Join me for a tour of my favorite Asian supermarket in San Francisco, Richmond New May Wah. Learn what I love about this place and what are some must-have items you should add to your grocery list.
- Why buy in an Asian supermarket?
- Asian Supermarkets in San Francisco:
- The Richmond New May Wah Asain Supermarket in San Francisco:
- 20 Must-Have Things to Add to Your Grocery List:
- Premium Grade Uni
- Wonton Wrappers
- Cool Beverages
- Seafood Snacks
- Prik Pao
- Coconut Cream
- Yuzu Kosho
- Satay Peanut Sauce
- Flowering Cauliflower (Chinese Cauliflower)
- Fresh and Dried Mushrooms
- Chili peppers
- Frozen Dim Sum
- Kewpie Mayonnaise
- Crunchy Garlic with Chili Oil
- Fresh Bamboo Shoots
- Bones for broths
- Exotic Fruits
- Soup Balls
- Fresh, frozen, and canned crab
- Bonus! Some Extra Weird Items To Add To Your Grocery List
Sometimes grocery shopping can be a daunting task. But Asian supermarkets make me love grocery shopping. Instead of a task, I feel like I’m on vacation. I need to remind myself to look at my grocery list often, otherwise, I just drift off into exploring mode.
I especially love new supermarkets that I haven’t been to before. It’s just so exciting to explore and find out what you can taste or incorporate into your cooking. I’m always so inspired while grocery shopping, a lot more than I can handle at home.
I love supermarkets that always surprise you with things you have never seen before. New May Wah is precisely that, on steroids. It’s so incredible; I must have shopped there at least 40 times, and still, I find something new and exciting every. Single. Time.
Why buy in an Asian supermarket?
- The selection is just extraordinary, in a space smaller than most regular supermarkets, you can find a much wider variety. For example: If I can only get one type of coconut milk in our conventional supermarket, there are at least ten types here.
- Perfect for getting those hard-to-find items. There’s a lot of imported things from many Asian countries. Stock your pantry with all the hard-to-find items for the recipes in your pipe-line.
- Prices are mostly a lot cheaper than conventional supermarkets. Not in all categories (stay clear from the dairy products), and sometimes home-brands can be more affordable in the bigger stores, but generally, the final bill is more than reasonable. It’s still smart to pay attention to the price-tag as some high-end items can get very pricy (like live spot prawns!).
- Support local businesses. Many of the produce, seafood, meats, baked goods, etc. are locally sourced. You’d be supporting a local business by shopping here, even though many items are imported.
- Freshness and quality– many times Asian markets don’t have cold storage, and they rely on fast turnovers of short-shelf-life items like produce. This way, they can cut costs and lower prices. Produce is delivered fresh to the store daily from producers and farms in the area. Older produce is marked down to sell quickly, meaning you can score some pretty sweet deals for a same-day cooking project.
- The #1 reason – it’s just so much more fun! A visit to the Asian supermarket is like traveling: learning about a different culture and having the opportunity to experience new things I have never tried before.
Asian Supermarkets in San Francisco:
San Francisco has the largest Chinese community outside of Mainland China, so you can find many Chinese restaurants and grocery shops. You’d think my favorite Asian supermarket would be in Chinatown, but to be honest, it’s not. The fact is that Chinatown is lovely to visit, but it’s also a huge tourist attraction. It’s still number 1 when it comes to the best prices and unbeatable selection. Chinatown shops are smaller, and it’s hard to find a “one-stop-shop” for groceries. If you’re going there, consider store-hopping.
Another notorious superstore is 99 Ranch – the most prominent Asian grocery store in America. I have to admit that I’ve yet to visit this store since it’s south of the city. I have almost everything I can think of within 10 minutes, walking distance from home. So I’ll have to put 99 Ranch in my to-do list next time I find myself in Daly City.
New May Wah, on the other hand, is located in the Inner Richmond, the neighborhood where we’ve been living in the last 2 years now. It’s also called “The new Chinatown”. San Francisco has at least 4 different “Chinatown” neighborhoods, and the Inner Richmond is one of them, only it’s more multi-cultural than just Chinese. This is why I love this neighborhood and started taking groups to discover this fantastic gem through my Inner Richmond Food Tour.
The Richmond New May Wah Asain Supermarket in San Francisco:
For individuals as well as restaurants, it has it all:
- Fresh and dried vegetables and fruits
- Fresh and frozen meat: beef, pork, poultry (limited selection of frozen lamb)
- Live, fresh and frozen seafood
- Frozen meals section (especially dumplings)
- Everything dried, canned, preserved, fermented and buried under soil for a 100 years
- Condiment like oils, vinegar, soy sauce, chili pastes, oyster sauce…
- Spices and spice mixes
- Kitchen and cooking essentials
- An incredible selection of sake
- Teas and dried fruits
- Snacks and desserts
- Fresh noodles of all kinds
- Wholesale section for restaurants
- and more and more and more…
You can find foods from China, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, Korea, Japan, Myanmar, Philippines, India, etc.
Many of the restaurants in the neighborhood (and outside) are getting their products from this store.
20 Must-Have Things to Add to Your Grocery List:
Premium Grade Uni
one of my favorite cooking hack! you can get those for a few bucks: rounded, squared, thin, thick, yellow, green, you name it. And you can use them to make wonton, but also fresh ravioli, tortellini, lasagna… I always make sure I have a package in the freezer and thaw it for great results in no-time
I can write a designated post just about the beverages aisle here. If I try a different beverage every day, I’d probably be tasting new drinks for well over a year! One of my favorites is this Basil Seed Drink. When soaked in water, Basil seeds plump up to this translucent ball with a black eye in the middle. It acts similarly to flax seeds or chia seeds and very good for digestion and adds a good texture to the drink.
you can find different sorts of dried fish and seafood snacks. This fish snack is baked to crispiness, covered with sesame. It makes a great sweet and salty snack to eat with sake or beer. You can also use these in Thai salads, adds some fish flavor and crunchiness.
Thai Chili Paste with soybean oil – I discovered this amazing condiment on our Thailand trip. I brought a few jars back home just to discover they are available 5 minutes from home in New May Wah. It’s my favorite all-in-one paste: sweet, savory, spicy, acidulous, and smoky. Amazingly works with any stir fry, or as a base for a Thai dipping sauce. Here’s a video of how that’s made from scratch (and why I don’t bother).
Savoy brand is my favorite brand of coconut cream. It has the most fat-content to volume ratio of all other coconut milk brands. This means it has less water, and you need to use less of it for any recipe, and you can always thin it down with if necessary.
I’m a big yuzu fan (and you’ll hear more about this obsession soon enough), but if I had to choose one thing to recommend getting in the whole store is this Yuzu Kosho condiment. It’s made by fermenting green chilis with the peel of the yuzu citrus. The result is a super fragrant spicy paste that makes everything taste sharp. You’ll mostly find it used on top of sushi in an omakase dinner. It also works great with vegetables, meats, cooked fish, marinades, salad dressings, and anything that can use a good flavor punch.
Satay Peanut Sauce
You can make your own satay peanut sauce, but this is a welcomed shortcut. I tried the spicy version, and it wasn’t too spicy (add some extra chili if you like it spicy). Just use as-is adding to chicken, pork, beef, vegetables, stir fry or mix with coconut milk to make a marinade.
Flowering Cauliflower (Chinese Cauliflower)
The Chinese greens aisle is a magnificent aisle to browse. I like to occasionally select a new type of green that I haven’t cooked with before. The Chinese Cauliflower is another must-try if you see it in season, it has a longer pale green stems and smaller florets. It holds its shape pretty well, and it has a very delicate asparagus-cauliflower like flavor. Perfect to use in a stir fry dish.
Fresh and Dried Mushrooms
there’s a good selection of fresh mushrooms here. I love to get the black fungus for stir fry, it adds a crunchy earthy texture. The Maitake (Hen of the Woods) is my favorite for oven roasting, and you can get a good-sized box of fresh shitake for about $5. You can also find enoki, beech, king trumpets, and crimini here. Don’t forget to stop by the dried mushroom section and get a bag or two, since it’s a pantry staple and can be added to so many dishes to give it a bit of an extra umami flavor.
great selection of chili peppers, dry and fresh. The small red Thai chilis are my favorite, and I keep a bag of them in the freezer. They keep for a long time, and whenever I need a bit of a spicy kick, I take a few frozen chilis out of the freezer, and by the time I clean them from the seeds, they’re thawed. Dried chilis are another pantry staple. I keep a jar with red chili peppers ready to be added to a stir fry, a broth, or a stew.
Frozen Dim Sum
The frozen section here is impressive. Some items I didn’t even know existed. The dumpling and Dim Sum selection is striking. It’s easy enough to get fresh Dim Sum from around the neighborhood but not so much in the evenings. A quick dinner of potstickers is a freezer must-have, and I also recommend the frozen packaged eggroll wrappers, which I always have in the freezer to use instead of filo pastry for baking – so much easier to work with!
If you’re a mayo-person like me, and still didn’t try this one – it’s a must-try. Kewpie is the Japanese version of mayonnaise, made with egg yolks and rice vinegar, and has a smooth and creamy texture. Yum!
Crunchy Garlic with Chili Oil
We already got our Dim Sum; now we need the chili oil. Consider this the upgraded version of the chili-garlic sambal sauce (which you can also find in this store). It is the perfect condiment to add to anything that needs some chili and garlic: pizza topping, stir fry, fried chicken, mix it with mayonnaise to make spicy mayo. The possibilities are endless. Goes amazingly with steamed or baked BBQ pork buns!
Fresh Bamboo Shoots
I’m not a Bamboo shoot fan. I always ask to remove any bamboo shoots from my Ramen because I can’t stand the after-taste. Apparently, this off-taste that I detest is a bi-product of the canning process, and I’m actually really fond of fresh bamboo shoots. You can get 2 variants of the bamboo shoots here (long and short), or ready-to-eat bamboo in saltwater.
Bones for broths
This is a major important thing to know. I make a lot of soups and stocks. So I need bones! Chicken carcasses aren’t sold in every supermarket (you can probably ask the butcher). Since “bone broth” became so trendy – if you do get to find some beef marrow bones – they are costly. Here in New May Wah, there’s always a big pile of chicken bones to fill yourselves a big bag for less than $1 a pound, and you can ask for beef bones for cheaps, cut to your likings. I always keep a bag of bones in my freezer for when I’m out of stock. By the way – I make my life easy by putting those bones still frozen in the instant pot with a bunch of vegetable scraps, and I’m good to go!
the fruit section here is so great. Do you miss some of the amazing fruit you last tried in Thailand? I do. And here is a good place to bring all that back. It’s not going to be as cheap or abundant, but you can get the best in-season fruits here and some magnificent fruits imported from Vietnam, China, Thailand, Mexico, and more. Leanna’s favorites are the Longan and Rambutan. They’re both a bit similar to lychees, but each has its own distinct charm. You can also get fresh Jackfruit, Durian (the notoriously stinky fruit), Mangos, Asian pears, kumquats when in season, and Dragon fruit are all usually available here.
with a dozen types of fishballs and meatballs, you can always have something in hand to add to a bowl of soup. They also have a selection of Vietnamese “fancy meats,” which is a fancy way of saying “ham” that is great for sandwiches, especially Banh Mi.
Jackfruit coconut roll, honey walnuts, mung bean filled mochi, sesame cookies, dried squid… There are so many snack options here, and none of them are your conventional potato chips. I didn’t even scratch the surface of the options to try here.with a dozen types of fishballs and meatballs, you can always have something in hand to add to a bowl of soup. They also have a selection of Vietnamese “fancy meats,” which is a fancy way of saying “ham” that is great for sandwiches, especially Banh Mi.
Fresh, frozen, and canned crab
Love your crab cakes? You can get here anything from fresh live crab, freshly shelled crab, frozen crab, and canned crab for your next dinner party. My crab cakes’ go-to would be the premium frozen claws + body crab meat, which is the best value for money and requires no prep!
Bonus! Some Extra Weird Items To Add To Your Grocery List
Balut Duck Eggs
Balut is the fertilized duck egg with the duck embryo, it’s a notorious Pilipino delicacy. I tried it once back in Tel Aviv. It wasn’t bad, but maybe not an experience to be repeated so often. I wrote about the experience in my first blog.
Black/ Silken Chicken
It’s a black chicken inside and out that’s considered a highly prized breed of chicken. The flesh is dark-gray-black, and the bones are black too! It’s a much leaner free-range chicken believed to have a myriad of medicinal properties in the Chinese culture. I once tasted (and witnessed the butchering of) a black chicken when traveling to China, and I must admit that it was an experience of itself even though it wasn’t the best-tasting chicken I ever tasted.
I had to look this one up myself. This is a fruit in the Cashew family, and it’s actually very good for you. Also called in so many other names (like water olive). In India, they eat it freshly cut with masala as a street snack, in Thailand, they add it to curries.
Pickled Mud Fish
this is a very particular and authentic Thai ingredient used in Northern Thailand to flavor papaya salad. It is fermented and has a strong smell. Some say it improves with time.
Did you know the banana flower is edible too? It can be eaten raw or cooked. In Thai cuisine, it’s chopped thinly and made into salads similar to green papaya. It’s also cut and added as the main ingredient to coconut-based curries. The blossom is very healthy, and surprisingly does not taste like banana, more like a lighter version of an artichoke.
this is a traditionally air-dried fruit known in Japan, Korea, and China. In Japan, they use Hachiya persimmons, peeled and tied-up on strings to dry in winter, massaging the fruit every day. The Korean and Chinese versions are less laborsome and much cheaper and easier to find. Usually made of the Fuyu persimmon laid out to dry and not hanged like their Japanese counterpart. The white bloom you see on the persimmon’s face is the sugars of the fruit that migrate to the surface. The outcome is a very sweet, complex, and intense flavor.
There’s definitely going to be a Part 2 of this Asian Supermarket article, it just never seizes to surprise! So stay tuned.
Did you try any of these groceries listed here before? What’s your must-buy staple in an Asian grocery store?