620-6120, hmart.com.
This awesome chain is the Korean answer to Fred Meyer: You’ve got cheap, portable gas grills, flip-flops and excellent Asian produce and tropical fruit selection; a smoked, dried and very fresh fish department; a selection of kimchee and salted and stewed marine life and veggies in bulk containers; a sushi shop; a Chinese noodle cafe; a futuristic phone kiosk and a puffed rice-cake machine. This huge, clean, brightly lit store is not the easiest place to get your bearings, but think of it as a foreign country—smile a lot, ask the staff for help, and bounce along as the speakers drill Asian pop tunes deep into your skull. KC.
Shopping list: Kimchee, bitter melon, marinated beef and pork, Korean squid, milk jug of cow’s blood, bulk chilies and rice, weird candy.
6750 NE Broadway, 251-0524.
A former Thriftway, this shabby supermarket perched on a ledge overlooking I-84 at some point shifted its focus way, way east, to Vietnam and Thailand. The new owners kept all the original store fixtures, including dangling apple-shaped slabs of translucent plastic over the checkout aisles, inserting the word “Pacific” into signage in a different typeface wherever necessary. The fairly standard dry-goods selection is enhanced by an unusually good produce section, where neat bundles of garlic scapes, watercress and eggplants the size and color of golf balls rest in plastic-wrapped stacks. BW.
Shopping list: Big bag of kumquats, Thai energy drinks, Cafe du Monde chicory coffee, banh mi loaves from the adjacent Binh Minh bakery.
10500 SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, 643-4512, uwajimaya.com.
Every Portlander has her reasons for making the occasional trek to Beaverton; food lovers often do so for the love of Uwajimaya. This Asian megastore with a parking lot as large as the store itself is where it’s at if you’re looking for sushi, dim sum, sake tasting or Hello Kitty party supplies. The store gets extra points for offering up aisle after aisle of locally made as well as imported Asian products. Until the day we get our long-promised and probably entirely notional Uwajimaya in Chinatown, the Beaverton one will meet all of your passport-free Asian food and drink needs. LC.
Shopping list: Live Dungeness crab, all sorts of produce you’ve never heard of, locally made miso, affordable sake and soy sets.
11001 NE Halsey St., 255-0448, lily-market.com.
Amphaphone Jeung has been in the Portland grocery business so long that he has not built his own mixed-use building, with several apartments upstairs from the market. The 29-year-old shop is immaculately clean and impeccably organized, its aisles laden with Thai staples and delights from all over East Asia: Japanese ice cream, tea bags for seasoning pho broth, “fragrant wood incense,” durian paste, fruit concentrate syrups and Japanese rice seasonings. When you’re done shopping, grab a pair of fresh rolls and a fried banana from the deli for the road. BW.
Shopping list: Wasabe-coated sesame seeds, housemade pickled fish, chili paste, sukiyaki sauce.
Tarad Thai Market and Restaurant (NEW!)
601 SE Morrison St., 234-4102, taradpdx.com. Closed Sunday.
Tarad is a welcome near-Eastside market and late-night Thai food spot opened by Earl Ninsom, the restaurateur behind both Laurelhurst’s PaaDee and its lower-cost cousin, Mississippi Avenue’s Mee-Sen. But while it may be a new under-the-radar food haven for late-night refugees from Dig a Pony, the tiny market is perhaps even more valuable for inner-city folk. Tarad has a small, almost charitably priced selection of fish sauce (a mere $1.75), curries, pepper sauces and choice bits of fresh exotics such as galangal root and Thai basil, plus non sequiturs like $1 six-packs of heavily perfumed Thai soap. It’s curated as well as any museum and looks like a 1970s Thai bodega, right down to a the vintage AM/FM transistor radio. Oh, and they stock Nong’s Khao Man Gai sauce. MK.
SHOPPING LIST: Fish sauce, fried green onions, curry.
Hong Phat Market
9819 NE Prescott St., 254-8280.
The only grocery in Maywood Park, this freshly painted building at the north end of town is your one-stop shop for large fruits. There are papayas, giant bananas, whole jackfruit, all brown and knobbly, alongside bags of pre-separated jackfruit flesh, and spiky durian, stashed in a freezer case to contain their distinctive rotten-onion odor. Hong Phat also excels in the frozen fish department, with several dozen sorts of icy fins in a long line of freezers, some 10 feet of which are devoted to shrimp alone. (Bring your Seafood Watch guide—many of these fish fail to comply with the city’s standards of sustainable fishing practices and general virtue.) The market is to the best of our knowledge the only place in town selling loose frozen shrimp and sardines from an open freezer case. Buy in bulk! BW.
Shopping list: Cheap manila mangoes, durian, bundles of garlic scapes.
Bui Natural Tofu
520 NE 76th Ave., 254-6132, buitofu.com.
It’s all about excellent, fresh tofu, whether it’s fried and coated in lemongrass, served hot ’n’ plain with soy sauce or mixed with onion and wrapped around a funky pork ball. Saigon natives Thuha and Minh Bui started their family-recipe tofu biz in the garage of their Portland home nearly a decade ago. Now the couple processes up to 200 pounds of soybeans a day. Still, they take time to proselytize about their favorite pressed bean curd. Minh says he still eats two trays of firm tofu for breakfast every morning. KC.
Shopping list: Fresh and fried tofu, sweet-and-sour sticky rice balls, soy milk, the best crunchy-fresh salad rolls in Portland.
Making a Killing on Killingsworth
A wild array of cultures and markets collide on this little stretch of Killingsworth Street. The bike or bus shopper can make a full grocery trip here without ever touching a supermarket. It’s perhaps the best little market-shopping neighborhood in Portland. Proceeding from west to east:
Vieng Lao Oriental Food Center
1032 N Killingsworth St., 285-7833.
Vieng Lao’s food comes from anywhere and everywhere along the East Asian Rim, including a broad variety of Filipino foods for the local community. Of note is a huge selection of Filipino-style cracklins. Vieng Lao also houses an admirable, low-priced produce selection spanning from tamarind and galangal to simple onion and tomato, frozen seafood, a solid butcher counter that includes live crab, and a vast array of rice noodles. The meat and produce make it the shopping backbone of the neighborhood.
SHOPPING LIST: Cracklins, curries, rice noodles, fresh produce.
Tienda Video Leonardo
1014 N Killingsworth St., 285-5257.
This little Mexican-run market is not voluminous, but it contains an admirable display of spices lining the left wall, near beans and rice and other Mexican food staples. The middle aisle feeds the reptile brain: a vast display of Mexican junk food faces off with an equally vast assortment of hot sauces. The Spanish-language videos that give the shop its name are housed in the back.
SHOPPING LIST: Pasilla pepper powder, pepper pods, pepper sauce.
839 N Killingsworth St., 283-8732
Rarely does it bode well when a shop advertises “koffee and phone cards and fresh beef,” but this family-run Ethiopian shop has a large variety of hard-to-get African spices along one wall, many of which you’ve probably never heard of, alongside bulk-portioned bulgur wheat and teff and lentils galore. The shop is also delightfully friendly; after purchasing some berbere powder, one of the shop’s owners happily offered instructions for making raw-beef kitfo using the halal beef the store sells from the back.
SHOPPING LIST: Teff, spices, Ethiopian coffee.
1463 NE Killingsworth St., 282-2831.
The 3-foot radius inside the door of Harold and Renuka Nath’s box-cluttered island shop is all-American mini-mart—smokes, Pepsi, Lemonheads and gummy treats. But explore deeper and you’ll hit Africa, Jamaica, Tonga and Micronesia in turn, with aisles devoted to jerk seasonings and unfamiliar spices, tinned meats, lentils, fried peas, tins of cabin biscuits and even Indian spices. A quartet of freezer cases hog much of the floor space, full of prehistoric-looking frozen fish and halal lamb and goat.
Shopping list: Pony Malta soda, frozen Samoan beef bangers, spices, Colt 45 malt liquor.
Fruteria Don Pedro
1540 NE Killingsworth St.
The produce you don’t find at Vieng Lao—the apples, bananas, plantains and melons—are in wonderful abundance at this mini-mart hidden behind a thatch-roofed world of low-priced fresh produce. That makes it a farmer-friendly food mart serving residents of a decidedly un-bourgeois neighborhood, at fair prices. Beautiful. Plants and flowers can also be purchased in abundance.
Shopping list: Tamarinds, plantains, local apples and pears, flowers, plus mexican pastries inside the store.