If you’ve ever shopped Buford Highway in Atlanta, you’ve likely wandered wide-eyed through one or two of the mammoth Asian markets that sell every imaginable food stuff from the Far East, from fresh bitter melon in the produce market to your choice of canned squid bites and shrimp-flavored potato chips.
Although I enjoy San Antonio’s growing host of ethnic markets, I missed the scale of those storehouses and the sight of an entire aisle devoted to more varieties of ramen noodles than I would ever know what to do with. But I did find one in Austin, MT Supermarket, which is located in the Chinatown Center, 10901 N. Lamar Blvd.
The market bills itself as the largest Asian market in central Texas, and it’s certainly the largest I’ve come across. When we entered it recently, we were greeted with a massive Happy New Year banner, welcoming the Year of the Rooster, as well as an array of treats to help your celebration.
On the right end of the store is a massive produce section, rich with the latest offerings of the harvest, including daikon radishes, Japanese eggplant, gargantuan jackfruit, chestnuts, various styles of cabbage, bundles of herbs and items you may not even know how to use.
At the back is a fresh seafood area with tanks filled with tilapia and catfish while the display cases were packed with numerous fishes on ice. An online poster complained of a “funky” smell to the place, but I would counter that by saying the seafood area had the fresh, briny aroma of a bustling seafood market. People not used to where their food comes from may not recognize that, which only makes me hope they never encounter a market that truly smells funky.
The meat market is similarly massive, as is the frozen food section with everything from whole crabs and mussels to an oddity called vegetarian ham. But we didn’t have a cooler with us, so we kept our attention to the aisles filled with Indonesian, Korean and Japanese favorites in addition to Chinese staples.
It was interesting to discover that food trends we’re used to have gone beyond our borders, such as gluten-free panko-style crumbs. And there were a few American foods that made it to an end cap, because, let’s face it, Heinz ketchup and mustard, not to mention Carnation canned milk, are consumed internationally.
Check MT Supermarket out for yourself the next time you’re in Austin. Carve out some time for the rest of the Chinatown Center as well, and a make a pig of yourself. At the First Chinese BBQ, you can get a pig’s head for $10 or you can find pig’s head cakes at the nearby Texas Bakery.
MT Supermarket, 10901 N. Lamar Blvd., (512) 454-4804. mtsupermarket.com