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I always think it's fun introducing my non-Asian friends to an Asian supermarket. Their eyes light up in amazement as they look upon the plethora of goods that they have never seen before. They gape in disbelief at food items available for purchase that they never would have thought of eating, that they never considered edible.

Alright, perhaps it's not THAT dramatic. But my friends are usually at least a LITTLE impressed.

Naturally, in the U.S., Asian supermarkets are most common where there are large Asian populations. 99 Ranch Market, Hong Kong Supermarket and Diho (although Diho may have gone bankrupt) are the largest chains.
Here are a few things about Asian supermarkets:

1. The produce section is diverse, and there are usually a number of fruits and vegetables which are unavailable at your neighborhood mainstream supermarket chain. Some of the fruits which have been appearing at Asian markets just recently include starfruit, lycee and longan. From my experience, produce at the Asian supermarket tends to be cheaper than that of the traditional supermarket chains.

2. Some selections of seafood are live up until the moment you decide to purchase them. When I was young I would stare at the enormous tanks of fish, poke at the crabs (whose claws were bound and thus unable to retaliate) and pick up the clams. The seafoodists (what is the equivalent of a butcher for seafood?) will also clean and gut the fish for you.

3. There is usually an aisle dedicated almost entirely to dried snacks. All sorts of things can be eaten dried -- licorice-flavored watermelon seeds, persimmon, strips of cuttlefish, and green peas.

4. Meat. The poultry is dead, but still in the form of a chicken. Most of the non-Asian supermarkets in the neighborhood sell poultry in bags, on trays, in plastic wrap, without heads. If you purchase a chicken in an Asian market, they will chop and box it for you, and the head will probably be included. You can also purchase gizzards if you like, or pigs feet, cow tongue, and almost anything else you can think of.

5. Additionally, no Asian supermarket is complete without enormous bags of rice! That is, bags of rice which are about the size of a five year old child. Calrose, long-grained, brown, anything that suits your fancy.

6. And at last, if you get tired of all the grocery shopping and decide you no longer have the mood nor the energy to prepare a meal, the largest Asian supermarket chains have small Chinese take-out restaurants inside.

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