If you are like me, and love Asian food, then definitely, you should be shopping at Asian markets. If you have never been to one, it will be quite an adventure. There are a myriad of condiments, spices, and seasonings, all sorts of seaweeds, fresh herbs and produce, fermented foods, and fresh and frozen meats and seafood, rarely seen outside of Asian markets. You will find the ingredients that make the difference in how authentic your Asian dishes taste. Also, one of the great benefits is that prices are generally much better than in regular grocery stores.
I should note, when you are choosing brands, read the labels very carefully. It can be hard to find some items without MSG, aspartame, high fructose corn syrup, food coloring, and other things I assume you would like to avoid. It can be done, just have patients and bring your glasses for the small print.
Tom Kai Gai:
Coconut milk (better by far than Trader Joe’s)
Kaffir lime leaves (fresh or frozen)
Lemon grass (fresh)
Tom yum paste
Organic red miso
Silken tofu (organic of course)
Wakame seaweed – I like the kind that is in small pieces
Bonito fish flakes
Rolling mat to make sushi rolls
Organic soy sauce
Seasoned rice vinegar