Four Corners: Asian Markets Specialize in Rare Food

Madison RutherfordJuly 31, 2020
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From Glendale to Mesa, find fabulous foodstuffs for your next cooking project at these Asian markets specializing in rare spices and uncommon produce.

Photography by Gabrielle Hofer
Photography by Gabrielle Hofer
The House of Rice Store

Opened: 1977
When people ask The House of Rice owner Kiyoko Goldhardt what kind of business she operates, she says it’s an “Asian specialty store.” Half grocer and half gift shop, the market sells expected staples like sake and frozen shrimp shu mai, but also offers origami paper and kimonos. Goldhardt says the shop’s sushi supplies have been flying off the shelves amid the pandemic, since people have more time to get creative in the kitchen. Known for its selection of seasonings like furikake, crystalized ginger and black garlic, it has everything you need to try your hand at hand-rolling at home. When you stop by, keep an eye out for a framed photo behind the counter – Goldhardt was featured on the cover of PHOENIX in 1979.
Must Try: Matcha has been used by Zen monks and Samurai warriors in traditional tea ceremonies since the 16th century. Make your own with organic matcha powder from Japan, available in a 15-gram container ($9.99) or 4-ounce bag ($22.95).
3221 N. Hayden Rd., 480-947-6698,

West Valley
AZ Karen-Asian Market

Opened: 2018
This small westside supplier of authentic Asian goodies is a good place to get farm-fresh vegetables like bok choy and daikon. It also has a nice selection of noodles and an array of snacks such as dried durian (a pungent fruit) and green tea-flavored cookies. Putting together a Lao papaya salad? Pick up some pla ra spice here. Trying out a Thai tom yum recipe? Score yourself some sour chile paste. Making miso soup? This is your destination for the obligatory dried seaweed (dashi). Even though the shop is tiny, you could spend hours navigating its narrow aisles hunting for gastronomic gems.
Must Try: Don’t have the time to make drunken noodles? Pick up a six-pack of instant pad kee mao ($3.99), a Thai stir-fried noodle dish. You’ll never crave Cup Noodles again.
5270 N. 59th Ave., Glendale, 623-939-1180,

East Valley
H Mart

Opened: 2020
On June 11, hundreds of curious customers gathered at a strip mall on the southeast corner of Dobson Road and Main Street in Mesa to be the first group of people inside this highly anticipated Asian superstore. The gargantuan retailer sells everything from ramen to rice cookers, and features an impressive produce section with rare fruits and veggies like lychee and wood ear mushrooms. You’ll find patrons carrying baskets piled high with seaweed, snacks and soy sauce – of which H Mart has dozens of varieties. It also features a food court with an array of Asian eateries and a seafood and meat counter purveying harder-to-find proteins like pork belly, chicken feet and sushi-grade salmon.
Must Try: Choose from an assortment of kimchi in different variations ($3.99-$20.49). Customers can buy the Korean fermented cabbage in small bags or hulking jars, fried, pickled, cubed or sliced.
1919 W. Main St., Mesa, 480-207-4560,

TÂn Phát Oriental Market

Opened: 1988
Like most real-deal destinations in the Valley, Tâấn Phát is tucked away in a small shopping center sporting unassuming signage and bland brick walls. But once you step inside, it’s a palace of pan-Asian delights: sapid spices like star anise and galangal, fanciful fruits like rambutan and pitaya, a slew of fresh seafood and meat and a whole aisle of soy sauce and short-grain rice. Find inexpensive chopsticks and china in the housewares section or spend some time perusing the snack aisle – shrimp wafers, anyone?
Must Try: Vegans and vegetarians flock to Tâấn Phát for its selection of frozen mock meat like vegetarian ham paste ($7.59), bean curd sausage ($4.59), vegan spicy stew tendons ($5.99) and faux salmon fillets ($9.69).
1702 W. Camelback Rd., 602-242-6119