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Staff photo by Emily Crisman / Snack options abound at Asian Food & Gifts.

Curious about ethnic markets but overwhelmed by the options and don't know what to get? We asked Mike McJunkin, a local chef who spent four years in Thailand studying Thai food and now spends five or six hours a week doing his shopping in Chattanooga's ethnic markets, to give us his recommendations on where to go for different ingredients and what to buy from some of the area's best ethnic markets.

 

Asian Food & Gifts

3639 Hixson Pike | 423-870-1067 | facebook.com/afg.chattanooga

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Staff photo by Emily Crisman / The produce selection at Asian Food & Gifts

Why you should go: If you're just dipping your toes into the world of ethnic markets, this is the best place to start, according to McJunkin. Opened in 1981, it's the area's oldest and largest Asian market, and it boasts a wide, well-organized selection of Thai, Chinese, Filipino and Korean foods.

Come here for high-quality rice, such as Three Ladies jasmine rice; ingredients for halo-halo, a Filipino dessert; miso soup ingredients; fresh noodles; fish sauces (McJunkin likes Three Crabs) and all varieties of canned fish. You'll find condiments like yellow Sriracha, Chinese barbecue sauce and Kewpie mayonnaise, which is mixed with Sriracha to make spicy mayo used on sushi. Don't forget snacks and sweets — including Pocky biscuit sticks from Japan, pork floss (cotton candy made with pork that looks similar to shredded beef jerky), strawberry crackers and Sriracha peas. There are also lots of spices for much cheaper than you'd find them at a typical grocery store, plus bao buns, milk teas and a variety of flavored sugars. Ramen lovers will be thrilled with all the options here, and the ice cream section is not to be missed. Try the brown sugar boba ice cream bars, corn ice cream bars and avocado ice cream. Produce such as goji berries and other fruits, dried mushrooms and different varieties of greens arrive every Tuesday at noon, and the selection starts to thin out toward the end of the week.

 

India Bazar

6940 Lee Highway | 423-855-5995 | india-bazar-grocery-store.business.site

Why you should go: The really good produce selection, especially the okra, which McJunkin says is better and "less woody" than the European okra we're used to.

 

Janta Farmers Market

6500 Lee Highway | 423-551-8285

Why you should go: All the dry goods and spices you've ever wanted. Come away with bags of spices so big you'll have to share, for very little money. The prepared foods are also excellent, particularly the fresh samosas at the counter. Have a sugar cane juice or hot chai while you're there. Janta is also a great place to buy fruit and other produce, as well as yogurt.

 

Super Carniceria Loa #7

1500 Broad St. | 423-634-0565 | carniceriasloa.com

Why you should go: For the dried chiles and for the butcher, offering everything from chicken and pork to octopus and goat. You'll also find suckling pigs and pig heads, for those who want to make head cheese. Don't miss the cooler of fresh tortillas.

 

La Guatemalteca

2109 E. Main St. | 423-629-4737

Why you should go: Fresh Guatemalan and Mexican tamales (and sometimes tortillas), crema and the great bakery section, where you'll find the best tres leches cake in town, according to McJunkin.

 

European Market #1

4921 Ooltewah Ringgold Road | 423-899-3099 | europeanmarketus.com

Why you should go: Frozen dumplings and fresh bread.

 

World Tour Market

5968 Brainerd Road | 423-661-8498

Why you should go: Cheeses, olives, cherry juice, za'atar herb and the "best hummus ever," McJunkin says.

 

Asian Market

3920 Ringgold Road | 423-624-1809

Why you should go: The owner is "shockingly good at finding hard-to-find things," McJunkin says, and the store also has a good selection of cooking supplies, straw brooms and the wide soup spoons found in Asian restaurants.

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