yesterday i paid a visit to the new asian supermarket in the northern liberties neighborhood of phila, the spring garden market at 4th and spring garden. there's a parking lot out back accessible from 4th for those of you with cars.
i have mixed thoughts on this place thus far. i haven't visited an asian supermarket since i lived in the DC area, and this new market fills a void. mostly, i love being able to find such odd and good things within walking distance of my home, to assist me in my new adventures of cooking thai food at home (i've been trying recipes from a fellow chowhounder's website, http://www.realthairecipes.com). the selection at the supermarket is huge. there's an entire aisle dedicated to noodles. i was able to find nearly everything i needed to make drunken noodles, tom kha gai and fried corn cakes recipes from aforementioned website, save for three ingredients (holy basil, fresh peppercorns, kaffir lime leaves - in those cases, we found or made up substitutions). on an endcap in the market, taking up something like four shelves, there is a vietnamese (i think) sweet dipping sauce (fish sauce based) for spring rolls, etc, that is to die for - better than i've had at any restaurant. i'll have to post its brand name when i get home from work. there's also a lovely selection of teas, including loose jasmine tea; a generous amount for just over $2 (comes in a pretty dark yellow tin with JASMINE TEA printed across the front, with some chinese words below). I brought a couple teaspoons to work today and made an entire pitcher in my french press. oooh, and those red bean ice cream balls that i've only found at korean restaurants until now? they have those too. we polished off an entire box at home yesterday. the ice cream is formed into ping-pong sized balls and packaged inside something unfamiliar - a sweet layer whose consistency is a mix between cake and jello, almost. any ideas on what that might be??
anyway, the supermarket isn't without drawbacks. the produce section is lacking - hopefully they'll get more for summer - but i was looking for thai basil or holy basil and there was none of it. additionally, most produce is not labeled. i was able to smell the ginger, but there were a couple other things that i was curious about, but couldn't find out what they were. there is a big language barrier there also; i asked six workers various questions and got shrugged shoulders each time. worst, some of the packaged lettuces on the shelves were a week past their "sell by" dates and it showed... which makes me wary of buying other perishable items that might not be marked so clearly.
so, in short, i'll keep my fingers crossed for the produce store rumors up by the girard el and in the meantime keep shopping for produce at the reading terminal market. when i come up with fun asian recipes to try with difficult ingredients, i will print out a picture and description of the item and bring it to the spring garden market with me. and i'm gonna stock up on that spring roll dipping sauce, jasmine tea, and red bean ice cream. i'm sure i'll spend many an evening perusing their aisles for new curiosities and rockin out to the karaoke versions of 80's hits that blast through their speaker system. :)