The best part of traveling is indulging in food we've tried to imiitate at home. But let's face it: How many of us really have the time or funds to get to our dream locations? Luckily, we don't have to pull out those dusty passports to get a taste of India or Japan. Phoenix is full of convenient ethnic markets with their shelves full of foods from its native countries.
We sought out 10 markets to give you the most ethnic experience without having to leave the Valley.
Lam's Seafood Market Fresh seafood can be kind of hard -- and let's be real, a little scary -- to find in the middle of the desert. Enter Lam's Seafood Market. They have a vast selection of fresh and frozen seafood. Pick up squid, octopus, shrimp (peeled or not), live tilapia or fresh catfish or lobster. The prices are reasonable as well, and they have two entire aisles full of thick or think noodles to pair with your fresh seafood. So the next time you're planning fresh seafood, stop by Lam's.
Yasha From Russia A deli case with more than 20 types of sausages and cheese sits in the center of the little market. Pastries fill one section of the case, with sweet breads filled with cream and nuts. For $9.99 a pound, the Russian servelat sausage is a softer sausage with a smokey flavor. Of course Yashas has an extensive supply of Russian beer, one in a mini keg. They also carry products from other European countries such as Germany and Ukraine. One wall is full of jams and jellies from Europe, as well as an assortment of teas and herbal drinks. Looking for Russian entertainment? Yasha has you covered with a collection of Russian music.
Tienda Centroamericana Right off the freeway is this little shop with small shelves full of supplies to make Central and South American favorites, such as Donarepa for arepas, and frozen pupusas. Of course they sell the inexpensive packets of seasonings we love. In the back where the refrigerated section is they have Inca Cola, the quintessential Peruvian drink that tastes like banana bubble gum. Get a taste of Colombia with Pony Malt, a non-alcoholic wheat drink made to mimick beer.
French Grocery Homemade pastries, fresh cheese, an extensive supply of wine all make up French Grocery. Browse through the fresh macaroons a tad smaller than silver dollars, or creme brûlée. The biscotti is homemade and cut into thick pieces. Fresh cheeses sit pretty in the display case. French Grocery has a nice selection that can be overwhelming if you're not familiar with cheeses. Feel free to ask for samples and suggestions from the workers who were more than happy to give us a hand. They have a wide selection of red and white wines as well. Take a seat and enjoy your purchases in the small dining area.
Zam Zam World Foods Indian powders, spices, noodles and sweets fill the shelves in Zam Zam. If you're craving some sort of curry mix but can't quite decide what to get, Zam Zam has a everything from vegetable curry to brain masala. We're familiar with Top Ramen and other Asian inspired instant noodles, and Zam Zam has its own masala instant noodles for no more than $2. A small meat section is at the back of the store with livers and lamb. They also sell almond oil for considerably cheaper compared to its high-end competitors. Attatched to the store is a little restaurant with masala plates, hummus and naan. So if you can't decide what to purchase to prepare on your own, take a seat and let the experts take care of you.
House of Rice Manuevering through House of Rice is like trying to weave through the little aisles in the stores throughout Chinatown in San Francisco. The cozy store has everything you'd need to throw an Asian dinner party: plates, bowls, cast iron tea pots, woks, a wide selectin of chopsticks and a sushi set. Their mini grocery section has any type of soy, teriyaki or hot sauce you could need. Of course House of Rice has Yam-Yams, the snacks we all begged for when we were kids. Need a geisha outfit or those cool square sandals? Take your pick from the vast selection of colors and sizes.
Fujiya Market This little market is tucked in the corner of the shopping center on University Drive and Priest Road. Fujiya is the place to go for Japanese snacks. Shrimp Chips are a given, and they also sell packaged dry squid, that is perfectly salted. We were also pleasantly surprised to find out they sell packaged teriyaki chicken bowls and spam onigiri. Need a Pikachu mask? You can get one at the counter when you check out.
Little India Little India is smaller than Zam Zam, but still had other cool items that called to us from off the shelf. A bag of potato jali popped out to us first. Essentially they are potato chips that look like wafers. But instead of ready to eat, they're meant to be taken home and deep fried by the owner. They also sell an astonishing amount of masala mixes. Little India also has spices in bags so they're a little cheaper without the fancy packaging. Little India also has a mini restaurant inside their grocery store serving up typical Indian dishes.
Lee Lee Oriental This supermarket is nothing short of awesome. Every aisle houses products from different Asian and Middle Eastern countries such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Hawaiian, Indian and Sri Lankan. Strolling through all the aisles is like taking a little glimpse into each country. They sell Tom Yum soup in a can, for that quick fix of the Thai favorite and frozen banana leaves, just to name a few. Their produce section has a variety of yams and green beans and rambutan, which we were so excited to find. It's a fruit grown in tropical countries and resembles a furry creature. Break through the outer shell and you'll find a jelly-like fruit inside that has the same texture as a peeled grape. Eat until the pit and repeat.
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Ranch Market We'd assume you live under a rock if you've never experienced Ranch Market. It's a favorite of many, for good reason. Get all your meats for your barbecue, menudo or tamales. Pick up a pack of fresh tortillas that are made fresh all day in house, or grab a large agua fresca to quench your thirst. Fresh seafood is also on hand, as well as pan dulce. If you're craving a Mexican dish, Ranch Market prepares burritos with lengua, chicken, pastor and carne asada, as well as chile verde, enchiladas, rice and beans. It's safe to say Ranch Market is your one-stop-shop for all things Hispanic.