This piece also appeared in the Fall 2009 issue.
By Stacy Leung
It’s five o’clock and you are sitting in class waiting for what seems to be an eternal lecture to end. All you can concentrate on is the grumbling your stomach is making and all you can think about is what’s for dinner. Craving some authentic Asian food that you know Marshall Street will not be able to provide, you try to rack your brain to figure out which supermarket will have the ingredients you need to make that dish. Although the more popular markets — Price Chopper, P&C and Wegmans may have a selection of ingredients you are looking for, it may not be the right brand or the exact product. Good thing there are some Asian markets within a short driving distance from SU to purchase what you need.
Tucked away behind Little Italy on North Townsend Street is a small market called Far East & Asian Groceries. Located in a residential area of Syracuse where the neighbors seem to know and talk to one another and the store owners have a relationship with their regulars, this market is a good place to find cuts of meat, such as oxtail and other Thai and Vietnamese ingredients and snacks for a not-so-outrageous price. Taking a look around and spotting some rare things like rambutans (a spiky fruit the size of a golf ball) and duck eggs as well as the assortment of sauces used for Thai and Vietnamese cooking, one can tell it is an authentic Asian grocery store. Additionally, Far East & Asian Groceries also carries some Asian medicine and ointments. However, if you are looking for fresh rare meats, eggs and fruit, you may have to go some place else since most of the products here are frozen.
If you’re hunting for Asian foods along Erie Boulevard, there are three places to visit. One of them is Oriental House of Syracuse, also known as Ahns in Korean, which is located on the corner of Erie and Columbus Avenue. Ahns targets not only Korean cuisine but Indian, Chinese, Thai and Japanese cuisine as well. Here you can find things such as tahini sauce (sesame that is ground into a paste), paneer (a popular cheese used in Indian cooking), curry mixes and different kinds of vinegar and rice. Ahns also sells seafood and produce that look healthy and fresh. What makes this market a gem, however, is that it offers a well-balanced variety of ingredients for the most popular dishes in each cuisine while laying out their products in spacious organized aisles under good lighting at the same time.
Moving further down Erie is the Pan-Asian Supermart located behind Liquor Square on Headson Drive. Pan-Asian is a one-stop shop for primarily Chinese ingredients and snacks. If you’re looking for a specific texture of tofu, Pan-Asian Supermart is for you. Not only do they have the usual soft, silken and firm texture, but they also carry extra-firm, extra-soft and fresh tofu. Pan-Asian has a nice frozen food and Chinese produce selection at a slightly more expensive price, not to mention the popular Vita boxed drinks can be found here. However, the seafood is not recommended because it is not fresh.
Lastly on Erie next to Secret Garden is Han’s Oriental Grocery. The most expensive out of the four markets, Han’s stocks mostly Korean frozen and packaged foods and ingredients, and is notable for its snacks, ice cream and drink selection. Although its fresh food variety is small compared to Ahns and Pan-Asian, the freshly made soymilk, oyster mushrooms and Korean-style bread that can be found in this grocery make up for it. With the crowded shelves, dim lighting and temperatures always on the colder side, shopping here would not be worth it if they did not carry these highly desired products.
With these four Asian markets each having their own strengths, it’s hard to say that there is a “best Asian market” in Syracuse. Being the most unique, Far East & Asian Groceries is good for finding specific cuts and types of meat along with any hard to find Vietnamese or Thai ingredients. Ahns is the closest to SU and carries staples for cooking Asian cuisine, making them the most convenient and well-rounded. To Pan-Asian Supermart, I give the title for the most specific market in Chinese cuisine because of their Vita drinks and array of Chinese ingredients and produce. Lastly, to Han’s, or what can be referred to as a “Korean bodega,” is great for those who need any frozen Korean products or are craving ice cream, soymilk and Korean snacks and beverages.