What’s better than coming across a whole new, delicious, and noteworthy food find?  With its endless neighborhoods and diverse ethnic enclaves, Philadelphia has surprises around every corner.  Chances are pretty good you have some unexplored territory in or near your own neighborhood.


Checking out tamarind pods, Soursop, and melinjo nuts in Yogyakarta. Photo: Barbara Porter

I take great pleasure in food shopping, and even more when I happen upon rare food items at the City’s many markets and restaurants.  Professionally, I am an educator working in outreach pertaining to East and Inner Asia. My background includes considerable traveling and living experience in China, Central Asia, Mongolia, Southeast Asia and Turkey. I speak and read Chinese and Thai, and that often comes in handy when exploring prepared foods and speaking with shopkeepers.

I have particularly beloved places that I reminisce about often: Xinjiang, Isaan, Guangzhou, Turkey, and Mongolia.  Recipes from those places will likely end up being highlights in this blog.

The point of this blog is to highlight hidden specialties I find among the 100 or so markets in and around the city that cater to customers of East, Southeast, South, Central and West Asian heritage… I’ll be focusing on the produce, herbs, spices, and prepared food items unique to these regions of Asia, providing some background on each item and maybe even a cooking suggestion or two.

The blog is also meant to be a resource for people to locate hard-to-find items. Many shops are not listed with search engines, and shops go out of business from time to time–and sometimes they are replaced by new shops. I find that most markets have something unique or unusual that they offer, and they are fun to explore.

My hope is that my writing will encourage you to get out and explore the foods available to you at your own local Asian markets, whether that be in Philadelphia or elsewhere… Enjoy!

David Dettmann, Philadelphia

23 Responses to About

  1. dr. koolarama says:

    Wonderful new blog, Mr. David! It is refreshing to read your engaging writing, follow your unique curiosity, and experience – in the mind’s eye – the aromas of the market and the kitchen. I don’t cook; I eat. So, I enjoy a blog that integrates interest for the eater as well as the cook. Looking forward to continued readings. Enjoy your wanderings! Cheers, dr. koolarama


  2. Alonna Smith says:

    Hi David,

    I love cooking Asian food and am excited about adding your blog to my news reader (Netnewswire – it worked). My biggest gripe is that the markets closes to me (H Mart and the Cheltenham Avenue stores) are all Korean and don’t even sell some of the Chinese basics, like sesame paste.

    My biggest passion is Asian noodles of all kinds. Especially the fresh egg noodles that I used to get at Chung May. Since the new ownership, I’ve been very disapointed with that store.

    Have fun with the blog!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for following me Alonna! Hope I can keep you interested with future posts. I must say that I find H-Mart and Ko Ba Woo on Cheltenham absolutely fascinating. That said, they are very Korea-heavy. Have you visited the large Hong Kong Supermarket on Adams Ave? They would be sure to have sesame paste. What are you using it for, dandan noodles?


      • Alonna Smith says:

        My second favorite Asian noodle dish is Bon Bon Chicken and my version uses both sesame paste and brown bean paste. So good it is hard to stop eating. My first favorite is KL Hokkien Mee (as opposed to Singapore style). If you’ve seen hokkien mee fresh noodles in your travels, I’d love to know where. Thanks!!


  3. Ronnie says:

    Hi! I stumbled across your blog while searching for somewhere in Philly that serves my favorite Chinese dish: niu rou jian bing aka Chinese Beef Roll. I grew up in the San Gabriel Valley in SoCal where this dish is offered at EVERY good dumpling house on almost every corner, but upon moving to Philly I can’t seem to find it anywhere. I know, I know, I could probably make it myself – but I long to find a secret dumpling house where I can eat niu rou jian bing next to some delightful xiao long bao while sipping jasmine tea. Ugh just thinking about it makes me homesick!! Anyway, keep up the great work and if you see a place that has this please keep me posted!!


  4. Hello David, Well you sure have started one-of-a-kind blog here. I don’t eat all of the ingredients you have mentioned or used, but sure do appreciate good cooking. Wow, in matter of 7 months, you have posted more than 40 exotic recipes! Welcome to WordPress community of Foodies!
    🙂 Fae.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Fae, thanks for your kind words and welcome! I also enjoy your blog very much, and am a regular reader. Your perspective is absolutely unique. Your recipes are carefully presented, and they look delicious. Congratulations on your successes, and best wishes for many more!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Heather says:

    This is awesome!! I have been looking for a source like this! I live in the Suburbs, and my trips into Philly for ingredient sourcing are more surgical strikes than browsing, so I don’t get a lot of time to explore. I am coming from a Dutch-Indo cooking background, with interests in Burmese, Malay and Japanese cuisine – so sourcing is a definite challenge. If you’re ever in need of a kick-butt sambal badjak recipe, I’ll send it over as a thanks. Keep it up!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Heather, thanks for the kind words. I assume you know about the amazing Indonesian neighborhood west of Broad St? There is also a very well-stocked Ramayana market closer to the Cambodian area of 7th St. I would love your “kick-butt” sambal badjak recipe!


  6. Sam says:

    Hey David, thank you for this fantastic blog. I moved to Philly last year and have spent a significant percentage of my free time exploring Hung Vuong Supermarket (“The Best Supermarket”) and other SE Asian food destinations in South Philly. I visited Thailand a few years ago and have become unreasonably obsessed with the food, cooking my way through swaths of David Thompson’s Thai Food and Andy Ricker’s Pok Pok. Anyway, it got to the point where I realized I needed to actually go to Thailand and live there for a while. I’m thinking of teaching English in Isaan. Any recommendations for where to live and eat?


    • Thanks a lot Sam! Nice to meet a kindred spirit in food obsession. Recommendations for living and eating in Thailand… that’s a tough one. As you know, each of the regions have so many unique flavors with offerings that the other regions lack.

      I have a soft spot for Isaan, and I used to live in Khon Kaen. I really enjoyed living and eating there, because well, there’s not much else to do. Khon Kaen is a university town, and it’s not a huge tourist destination. That means plenty of good, cheap eats. There are also specialty restaurants that do amazing things with herbs and animals you might never have imagined eating.

      For some local Philadelphia Isaan flavor, visit Upper Darby’s Sabaidee restaurant (near H-Mart) or pay a visit to some of the Lao outdoor food vendors on South 7th St. and get some grilled meat, papaya salad, jaew, and sticky rice… that will be a pretty standard meal in Isaan.

      There is also a Thai restaurant in Roxborough that has a few standard Northern dishes on the menu (Gaeng henglei and kao soi noodles).


    • Also… you can message me via the contact form (which I just added), if there are any items you’d like to locate from your David Thompson or Andy Ricker adventures


      • Sam says:

        Thanks David! That’s the hardest thing about picking a city–there is so much I’ll be missing elsewhere in the country. There’s something about Isaan though. I’ll definitely see if there’s work to be had in Khon Kaen.

        I visited 7th St. markets following your post about a month ago, but didn’t see any outdoor vendors. I’ll definitely have to go back now. And I haven’t tried Sabaidee, either. I pretty much gave up on Philly Thai restaurants after the first few disappointing meals, but I’ll check it out! Also–I found long pepper in Dana Mandi, an Indian grocery in West Philly with a dinky restaurant in the back. But it looked kind of like twigs, so I’m suspicious.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Anne K. says:

    Oh my, I have just discovered your brilliant blog. Thank you profusely for this wonderful labour of love. I too have an insatiable love of ethnic food shops and grocers (or unusual & eccentric grocers of any variety), but do not have your impressive expertise in Asian languages and cuisines. Thank you for the encyclopaedic gift you have given us here. Unlike yourself, I have little direct experience with Asian travel (only have visited China and Korea) and Asian cuisine, but was bitten by the Asian grocery bug last year upon visiting Hung Vuong market on 11th & Washington for cheap tofu and bunches of fresh amaranth leaves. I am hooked now, but still feel like a beginner in an Asian grocer. Very grateful for your blog posts on fresh herbs, on green vegetables, and many other inspiring posts on this blog. A thousand thank yous!

    Liked by 1 person

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