Top 10 Ethnic Markets in the San Gabriel Valley

In February, Squid Ink brought you the Top 10 ethnic markets in the San Fernando Valley. For this installment, we move from one valley to another, from the 818 to the 626, and thus to the San Gabriel Valley. In addition to supermarkets catering to the large local Chinese community, there are also smaller markets that offer samosas, hummus, pannetones and fresh sashimi, if you know where to look. Here's a list -- arranged alphabetically -- of our Top 10 ethnic markets in the SGV.

The elusive fresh Durian and Jackfruit at Hawaii Supermarket
The elusive fresh Durian and Jackfruit at Hawaii Supermarket
Jim Thurman

1. 168 Market

A Vietnamese market located in a former Vons, 168 makes the list for some unique highlights - most notably some tables apart from the seafood counter where you can literally pick your own fish or shellfish. If that isn't enough, there's a great selection of snacks and candies, small plastic tubs of stinky tofu and an ice cream section second to none in the SGV featuring containers and packaged ice bars in a dizzying array of flavors -- durian, avocado and brown sugar & konjac (the latter in bar form) to name just a few. And for those seeking easy parking, 168 is hard to beat.

1421 E. Valley Blvd. Alhambra; (626) 282-5168.

2. Claro's Italian Market

Open since 1948, the original San Gabriel location has been the valley's place to go for imported Italian items such as lupini beans, pannetones, candies, cookies and coffees. Claro's also features a full service deli offering meats, homemade sausages, cheeses and sandwiches as well as a great selection of desserts and pastries, including fresh pizzelles -- an Italian waffle cookie.

1003 E. Valley Blvd., San Gabriel; (626) 288-2026.

19 1/2 E. Huntington Dr., Arcadia; (626) 446-0275.

3. Hawaii Supermarket

While each of the Chinese supermarkets in the SGV have something to recommend them, none seem to have to scope of the venerable Hawaii Supermarket. A large selection of anything Chinese and Vietnamese you can think of can be found among its highly stocked aisles -- spices, dried peppers, a huge selection of teas, a large meat and seafood department offering fresh and frozen items from the common to the exotic. The market also has an entire row devoted to Filipino items. Want to pick up a hand-cranked machine so you can make your own Taiwanese shaved ice at home? Find it here in the large kitchenware section. The produce department is noteworthy for boldly stocking fresh jackfruit and durian, the latter's odor so notorious other markets only offer it frozen.

120 E. Valley Blvd., San Gabriel; (626) 307-0062.

4. Punjab Indian Grocery Store

A small market tucked into a modern looking strip mall near the Alhambra-San Gabriel border, Punjab features Indian spices and fresh veggies -- anything you need to make Indian dishes at home can be found here, as well as cookies, crackers, beverages and other snacks -- like packaged bhelpuri. A counter features fresh desserts like Gulab jamun while Bollywood DVDs are found at the back of the store -- the perfect accompaniment for your Indian meal.

1300 E. Main St. Suite 101, Alhambra; (626) 576-0749.

Transparent soda cans at SG Superstore
Transparent soda cans at SG Superstore
Jim Thurman

5. San Gabriel Superstore

Located in a former Target store, and with vendors offering CDs, DVDs, jewelery, clothing, toys, artwork -- pretty much anything -- 'superstore' is a befitting designation. Skewing more Vietnamese than Chinese -- an entire aisle is devoted to fish sauces -- the store also features the most extensive beverage aisle of any area supermarket. A Yum Cha Café is available for on site eats ranging from a whole roast duck to dim sum.

1635 S. San Gabriel Blvd., San Gabriel; (626) 280-9998.

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