Rare finds

Ellen Woo, owner of Reno Asian Supermarket, walks the store’s aisles, which carry everything from fish cakes to curry paste.

Ellen Woo, owner of Reno Asian Supermarket, walks the store’s aisles, which carry everything from fish cakes to curry paste.

Photo By David Robert

Reno Asian Supermarket

805 W Fifth St.
Reno, NV 89503

(775) 322-8820

Sometimes when I’m cooking, I want ingredients that are not available at most American supermarkets. For example, when I cook Thai food, I need Thai basil or Kaffir lime leaves, and I can’t find them anywhere except places like Reno Asian Supermarket. There is so much cool stuff there.

When I stopped by the Reno Asian Supermarket with my girlfriend, Cherie, for an afternoon snack, she laughed at me and said I was like a kid in a candy shop. It’s true. I was in heaven, realizing I’d found all the mystery ingredients that give many international cuisines their distinct flavors.

Next to the front counter, I found a cart with homemade goodies to snack on. I asked the nice young man behind the counter what they were. I could tell he was proud of his culture and was happy to tell about each different item. I bought a carrot cake ($1.50), but it wasn’t what you might think it was. This cake was made with rice flour and diced pork, topped with dried shrimp, carrots and scallions. It was rich and delicious. After that, I bought a package of rice cakes ($2). There were four of these sweet treats in the package, and they were rice-flour dough balls packed with crushed peanuts, coconut and sugar—very rich. To wash it all down, I had a can of young coconut juice with the coconut jelly in it ($0.99). This inexpensive snack had me satisfied for three or four hours after I ate it. When I eat empty-calorie snacks like chips and soda, I’m hungry minutes afterward. That wasn’t the case with these munchies.

As I walked around the store with Cherie, she asked, “What’s this stuff?” repeatedly, and I explained the ingredients to her. Cherie asked me if they had Bobo tea here—I wasn’t sure if they had the actual tea, but I found the large tapioca pearls ($0.99) and the Thai tea ($1.29), so we could make it back at the house. This made her day because everywhere we go, she asks for Bobo tea, and nobody has it.

We kept shopping and exploring the market. I found a Chinese vegetable cleaver that was razor sharp and high-quality, one-piece steel construction. It was only $7.99. I couldn’t believe it. What a score! I kept going through the aisles, finding more stuff I love. There were tiny red beans ($0.99) that I use when I make Jamaican rice and peas. Then I found a tub of Thai Panang curry paste ($1.79), which I’ll use to make Panang curry chicken. Their full assortment of Thai curries and Indian-Middle Eastern Curries was fascinating to me. I could cook a ton of different recipes with this stuff.

After we’d been shopping for a while, I realized we’d been in the market for almost an hour and a half. The time had flown by. I could have spent all day in there. When the friendly cashier rang me up for all of my goodies, it came to just over $20—what a bargain. I recommend this place for inexpensive cultural shopping. They pretty much have all the ingredients you’d need for Asian, Polynesian, Indonesian, Indian, Middle Eastern and Caribbean cuisines.