San Francisco, California
Whenever I need a specific ingredient such as curry leaves
, Thai basil
, or really fresh and low-cost meat and seafood, I head to Duc Loi Asian Supermarket in San Francisco's Mission District.While Duc Loi brands itself as an Asian market, it is in a predominantly Latin American neighborhood, and the Vietnamese owners are focused on meeting the needs of everyone in the neighborhood. One can find a range of culinary items from Costa Rica to Malaysia.
Goodies such as chicharrones are sold at the meat counter. The meat counter is huge and has all parts of the animal; chicken feet, calf's feet, pig's heads, and internal organs. There are large slabs of pork belly perfect for making Japanese braised pork belly or homemade bacon. They make their own fresh chorizo daily. The seafood counter has more varieties of fish than you'd see at a regular supermarket, including a tank with live fish and shellfish.
The aisles are filled with all sorts of obscure and hard-to-find Asian and Latin American spices, condiments, sauces, canned goods, and frozen goods. In the freezer section one can find almost anything from Chinese steamed buns to frozen cashew fruit. The produce aisle teems with Asian and Latin American fruits and vegetables from fresh tamarind to Thai chiles, but also gourmet and organic everyday items such as wild mushrooms, salad greens, and fresh herbs at much lower prices than a regular supermarket. There are Japanese candies, Italian sausages, Filipino ice creams, and French wines.
Related: Food-Lover's Guide to San Francisco: The best markets, artisans, and shops for cooks
(Image: Yelp user Ross M.)