May 16, 2014 by LJK
[Updated to add operating hours below.] This is the first in a series of brief posts profiling, in a very subjective way, some of the better places to buy groceries in Lincoln. The series is essentially intended to supplement this informative roundup from 2009 on Star City Blog (which appears, sadly, to be defunct). We’ll start with an old standby, Oriental Market, on the east side of 27th Street at T Street.
This is one of the largest Asian grocery stores in the city, and the best place to look for cookware and utensils, though you’ll have to shift packing boxes around a bit. They have Thai clay mortars with wooden pestles, if you’re interested in making som tam and the like on a regular basis. They have handheld papaya shredders, hot plates and gas burners, Thai and Chinese soup spoons, skimmers, woks and attendant spatulas, and sticky rice steamer baskets. Dig around, and you’ll probably find what you need. (If you’re looking for granite mortars and pestles for Thai curry pastes, though, go one store to the north, to Nguyen Market.)
Along the front wall to the right of the entrance are piled scores of huge bags of rice, but you might wish to take advantage of the smaller bulk bags farther in the back—all the basics are covered: jasmine, glutinous, short-grain Japanese, and so on, though they don’t seem to carry many brown rice options.
This is where I go to get readymade curry pastes: Oriental Market has the best selection in town, as far as I can tell. If the kind you want comes only in a large tub, just stick the rest of it in the freezer.
This store also has the best selection of soy and fish sauces, Thai oyster sauces, and so on. They carry higher-end fish sauces that you might not find elsewhere, like the Vietnamese Red Boat, Thai Squid Premium (with the gold label), and Vietnamese Megachef 30°N. While they do have Superior Chinese light soy sauce (which is my favorite for everyday use), the last couple times I looked they haven’t had Healthy Boy thin and dark soy sauces (my preferences for Thai cooking). I hope they were just out of stock.
If you’re looking for Japanese or Korean products, there’s a long aisle of them to the right as you first enter the store, across from the rice. I hadn’t even seen this section until recently, and that’s where you’ll find mirin, tamari, Japanese soy sauces, rice vinegars, instant curry rice packets, Korean chile paste and powder, Kewpie mayonnaise, sushi components, and so on.
The store has a decent frozen-foods section, with some fresh (frozen) Chinese noodles and lots of packaged dumplings—excellent convenience foods, especially when you’re stuck for something to put in the kid’s lunch box at the last minute. There’s no fresh meat or seafood to speak of (there are a few things in the freezer), and the only other major failing of Oriental Market is its produce section, which is very limited and often not of the best quality. (That said, I recently bought a case of the most amazing Ataulfo mangoes there for $10.95.) If you just need a couple heads of garlic or a kabocha squash and you happen to be there anyway, it does the trick; if you’re looking for fresh herbs or greens, head on up 27th Street.
In short: Hit Oriental Market for cookware, bulk rice, bottled ingredients, Japanese and Korean ingredients, and frozen dumplings.