Many of us pop into our local Korean greengrocer for a container of kimchi, but when it comes to the big gun ingredients like high-quality red pepper paste, dashi, duck eggs, geoduck, stinky tofu, dried anchovies, or ... ahem, the mochi ice cream that we really NEED at 11:00 p.m. on a Monday night, nothing but the Asian grocery store will do.
Rare delights are hiding in the freezer at this teensy, wondrous Thai boîte. From huge, pungent curry paste jars that had me chugging coconut milk for hours after cooking, to very cheap lime leaves, Thai eggplant, galangal and lemongrass, this Chinatown side street hideaway is amazing and rare. The best part is a cashier who basically coaches you through an elementary Thai cuisine orientation while you shop and then gives you their website for recipes.
Kalustyan's has been invaluable to me in providing spices and ingredients for Indian, Indonesian, Persian, and even Korean cooking. You can get a proper marmalade, chutney, lime pickle, or box of Typhoon here. I get Persian sour limes, bulgogi bbq spices, and my favorite Applewood Smoked Salt, which can make a vegetarian dish taste like the South incarnate. There's a cafe upstairs for quick South Asian noshes. Don't forget to buy some bitters for tonight's cocktails.
This little grocery is perfect for what ails you. Need a little bite a couple hours before meeting a friend for dinner? Black sesame mochi. Need a shot of something ice cold and superrefreshing? Sencha in a can. Throwing a dinner party but worried it will be boring? Shabu shabu meats! Feeling boring-looking? Duh, Dolly Wink lashes for that J-pop look.
It's hot sticky pea soup outside. You're dying. Come in for a fresh cold rice milk, aloe, or green tea drink. Sit down at a table for a cold bowl of noodles while being blasted by the A/C. On the way out, grab some Hello Kitty candy for your niece, some packages of MSG-free Kiss Ramen for yourself, and some melon candy for your roommate. M2M is so convenient.
A Japanese grocery store is what the overtaxed midtown worker ordered. With ready to go meals and a microwave to make them in, sushi, mochi, Japanese veggies and mushrooms, shabu shabu meat, snacks and chips, rare flours and Shiseido toiletries, this little shop is superpopular already.