While the 2000 US Census notes that only 1.4% of Buffalo’s population is Asian, that doesn’t seem to reflect the number of Asian markets in our city. A quick glance at the phone book reveals four: one on a Bailey, another on Connecticut and two on neighboring Niagara Street, not to mention the dozen or more located near UB’s North Campus.
Freezers full of fish, bins of fresh produce, bags of rice, bottles of spices, and jars upon jars of sauces and preserves line the shelves of these crowded little markets most often run by first generation immigrants. Much to my delight, the assortment of food items is generally augmented by an array of pots and pans, knives and chopsticks, teapots and dinnerware, kitchen gadgets, and less expected merchandise like DVDs and blankets.
Buffalo’s Asian markets not only cater to the Asian community, they are an integral part of their melting-pot neighborhoods, providing goods to all, including the immigrants that live in their immediate area, Asian or not. Take for instance the expansive and colorful A’Chau on Niagara Street, where the owner, Huy Nguyen stocks thousands of items from all over Asia, as well as South and Central America. In the last five years, he’s added at least a hundred items that fulfill the needs of the West Side’s burgeoning African population, including plantain flour, otherwise known as fu fu.
So whether you’re searching for fresh enoki mushrooms (only $1 for 3.5oz. @ A’Chau), preserved snakehead fish with papaya ($2.49 for 5 oz. @ Phu Thai), or just a little adventure, here’s a quick guide to the Asian markets in the Queen City.
A’Chau Oriental Food Market
A’Chau is the crème de le crème of Buffalo’s Asian markets carrying products from all over Asia including Laos, Cambodia, Korea, Thailand, China and Japan. Bright and shiny, neat and tidy, A’Chau is full of prepared and packaged items like its cousins, but the produce available here is overwhelming. The selection is lush and inexpensive. Pick up miniature bok choy (only 99¢ per lb.), quail’s eggs ($1.49 per dozen) or just a little inspiration (free) for your next dinner party.
833 Niagara Street, Buffalo, 14213, 716.882.3867
Niagara Asian Market
The newly opened Niagara Asian Market specializes in foods from Thailand and very friendly service. Upstairs, this well-organized, modest market stocks dry goods, a broad selection of beverages and a handful of health and beauty items. Downstairs, shoppers will find a wealth of noodles, rice, dried mushrooms and spices, as well as a small freezer case full of fish fillets, eel, frogs and other proteins, some of which qualify as ‘creepy crawlies’.
937 Niagara Street, Buffalo, 14213, (no phone, so stop in)
Phu Thai is a family operated store, though not the cleanest or most well-lit of the bunch, where owner Ky Pham stocks thousands of dry goods, housewares and novelty items, and also has numerous freezers full of seafood and various Asian delicacies. Fresh produce is also available. Phu Thai specializes in goods from Vietnam and Thailand.
356 Connecticut Street, Buffalo, 14213, 716.881.1457
Lee’s Oriental Gift and Food
Connected to a small gift store and a karate studio, Lee’s focuses mostly on dry goods. There is a freezer section offering frozen bean curd and fish products, but the limited selection of fresh produce doesn’t fare well when compared with the many stores located on the West Side.
3325 Bailey Avenue, Buffalo, 14215, 716.836.7100