The Austin Chronicle

Asia Market

Reviewed by Mick Vann, December 1, 2006, Food

Asia Market

8650 Spicewood Springs Rd. #115, 331-5780

Daily: 10am-9pm

My exploration of Asia Cafe (see review, p.54) led me to Asia Market, located in the strip center on the southeast corner of Spicewood Springs and Research. I love markets that have affiliated restaurants; you get to cruise the shelves before and after your meal, and it's an indication that all of the ingredients used in the preparation of the food are authentic. Asia Market, to my knowledge, is the only purely Chinese food market in town, and it's unique from the rest of the Pan-Asian, Vietnamese, Korean, Indo-Paki, and Japanese markets in Austin.

The snack shelves are a colorful wall of brilliantly hued packaging, with many unusual treats on offer. Near the front of the store, there are always lots of different prepackaged dough- and pastry-based foods for sale: scallion cakes, red-bean buns, assorted dumplings, and the like. The produce section is limited but has most everything you'd need to throw a respectable Chinese feast together (for the esoteric produce, stick with My Thanh Supermarket).

The freezer sections are loaded with all kinds of dumplings, sausages, fish, sliced meats, and more. There's an interesting refrigerated section adjacent to the produce, which is packed with loads of curious saladlike and pickled offerings that require further experimental tasting. The dried-food section is amazing: I counted nine different types of dried mushrooms and fungi, including dried enoki. A tray of dried chanterelles set me back just more than four bucks, a quantity of mushrooms that would cost a day's pay at some of Austin's gourmet markets.

The bottled sauce aisle is a godsend, featuring brands I've never seen before in any Asian market, including the real traditional Sichuan hot bean paste, made with fava beans. The label of sauces that features the small black-and-white photo of the chef has proven to be especially good. This is an Asian market worth spending some time – and money – in, and Asia Cafe is right in the back!

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