Six things to check out at the Asian Supermarket

Asian Supermarket exterior

The Asian Supermarket -- not to be confused with the Asian Market.

By Albany Jane

It's Supermarket Week on AOA -- a whole week of posts about shopping for food. Because we all have to eat.

For years I've been shopping at the Asian Food Market on Colvin Ave in Albany, but in the last year, the Asian Supermarket -- the newbie Asian market in the Capital Region -- has become a part of my regular rotation.

The Asian Supermarket is similar to the Asian markets you'd see in major metro areas -- bright lights, clean floors, tall shelves, and a ton of selection. It's one-stop shopping for all of your Asian grocery needs.

I find myself there at least once a week. Here are a few of the reasons why...

Hong Kong Bakery

When you first walk into the Asian Supermarket, you'll notice the Hong Kong Bakery to your right. It looks like just another part of the store, but it's really a store within a store. The bakery moved from its previous location farther down Central Ave and is a separate entity from the Asian Supermarket.

I love this place. It's like having a stand-alone food stall in the store. You can pick up a snack or dinner for the whole family. They make fresh baked or steamed buns, crispy-skinned pork, they have an instant hot bar, and their chow fun is delicious. If you see something coming out of the oven while you're there, I suggest you make a detour from your shopping trip.

Fruits and veggies

The Asian Supermarket has a large and impressive produce section. I'd rather shop there for fruits and veggies then at any of the local supermarkets.

There's tremendous variety and many of the vegetables are around $1.49 per pound or less. For under $3 a pound you can kind of change things up every week. They have the largest selection of Asian greens I've ever seen in Albany -- sweet potato greens, a half-dozen different kinds of Asian cabbages (not just Napa and boring ones like that, but also Taiwanese cabbage, delicate mustard greens, and other interesting varieties).

Prices can be a bit higher than the Asian Food Market, but they seem to have a good turnover -- the produce has been reliably fresh whenever I shop there. That's impressive when you're carrying fresh methi leaves ($1.99 per large bunch), chestnuts, pomelo, fragrant pears, lemongrass, and dragon fruit. You'll also find all kinds of incredibly fresh mushrooms.

The Asian Food Market on Colvin has responded to this competition by having weekly/monthly specials (which they almost never had before), but their selection is a bit smaller, and sometimes they're out of certain kinds of veggies.

Butcher/meat counter

You can order up some ground pork, pork belly, seafood or meat balls, and spare ribs from the counter. The refrigerated part of the meat counter houses a few varieties of chicken, duck (with the head on), quail eggs, preserved meats, pork, tendon, and tripe. You can also get whole oxtails -- the entire tail, not sliced into rings; it's like 3 feet of oxtail. They also have pre cut goat-- it's the best steady source that I've seen for goat meat. Also, you can get things like chicken feet, which are a great addition to soups for flavor and body.

There's also a frozen section that's haphazardly arranged that you can rummage through to find beef tongue, quail, duck, chicken, and thinly sliced beef, lamb, or pork for hot pot.

Freezer section

There's a freezer section against the walls on the right side of the store (just past the butcher section) that houses some frozen veggies (edamame, bitter melon, taro, etc.), Filipino sausages, fruit, and instant dishes. They carry my favorite kind of frozen dumplings (the only one's I'll eat over my own), Juan's Frozen Dumplings.

They also have frozen calamansi juice -- a citrus juice that tastes like a blend of orange, lemon, and lime. It's not as tart as lemon and not as cloying and sweet as orange juice. You can also pick up "instant" dim sum like frozen har gow and siu mai.

Seafood

There's a fresh seafood counter that's kept in good condition. You'll find a couple of tanks of fish, crab, lobster, mussels, trout, catfish, frogs and turtles. You can pick something from the counter, or have a fish freshly dispatched for you from what's available swimming in the tanks.

The seafood counter has a number system for how you'd like your fish cut up. This helps any language barriers that may exist. Want your fish just gutted and scaled? Pick a number. Want it filleted with the skin off and no bones? Pick another number.

You can also buy a stack of miscellaneous fish stuff for stock (that's usually pretty cheap). Prices are pretty fair -- you 're not going to pay much more than $5 a pound here, and most of the fresh fish will be more like $2-$3 a pound. Squid, fresh trout and porgies will be in the $2-$3 range, snapper is $5-$6 a pound.

The seafood section has its own freezer where, among other things, you can find 5 pound blocks of frozen shrimp.

Groceries

One of the best aspects of the Asian Supermarket is its variety of Asian goods. You'll find noodles, rices, teas, you name it. It's one stop shopping for Chinese and Japanese groceries. Prices are a little higher than the Asian Food Market for condiments, but it's a convenience thing -- you can get everything you need here.

Try the Kikkoman Pearl green tea soy milk. Even if you don't like soy milk, if you like green tea, you'll like this. It's 2.29 for the box and it's awesome.

You'll also find a wide variety of Thai, Indian, and Korean groceries. They have lots of different bags of Korean chili pepper flakes, seasonings for both Indian and Korean foods, dry powdered spice, snack foods and dried ingredients. There are plenty of Thai sauces and condiments, as well.

Their product organization could use a little help, though. This is one of the most confusing aspects of the store. The aisles are grouped partially by product type, and partially by ethnicity, meaning one aisle has some Korean goods, and another aisle has Indian groceries. It gets confusing if you're looking for a seasoning, which could theoretically be just about anywhere. If you're trying to find powdered pure matcha, you'd think it would be in the tea section, but it's in the baking area, near instant beverages and baking goods. Ironically, sweetened matcha powder to make instant tea with is in both the tea aisle and the instant drink section.

Explore

If it's your first time visiting the store, give yourself a little extra time to shop. You'll probably want to browse and gawk at all of the different herbs, snacks, and produce available. Plus, that whole product organization thing is going to boggle you a bit at first.

On the whole, I think the Asian Supermarket is a reliable place to shop if you need to make a variety of different kinds of Asian food. Their selection is so vast, if there's something you're looking for, they'll probably have it. And if not, they'll try to find it for you. The staff at the Asian Supermarket is helpful and positive.

The checkout systems are automated and just like you'd see in a traditional supermarket, except with a computerized voice that says "Slide your card, please" when paying with a credit card.

I still have a place in my heart for the Asian Food Market, as well. There are a few things I can only find there -- like black rice noodles that are totally black. My dad can't even find them in New York City. Also, their 5 percent student discount is an incentive, and they have a purchasing program where you can buy a card for $300 that gives you about $330-worth of product.

But for sheer variety, the Asian Supermarket can't be beat.

Albany Jane writes about her food adventures at Albany Eats.

Find It

Asian Supermarket
1245 Central Avenue
Albany, NY 12205

Comments

I love this store, as well. My every Sunday morning includes a quick visit. I enjoy finding something new and exotic to try out and share with my friends!

I love this store, but I don't think it is "one-stop" for Japanese and Korean goods. They are missing a lot of the basics that Kim's had.

A few things that I haven't been able to find include: a good assortment of Japanese pickles (the kind you serve with curry rice). Chinese pickles are not the same.

Also, Kim's had weekly shipments of Korean prepared veggies, so you could buy a pack of bibimbap veggies and have quick healthy meal in a few minutes.

The rice sprinkles aren't very good either. Kim's had much better quality and selection.

I could go on.

I love the Chinese and southeast Asian selections, but I wish they would cater more to the Japanese and Korean side of things.

When you mentioned the frozen calamansi juice, I read it first as "calamari" juice! I'd never heard of calamansi - I was relieved to discover that it has nothing to do with squid.

I love the Asian market! My favorite thing to shop for there is the candy. They have some yummy strawberry/chocolate candies and I love the pocky...the caramel pocky is especially delicious. It seems they always have something different whenever I visit too!

I have to agree with celinabean. It is good for a lot of things, but not Korean. I couldn't find kochujang there. Since Kim's closed I've been going to the little Korean store up near A La Shanghai restaurant in Latham. It has a good selection of bibimbap veggies and Japanese ingredients, too.

Calamansi is a citrus fruit akin to key lime. . .albany jane hit the nail on its head with her description

My friend wants me to try durian from there...not gonna happen!

This post reminds me I need to do more everyday grocery shopping here, not just when I'm making an asian-themed meal.

The last time I went, I was amazed by the variety of fresh mushrooms - many more kinds than the Central Ave Hannaford, and lower priced, too (I think!)

I do find it convenient to shop there, though some items that I've found at other markets aren't there. Where in the heck did you find the Green Tea Soymilk though? I walked all over the store and didn't find it.

I buy a lot of basic pantry items at the Asian Market. Vinegars, oils and rice are all great prices.

Oh, and bring your reading glasses. You'll spend a lot of time reading labels!

Jerry, a friend of mine brought a durian over for a DYI sushi night last year. One, reports of its stinkage are vastly overrated. As much as I love Anthony Bourdain's description, the ones I was exposed to was really not bad if you're used to things like cat litter and compost. 2) IT. IS. DELICIOUS. Think sweet custard with a hint of your favorite taste ever. Whatever it may be. I think it has some chemical that just acts directly on dopamine receptors. 3) The texture is the most disturbing element. Several people who could get easily past the smell couldn't deal with the, for lack of a better word (because I hate this one), mouthfeel. That's my only warning.

No really, everyone should try a durian once.

There are Durian "candies" that you can buy. . .of course they are processed but I do believe it saves the consumer from the smell. . .that is if you are curious enough to see what durian tastes like. . .

I will wait to try durian until I can carve it up outdoors. And can drive it home with my windows open.

I love buying mochi in the frozen section, but haven't been in a while. What are the best things to try at the Hong Kong Bakery?

love this store...groceries aside, it's just some great visual stimulation!

a note about meat: one time I bought some wrapped/styrofoam trayed chicken breasts and they were outstanding: juicy, flavorful, delicious. So I bought them again and they were...BAD. like, as in: had gone bad. Definitely do a smell test before leaving with wrapped meat.

B - There are two opposing things that have me really torn on the durian experience. As you brought up, there's Bourdain's description, which really makes it sound like a favorable experience. But there's also Zimmern's reaction. I've seen that man literally eat out of a trash can, and he's never spit anything out except durian.

Andres -I had coworker from Singapore give me two types of durian candies. I gave both a shot, one was delightfully sweet and had a faint pungency that wasn't bad at all, the other was so strong that, even after immediately removing the garbage bag that it was placed into, the stench lingered for days!

All of this leads to the tug-of-war of emotions for trying durian. As Leah said, when the weather is nice enough, someone will coax me into buying and trying one...outdoors :)

@Honey - The green tea soymilk was front, last time I was in there. When you first walk in, look at the drink shelves on your right. Should be somewhere there, around knee-level.

FYI Kim's is planning to open in about 10 days under the new ownership

I've got to agree with B - although my enthusiasm for the taste is much less than his. The smell is certainly unpleasant but it's definitely not the worst thing - I had a dish with sea asparagus the other night and that smell is far worse. Ick.

The texture is what's difficult. I think they sell durian ice cream at the market - that might give you a better idea of the taste without the gross "mouthfeel."

I LOVE this place also i have video & pictures too.
i used to go to lee's market, once this opened wow.
the staff is usually friendly & Help, Not too friendly at the Hongkong Bakery though. but good food.
great selection of candy, snacks & Tea, TOO much tea if you ask me. Durian fruit? oh Yeah i dare you to try it.
I bought the waffers of them & was grossed out.
start off with the waffers. (Durian fruit)
its always very clean in there im going soon, next weeek

Note that the Hong Kong Bakery that used to be at the front of the store has moved to their own location with an expanded menu and a comfortable, new and beautiful dining room. They have maintained the bakery, but are now also offering dim sum, lunch specials and authentic Hong Kong style dishes. Their new place is amazing, check them out at 8 Wolf Road in Colonie, directly across from the Colonie Center, and they share a parking lot and driveway with Emperor's, making it an interesting competition for Cantoneae food aficionados. In my opinion, it's Hong Bakery & Bistro (their new name) hands down..

As for the Asian Market, they seem to be constantly morphing their store over the past couple of years to accommodate more refrigerated and frozen products. Fresh fruits and veggies aren't as fresh as when they first opened so if you don't make it there on delivery day, there isn't a whole lot of fresh selection. Seems like they're still trying to figure out their stocking strategy. Meats are just so-so, again, it's a matter of turnover. Fresh fish section is pretty good, as is their huge variety of frozen, dried and canned goods. The new cooked food stall at the front of the store looks a little sparse and does not appear to be very vibrant now that Hong Kong Bakery has left, and not sure how fresh their roasted deli is (afraid to try).

Asian market has all you need to cook a lot of Asian cuisines. Definitely have to go there for the culinary cultural immersion experience.

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