Sriracha? Nam pla? Rice flour? Bitter melon? Sticky rice and mango wrapped in banana leaves? Whether you want to stock the pantry with Asian staples, find a specific ingredient for a Thai or Vietnamese dish or simply snack on a sweet or savory treat, greater Kansas City is home to several Asian markets worth exploring. Here’s a guide to the best Asian markets, large and small.
Kim Long Asian Market and Restaurant
This small market, located just a few blocks east of the City Market entrance, stocks grocery, meat, seafood, produce, frozen goods and rice products for Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Laotion and Filipino cuisine. The shop's produce, fish and frozen inventory seem to have shrunk in recent months, though canned and dried goods are abundant if you're looking for spices, sauces, coconut milk or other items. Kim Long carries banh mi and sesame balls with mung bean paste – two inexpensive items perfect for snacking. The Vietnamese restaurant connected to the grocery store is perhaps the best attraction of the market. Pop in for light appetizers including chicken wings, potstickers, cha gio (golden pork spring rolls) and khoai lang chien tom (sweet potato fritters). Vietnamese dishes run the gamut with varieties of pho, vermicelli and BBQ pork sandwiches.
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Kim Long Asian Market and Restaurant, 511 Cherry St., Rivermarket, Kansas City, Missouri, 816.221.8892, kimlongkc.com
Huong Que Market
Head west a couple blocks toward the City Market to find Huong Que. The owner has been operating in this location for nearly 20 years. The parking lot is miniscule – a better bet is to park along a side street or in the Le Fou Frog parking lot next door (during non-business hours, of course). Rather than enter and become immediately overwhelmed, ask the staff behind the front counter for help finding what you're looking for. They are dynamic and helpful. The aisles are tight and the shelves are stocked high and overflowing. Huong Que stocks fresh fruit and produce near the front. Depending on the season, bins are full of fresh fruit such as longans, mangosteen, mango, oranges, pineapple and coconut. Green herbs and produce overflow next to boxes of taro root, ginger, lemongrass, garlic, Japanese eggplant and more. Don’t be shy about the tight squeeze past tight-lipped mothers and grandmothers or chattering staff to reach the end of an aisle. The shop carries ample dry goods including spices, noodles, flours, sauces and curries. The seafood counter and frozen section for prepared goods, seafood and meat is small, but you can find basic whole fish and limited shellfish. Hefty bags of jasmine and sweet rice are piled near the front door if you want to buy in bulk.
Huong Que Market, 424 Locust Lane, Rivermarket, Kansas City, Missouri, 816.471.1774
Hung Vuong Market
Hung Vuong is located just across the street from the Arabia Steamboat Museum entrance in the City Market. Chef Josh Eans of Happy Gillis Cafe & Hangout and the forthcoming Columbus Park Ramen Shop touts this market as his favorite. The market is much larger and more spacious than it appears from the outside. Saturday morning during prime City Market shopping hours is not an ideal time to visit Hung Vuong. The Rivermarket area grows crowded on weekend mornings and parking is scarce. Once inside, Hung Vuong’s bank of chilled reach-in coolers line the left side of the main entrance. Customers will find a huge variety of drinks, packaged fruit and prepared foods. Tables on the opposite side of the entrance near the check-out counters also stock delicacies such as sticky rice with mango or bean paste wrapped in banana leaves, jellied desserts, spring rolls and other to-go foods ready to eat. Inside the main hall, a trio of huge walk-in coolers along the first spacious aisle carry fresh produce, drinks and other goods. Well-stocked and neatly organized, it’s easy to shop or simply to pop in for brief respite from summer heat. Numerous aisles stock every item you’d want to fill a pantry. Toward the back of the market, customers will find a huge butcher and seafood section with fresh and frozen fish presented in a cleaner, more attractive setting than competitor markets. Hung Vuong also carries an extensive section of dishware, pots and pans, utensils, small statuary and decorative items for households. This market is one of the city’s best in the Rivermarket area.
Hung Vuong Market, 303 Grand Blvd., Rivermarket, Kansas City, Missouri, 816.221.7754
China Town Food Market
Tucked behind the City Market, China Town is another massive space dedicated to Asian fresh produce, dry goods and seafood. This market is perhaps the largest in the Rivermarket area, rivaling Hung Vuong for space and variety of goods. Shopping here feels like trekking through a Costco or Wal-Mart Superstore. There’s lots to explore, but that can be part of the adventure. It’s easy to get overwhelmed unless you know specifically what you want. The store regularly runs specials in its flyers just like the weekly shopping circular you’d see in Western grocery markets. China Town is a good place to stock up on staples you know and love – say, a particular brand of noodles, sauce or frozen item. The store has a decent selection of lucky bamboo and pottery. Check out the extensive seafood section with shellfish, crabs and more in live wells.
China Town Food Market, 202 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Missouri 816.472.6363
888 International Market
For the population living further south in Kansas City and across the state line, 888 is the place to visit. It’s a bit of a haul if you’re not near this patch of Johnson County, but it’s the preeminent Asian market in the area, located just off 69 Hwy and 119th Street. The entrance is filled with an assortment of decorative furnishings, pottery, painting and plants. Immediately to the left, the cafe can prepare and served Chinese dishes on the fly, including dumplings, soups, noodles, roast duck, fried rice and delicacies like Ten Flavor Egg or congee. The cafe also offers numerous vegetarian dishes. The bakery department has a decent selection of pastries and cakes, but it can appear picked over depending on the time of day. 888 has an extensive seafood section of fresh and frozen fish, shellfish, crabs and other fruits of the sea. The butcher shop is well-maintained and rivals many area grocery stores. As with other superstore-style markets around town, customers have many options for frozen and dry goods as well as a huge kitchenware section, rice, plants, herbs, medicine and more. Whether you want ingredients to prepare cuisine from China, Japan, Korea, India, the Philippines, Vietnam or Thailand, you’ll likely find it here. The aisles are roomy and well-stocked. It takes time to get the lay of the land here, but this market is a regular stop for many clientele and a worthwhile destination for others throughout the metro.
888 International Market, 10118 W 119th St., Overland Park, Kansas, 913.341.8700, 888intlmarket.com