What to expect: There are a few specialized exceptions, but the majority of Columbus' Asian markets carry products from all across the continent - you'll find everything from Korean barbecue sauce to Indian curry pastes to the addictive Japanese snack Pocky.
They're a great place to buy jasmine or basmati rice in bulk, bottles of sake, frozen naan bread and spicy mango chutneys. Adventurous shoppers will want to spend some time in the frozen foods section, where conventional frozen dumplings mingle with frozen squid and small, whole octopuses.
Delicate ceramic tea and sake sets make great souvenir gifts, as do any of the colorful Asian kitchen gadgets. Read closely - many of the cups and dishes feature unintentionally hilarious English mistranslations.
WILL SHILLING PHOTO
CAM (Columbus Asian Market)
817 Bethel Rd., Northwest Side
With more than 10,000 products, this is one of the best-stocked Asian markets in the city. A highlight is the produce section, filled with Korean daikon (like a giant white radish), fresh coconut, sugar cane stalks, Thai chiles, jackfruit, fresh lychees (a tropical fruit with a grape-like texture) and kabocha squash (Japanese winter squash). There's also an intriguing selection of prepared foods, like black-pepper chicken feet, whole fried tilapia, roasted duck and spicy pig ear.
Lotte Oriental Food and Gifts
4944 N. High St., Clintonville
An expansive refrigerated case is packed with different kinds of kimchi, a super-popular (and super-spicy) Korean pickled cabbage dish. In the well-stocked frozen dessert section, you'll find ice cream bars in mango, red bean and durian (a strong-odored Asian fruit) flavors, and green tea mochi ice cream, a Japanese treat made from a sticky rice paste and ice cream filling.
5843 Sawmill Rd., Dublin
There's one very good reason to seek out this typical Indian grocery - a fantastic bakery case of Indian sweets. Each tiny confection looks like a colorful birthday present. Popular picks are kaju katli, made of cashews and cardamom powder; pista burfi, a spiced pistachio fudge-like concoction; and gulab juman, deep-fried cake balls drenched in a sugar syrup.
Also worth checking out:
Taj Grocers, 3528 W. Dublin-Granville Rd., Dublin; 614-718-1560
Walls are lined with Indian spices and exotic flours, and there's a great selection of frozen dinners like mutter paneer, kofta curry and aloo matar. They also sell homemade wheat roti, a traditional Indian flatbread.
New Asian Supermarket, 3635 W. Dublin-Granville Rd., Dublin; 614-889-8899
Head to the right side of the store for one of the best selections of Asian housewares, such as rice cookers, woks and Japanese mandolin slicers. There are also plenty of fun gift options, like colorful hanging lanterns and sushi-shaped candles.
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