About a year and a half ago Paul, of the Sacramento Epicureans , and I had discussed getting knowledgeable guides to take us through ethnic markets to point out unfamiliar foods. Paul has better contacts than I and was able to take the idea and pull it together. Today he sponsored a guided tour down Stockton Blvd. to stop at different ethnic markets. He recruited Linda, the owner of Boon Boon Cafe, to be our guide. He did a great job of putting it together by offering a $10 lunch at Boon Boon, $10 for the tour, and then $25 for an hour foot massage at the end. He took time to give us note paper and pens with names and addresses of where we were going and did a run through with Linda beforehand.
We started with a noon lunch at Boon Boon where we selected off of the lunch menu. I had the Spicy Basil Beef. Basil chicken is my favorite Thai dish and so I was interested in trying it with ground beef. I had a very generous portion of it with steamed rice, a small salad, and a drink. It was nice and spicy and I was well stuffed before we started off.
I got to carpool with Linda in her car. Boon Boon has been open for several years now and Linda explained that she's gotten to really know the different markets and which ones are better for prices, produce, meat, and seafood. Not one market is good for all. She's also frequented many of the other Stockton Blvd. businesses to save costs on such things as signage, printing, and other items.
Our first stop was to a Hispanic grocery - La Superior at 4940 Stockton Blvd. Paul explained that this is a great location to buy your Hispanic ingredients such as chilis, avocados, and spices.
I agree that these markets are always a better deal for getting many spices. When we buy Spice Island or McCormick spices in those little bottles, we pay a premium. And, if you didn't know, spices have a short shelf life. Many spices should not be kept for more than a few months. That's why I prefer to buy these smaller packages of cheaper spices. (Guess we pay for those bottles vs. these plastic bags.)
Here's a great example. This large bag of cinnamon sticks is $9 at La Superior. A couple of weeks ago I got six sticks at Raley's for $3 in the Hispanic foods section (not the spice/baking aisle). Glad I know where to go now.
Check out the size of this avocado! Only $.99 at LS. At Safeway you get a smaller avocado for $1.50-2.00 each.
There is an extensive butcher counter which includes all those great parts like tripe, ears, pigs feet, etc. I found the ox tails were $4.99 a pound. I got a two pound package at Winco, which is a cheap grocery, for $12. I'll be coming here in the future. They also have these pre-seasoned meats so that you can quickly cook up tacos or fajitas when you get home.
And, of course, there is the pasteleria for all those baked goods.
Our next stop was Gold Star at 5815 Stockton. Linda said that this was a very good store to get your seafood at - and nothing else. We went through quickly and I did notice it was also a good place for duck legs at $2.99 a pound. I want to make some rillettes from the recipe on Hank's website and so now I'll come over here to get the 12-24 duck legs needed.
We continued down to 6105 Stockton and Vinh Phat grocery. Linda said that this location was particularly known for it's deli.
They had good BBQ duck here and other pre-made foods. I noticed that they had 35 pound roasted whole pigs for $155. (A detail to keep in mind for a future party I'd like to throw.)
I was surprised by this little find - duck tongues. When I had them on a salad at Mulvaney's (see review) I had wondered where you got them and the poor tongueless ducks. Now I know where they are should I decide to spring these on my gourmet dinner group.
We walked by Wing Wa market and Linda commented that the only thing you need to know about it is that they are the place to buy rice - lots of varieties.
We had a small tasting at JJ Bakery. Paul said it was one of the best Asian bakeries for bao. He had stopped by earlier in the day to buy some for us to try because they sell out of bao by early afternoon. The bakers brought out a tray of his bao sliced so that we could try some. I chose a coconut one since I had always had BBQ pork before.
We also stopped here at A&A Supermarket at 6545 Stockton. Linda said that this was the store you wanted for everything besides fish and meat. In other words, get your pantry and frozen foods and non-food items here.
Linda buys some of her cookware here, even for the restaurant. A couple of folks were interested in woks and other kitchenware.
I noticed that these large pineapples out front were three for $5! You'd probably get just one at Raley's.
Our last stop was SF Supermarket at the corner of 65th and Stockton. This may be the largest Asian grocery store in Sacramento and certainly has the largest seafood and meat sections. There are many large tanks of live fish...
and plenty of bins of frozen fish. If you buy your fish here or at any of the Asian markets, be sure to tell them to clean and trim your fish or they'll just bundle up the whole thing for you. Some of them also offer free frying.
Certainly this is a good place to buy your lobster or crab. By the way, an Asian market not on this tour with a great seafood reputation is the one on Broadway and 11th. In the market is Sunh Fish and they are known for supplying fish to many of the sushi restaurants in town.
Another tip for shopping in these markets is to be picky. Asians are picky shoppers and will pick out the choicest fish or the ripest fruits. But if you are not Asian and just ask for a fish, they might try to give you a lesser quality one. Speak up and point out exactly which one you want. Don't be afraid to barter as well. If you want more than one of something, see if you can cut a deal.
Here are a couple more Stockton Blvd. tips Paul and Linda pointed out.
There is an education center at 5451 Lemon Hill Ave. that has a computer science department where you can get your computer repaired for cheap. It's considered a learning tool for the students.
If you need to replace a tire or want a full sized spare, there are tire places that will sell you used-but-still-good-tread tires for as little as $10. Wish I had known that last month when I had to buy a new $89 tire cuz I blew one out.
And lastly, to Huong Lan Sandwiches, around the corner of the building from SF. We didn't stop there for our tour because we were out of time. Now that we were done I was in the mood for a bubble drink and so I headed over to take the pictures and get a mango shake with tapioca pearls. HLS makes the best Banh Mi Vietnamese sandwiches. A banh mi sandwich will cost you about $2.75.
But there are lots of grab n go food items as well.
It's my hope that either I or Paul will be able to organize another guided event where we can find a Vietnamese person to explain and sample some of these items in the future. Meanwhile, I'm going to try to organize an event at a Filipino grocery, bakery, and restaurant with my Filipina friend Marie.