When Only the Best Will Do [cooking and dining]
Looking for those hard to find ingredients for a special meal? Here's where to go for worldwide groceries.
Have you ever been in line at a supermarket check stand and suddenly realized you couldn’t remember which loyalty card to pull out because you forgot where you were? You’re not the only one. Major grocery stores all have the same architecture and the same offerings, and if you only visit those you might regard all markets as interchangeable and shopping as a dull duty to be accomplished as quickly as possible.
And then comes the day when you need some ingredient the majors don’t carry, and you enter the quirky, interesting realm of specialty groceries. There are more of those around the South Bay than you might be aware of, so to help you here’s an alphabetical list of some of the more exceptional places and what you might find there. It’s not complete, but gives you some places to start.
Artesia International Produce – This long time local institution has a double identity, as they offer both Arabic and Hispanic specialty items along with a small selection of fresh produce (2322 Artesia, RB)
El Gaucho – For over 25 years this market and sandwich shop has offered South American products including homemade sausages and marinated meats and Argentine pastries, but they’re probably best known for the empanadas that have graced many a party tray. (2715 Manhattan Beach Blvd., RB)
Grow Produce – This popular spot started out purely as a produce store but quickly started carrying gourmet groceries and meats. The owner’s connections to California farmers mean that they frequently offer boutique items that larger places can’t get. (1830 N. Sepulveda, MB)
Hannam Chain and H-Mart – At these Korean markets you will find a vast selection of exotic vegetables, dried mushrooms, and varieties of fish that you’ve never heard of. Plus, of course, more kinds of kimchi than you have imagined might exist. Both markets have food courts inside where you can taste various preparations. (Hannam – 3030 Sepulveda, Torr, H-Mart – 4340 PCH, Torr)
Hawthorne International Grocery – Located in Torrance rather than Hawthorne, this store has the South Bay’s best selection of Persian and Arabic cooking products and a well-stocked produce department. (24202 Hawthorne Blvd, Torrance)
India Sweets and Grocery – There are many small South Asian markets around Torrance, but this one is probably the largest, most orderly, and best stocked. They have a small produce section and vegetarian lunch counter, ample freezer section, and a bountiful array of spices and legumes but no meat. (3920 Sepulveda, Torr)
Jon’s Market – While this looks like just another market from outside, they offer an extraordinary variety of Eastern European, Armenian, and Middle Eastern products as well as regular grocery items. The deli department is noteworthy for a liberal sampling policy, so you can try some of those sausages, hams, and cheeses before you buy. (4848 W, 190th, Torr)
Tokyo Central – This neat and well arranged market offers a limited selection of high quality produce and all the noodles and spices you need for Japanese cooking. They don’t have the extensive seafood department that you can find at Meiji Market in Torrance, but are closer to the Beach and Peninsula. (3832 Sepulveda, Torr.)
And coming attractions:
Gelson’s – They’re not even open yet, but we can predict that Gelson’s will have the best selection of kosher products in the South Bay. Their bakeries are also highly rated and may pose a challenge to other established places in the neighborhood. (707 Sepulveda, MB)
Lazy Acres – As of October 10 the South Bay will have a new source for organic produce, gluten-free, and vegetarian items. More omnivorous shoppers will find much to like too, including a full butcher department and an extensive food bar. (Corner of Artesia and PCH, Hermosa)
by Richard Foss