Where in metro Phoenix can you buy fish sauce, a rice cooker, pig's blood, fake eyelashes, and a 30-pound jackfruit in one place? No, that's not a trick question. The answer is AZ International Marketplace, a gigantic superstore that opened its doors at 1920 West Broadway Road in Mesa on Wednesday.
As we told you last month, the 100,000-square-foot store aims to be "an international Walmart," stocking not only groceries and ethnic specialty ingredients, but also housewares, office supplies, pet food, and even personal care products.
It sounds ambitious — impossible, even — but walking through the store proves the owners, who are also the folks behind Mekong Plaza, have done their best to make this a truly one-stop shop for all your shopping needs.
About half of the store is dedicated to food products, and about a third of that space is stocked with ethnic ingredients. It'd be impossible to try to inventory everything you can find on the store's shelves, but for some perspective consider that there's a whole aisle of instant ramen, a section with eight types of condensed milk, dozens of types of fish sauce, nearly any kind of noodle you could dream of, and marinades for everything from bulgolgi to kung pao chicken. In the spices aisle, you'll find powdered curries, mixes for Filipino stews, and dried herbs, with every product organized according to the international cuisine for which you're likely to need it.
It's by far the most extensive selection of ethnic food items anywhere in the Valley and the pricing seems competitive, too. And as an added bonus, the store's running special pricing on many items for opening day and weekend — including a dozen Hickman's eggs for 99 cents and giant packages of dried seaweed for just $2.
The center of the store includes a large produce section with everything from organic Fiji apples to mangoes, jackfruit, bitter melon, and Chinese long beans. In bulk bins you can scoop up jamaica, dried chiles, and dried corn by the pound. Oh, and the chile selection, by the way, includes at least a half dozen varieties such as ancho, Japanese, puya, and arbol.
There's also a well-sized meat counter where you'll find pre-marinated steaks and other meats, fresh fish, and other seafood including scallops and shrimp. Frozen fish can also be found along the back wall. Whether you're looking for a whole cleaned tilapia, belt fish, baby bonita, or mackerel, AZ International Marketplace has you covered. And that recipe that calls for blood, tongue, liver, or kidneys? Not a problem, because they've got all that, too.
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The far end of the store is where you'll find more of the typical American grocery store selections — think, Jif peanut butter and Betty Crocker cake mix. There's also a drink section with sodas, teas, and juices, and a long frozen section that will make ice cream lovers swoon. The selection runs the gamut from Ben & Jerry's and Dreyer's to mochi ice cream in flavors such as green tea and cookies and cream.
And, finally, at the front of the store you'll find the non-grocery wares, which includes essentials like lotion, toothpaste, deodorant, and even Mane n' Tail, as well as large items such as microwaves, mops, rice cookers, and strollers. You can find a giant bag of Cal Rose rice right across from a display of dog toys, and an array of children's backpacks just a few aisles over from a section dedicated to chopsticks and steamer baskets.
It's hard to imagine what you can't buy at AZ International Marketplace — and our guess is it'll take you quite a while to figure out exactly what's missing. We spent more than an hour wandering up and down the aisles and still didn't get to take in every end cap, freezer, and produce bin.
AZ International Marketplace is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information and to see the list of opening specials, visit the AZ International Marketplace website or call 602-633-6296.