One of the many unexpected surprises that came along with adopting three children from China has been my new love for Chinese culture – and an absolute adoration for Asian markets!
If you know me on Facebook, you know my best friend and I (also a China mom) have been known to do a Facebook live from our favorite Asian market. I get asked all the time what I get for my kids when we visit the sometimes overwhelming wonderfulness that is the Asian market and I have taken a few friends along for the ride on our adventures there – and now I am sharing with you!
Where to start. Well, I have to say that I am already very lucky to live close to several amazing Asian markets. We live near Atlanta and have several options… one even has a amazing food court with the most authentic Chinese food I have had since my time in China. If you’re close, message me and we can meet there and chat over a bowl of hand carved noodles! Yummy!
So if you find yourself venturing in an Asian market, first of all: don’t be intimidated. If you have been to China already, the smells, sounds and atmosphere will immediately bring you back to the Chinese markets you visited on your adoption trip. If you have yet to travel – get ready. This is a great way to introduce yourself to some of the culture and food you will find on your journey!
Oh the greens! I love the greens! There are like 10 varieties of bok choy alone. I purchase the “baby bok choy.” It’s tender and yummy and you can throw it in ramen, noodle bowls, sauté in a stir fry… the possibilities are endless. Usually the price of produce is a lot more reasonable at Asian markets too! Love!
Oh the dreaded shrimp chip. These stinky chips are my kids favorites – they taste and smell like you can imagine… fishy. And give your kid stinky shrimp breath. But we get them cause the China babies love them.
This is in the “spring roll” wrapper aisle of our market, pretty crazy. All kinds of wrappers. We just get a traditional one and call it a day. They do have some ones with sesame seeds in them that I plan on trying in the future.
Don’t let the sauce aisle overwhelm you! Grab a sauce and try it!
Here are some of my favorites:
Chili – For spring rolls and egg rolls, sweet and a little spice. So so good.
Sesame Oil – Great for cooking, sauté anything to give it a good Asian flavor.
Chili Sauce – Super spicy and a good dollop on your noodle bowl or rice kicks it up.
Five Spice Powder – I just got this one and it is yummy! For chicken, beef and pork recipes.
Fish Sauce – Sooo stinky but I found it just creates a depth of Asian flavor to recipes when you use it. Don’t be scared of the fish sauce.
Soy Sauce – A must for Chinese cooking. There are like 100 varieties at our market. I just get one in my price range and call it a day, no biggie.
Liquid Aminos – Okay, I put this one in there for the “gluten free” folks as this is a wonderful alternative to soy sauce. It tastes the same to me and it’s good for you! Win win.
Rice Vinegar – Another must in Asian cooking; on rice, noodles, you name it. Its strong and yummy. This particular one is from one of our China buddy’s province in China so it’s the one we buy.
Sriracha Sauce – (not pictured) I love it. You can get it in any grocery store in the Asian section.
This is my favorite sauce right now. Spicy chilis in oil. It’s so delish on noodles, soups or meat and veggies! I make a simple chicken broth, shredded chicken, lemon grass, fish sauce, soy sauce and whatever veggies I have on hand. Top it with cilantro, the spicy chilis in oil, and peanuts. It’s so yummy!
In our market there is a “housewares section” where you can purchase very inexpensive China spoons and utensils. Almost every time I go I will pick up another bowl. I love having mismatched bowls and spoons. These are perfect for noodle bowls!
Rice! Our market has a huge aisle of rice – all kinds. I have tried several but keep going back to traditional Jasmine rice. You can get Jasmine rice at any grocery store these days but I love the big huge bags I can get at the Asian market.
Rice noodles are one of my favorite things to buy. All the kids love them. You can make endless varieties of noodle bowls with veggies and meat.
Ginger, snap peas, bok choy, spicy tiny peppers, and bean sprouts. Bean sprouts are a must in my pad thai or just thrown in anything – sooo yummy.
Some of our favorite fruits to get at the Asian market are the Asian pears, lychee fruit, dragon fruit and tiny bananas.
Other snack options my kids adore are the fruit jellies (think little individual jello packs) seaweed, custard cakes, rice rolls, and jelly squeeze packs. Haw snacks (a type of dried fruit) is one of my babies’ favorite snacks. Along with Pocky sticks, Panda cookies and dried peas.
Each time I go to the Asian market I manage to come home with a few new items to try. It really is a lot of fun!
In the frozen department your going to find tons of frozen steamed buns and dumplings. Each time I go, I pick up a different variety to try. My kids love the pork or custard ones. These are so easy to steam in your instant pot or rice cooker.
With Mid-Autumn Moon Festival around the corner, I have included some ideas to help you celebrate the holiday with your family.
In Chinese culture Mid-Autumn is celebrated traditionally around the time rice is supposed to mature and be harvested. So, people take this festival as an opportunity to celebrate the harvest and celebrate by eating moon cakes, lighting lanterns and getting together with friends and family.
Nicole, one of our NHBO contributors, wrote a wonderful post on how to make moon cakes in a more American way – mooncake cookies. We will be making ours this way with just sugar cookie dough. We have bought the traditional moon cakes at the Asian market and my kids have not loved them; they are not for everyone. They do come in beautifully-designed keepsake tins. I love our Asian market because they have such a wide variety each year and they range from $12 a box to upwards of $60 a box. They really are so so pretty!
This year I also ordered a set of inexpensive lanterns. These have been great so far because I can use them for Chinese New Year and any other Asian holiday we may be celebrating
And I recently ran across a brand new website where you can order a box to help you celebrate Mid-Autumn Moon Festival. This is perfect if you don’t have a Asian market near by or just don’t have the time to take a trip and get all your supplies.
(If you order one of these – please leave feed back for the readers in the comments section below. Would love to know how these are in person.)
I hope this post helps you not feel so overwhelmed with your local Asian market! Remember there is no perfect way when trying to implement asian culture and cuisine into your home. Just the very fact of your adopted child seeing you take interest in the country of their roots are speaks volumes to their precious souls.
Zàijiàn! (Good bye!)