Asheville’s international markets: From aamchor to za’atar

Taqueria (and Fruteria) Muñoz | Photo by AVLtoday

Hi, AVLtoday readers. Ali here. 👋 You all might not know this, but I’m an avid home cook. And my motto is, typically, “The more challenging the better.” This philosophy has led me down many a recipe rabbit hole (seven-course Chinese Thanksgiving dinner, anyone?) and has sent me searching for international ingredients ranging from plum extract to pomegranate syrup that I can’t count on showing up in my neighborhood grocery store. 

And while I can get a whole lot of international food at Asheville restaurants, there’s something extra satisfying about putting a dish that I made on the table. 

So today, I’m inspiring you (and your week’s menu) with a list of everywhere I like to go for international ingredients in town. And don’t worry: As much as I go for the challenge, cooking with international ingredients doesn’t have to be hard. 

Note: Hours and item availability could differ due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Asian Cuisine

Kim’s Oriental | Photo by AVLtoday

Make traditional favorites like Mapo Tofu and sushi, and pick up a few veggies + fruits, like Chinese chives, Asian eggplant + lychees, while you’re at it. 

🥘 Foreign Affairs Oriental Market, 611A Tunnel Rd. | 🕒 Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sun. 12-5 p.m. |  ☎️ (828) 299-0333 | ⭐️ Love this store! It’s chock full of anything you need in the way of foreign foods including Japanese Chinese Thai Indian and so on. It’s a tiny place but they’ve got it all and staff are a wealth of information as well! – Sylvia H. via Google reviews

🥘 Kim’s Oriental Foods & Gifts, 5 Regent Park Blvd. #110 | 🕒 Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sat. 9 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sun. 12:30-6 p.m. |  ☎️ (828) 254-7235 | ⭐️ My go to store for fresh veggies and frozen buns, sushi rolls and pantry items. Super nice people.” – Carol K. via Google reviews

🥘 Lee’s Asian Market, 1950 Hendersonville Rd. Suite 7 | 🕒 Sun.-Thurs. 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 10 a.m.-7 p.m. |  ☎️ (828) 676-1499 | ⭐️ Good products at a reasonable price. Best place I’ve found to get miso. Also got some wonderful baby bok choy. Have the full line of Asian products.” – Richard K. via Google reviews

🥘 YZ Asian Market, 22 New Leicester Hwy. | 🕒 Daily. 10 a.m.-8 p.m. |  ☎️ (828) 785-1653 | ⭐️ This place is great and they always have amazing food that I usually only get in Atlanta. Lots of different food from lots of different places. My favorite food is Japanese and Korean and there are lots of great things to choose from.” – April D. via Google reviews

Latinx/Hispanic Cuisine

Taqueria (Fruteria) Muñoz | Photo by AVLtoday

Pick up some masa to make handmade tortillas, grab queso fresco, and try Mexican soda flavors, like tamarind. Don’t forget fresh (+ dried) peppers for salsa.

🥘 Azteca #2 Tienda y Panaderia, 996 Patton Ave. #B | 🕒 Mon.-Sun. 9 a.m.–9 p.m. |  ☎️ (828) 251-7283 | ⭐️ Awesome tres leches cake, nicely decorated. Friendly staff.” – Jose O. via Google reviews

🥘 Tienda Hispania La Catrachita, 791 Haywood Rd. | 🕒 Mon.-Sat. 9 a.m.–8 p.m.; Sun. 9 a.m.-7 p.m. |  ☎️ (828) 505-8066 | ⭐️ Very nice people running the place, very welcoming. Makes you feel like you’re in South America or Mexico. Would highly recommend” – Hudson W. via Google reviews

🥘 Taqueria (Fruteria) Muñoz, 1438 Patton Ave. | 🕒 Daily 10 a.m.–9 p.m. |  ☎️ (828) 412-3331 | ⭐️ Most authentic tacos in Asheville, highly recommend! Also a great little tienda attached with Latino goods and a great variety of fresh produce!!” – B. F. via Google reviews

🥘 Tienda los Nenes, 1341 Parkwood Rd. Suite 110 | 🕒 Daily 8:30 a.m.–10 p.m. |  ☎️ (828) 253-2086 | ⭐️ A hidden gem! The pastries are extremely affordable, gigantic, and delicious! I have gone twice in two days just to stock up! There is also a gorgeous little selection of produce that is cheap and beautiful! The staff are very sweet and hardworking, can’t wait to come back!” – Jane A. via Google reviews

Indian Cuisine

Try your hand at homemade curry, or take home a few pre-made spice blends.

🥘 Foreign Affairs Oriental Market, 611A Tunnel Rd. | 🕒 Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sunday 12-5 p.m. |  ☎️ (828) 299-0333 | ⭐️ Excellent store for Indian food ingredients and puja supplies! 💖 They are taking exemplary measures during COVID by spraying your hands with hand sanitizer when you enter, not touching your credit card, wiping down your items as they bag them and only letting 5 people in the store at a time. This is the only store in the city where I can find the paste I use for homemade green curry 💚. I also inquired about some powders for a ceremony and though they didn’t have them in stock the owner said she could order them for me💝. Orders placed by Friday are delivered Tuesday and pick-up is Wednesday 💛. Very customer friendly!” – Courtney S. via Google reviews

🥘 Lee’s Asian Market, 1950 Hendersonville Rd. Suite 7 | 🕒 Sun.-Thurs. 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 10 a.m.-7 p.m. |  ☎️ (828) 676-1499 | ⭐️ Although Lee’s carries more foods from farther east, like China, Thailand + Korea, they have a solid selection of Indian spices + a few other products. 

🥘 Spicewalla, 829 Riverside Dr. |  ☎️ (828) 417-7010 | Their base is in the RAMP Studios, but you’ll need to order online to get less than an ounce up to two gallons of (almost) any spice under the sun (at wholesale prices). Bonus: They have recipe suggestions so you can try out all your new goodies. | ⭐️  It was the dark ages. I was collecting and storing spices and herbs as if they were bottles of wine in a cellar. Vintage paprika, aged cayenne…time had eroded away any semblance of pungency. My taste buds grew callous, indifferent, and unaffected by their lackluster flavor.  Then there was light… brought to my doorstep in the form of a tidy package with ‘Spicewalla’ labeling. Cayenne pungent enough to bring tears to one’s eyes. A Golden Milk concoction so exotic and so sumptuous that I now know how the ancients must have felt in the early days of the spice trade. Dill weed, coriander, and cumin with such gusto like none I had ever experienced before.  It was dark until a light beam shone its way into my life and that light was Spicewalla.” – Justin G. via Google reviews

Middle Eastern Cuisine

Gypsy Queen Cuisine | 807 Patton Ave. | Open M-Sun 11 a.m.–9 p.m.

Hard-to-find spices, pomegranate molasses, fresh cheeses + tahini–an essential ingredient for hummus 

🥘Gypsy Queen Cuisine, 807 Patton Ave. | 🕒 Daily 11:30 a.m.–8 p.m. (closed Tues.) |  ☎️ (828) 575-2758 | ⭐️ Gypsy Queen is currently doing takeout only at their window, but if you know what you’d like from their small market – which includes items like nuts in honey, tahini, pomegranate molasses, Lebanese cheese + more – they’ll include it with your order.

European Cuisine

Euromarket | Photo by AVLtoday

Hard-to-find candies, Polish sausages, Russian specialties, teas + more from across the pond

🥘Euromarket, 1341 Parkwood Ave. |  ☎️ (828) 255-8484 | 🕒 Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sun, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. | ⭐️ This store was so clean, the products they had were so amazing, the selection was so diverse! The staff was so friendly! I loved the freshness of the deli!! They even had delicious cakes I could never find in store ! I was amazed at the freshness of everything!”– Posh L. via Google reviews

🥘 European Food Store, 1483 Patton Ave. B | ☎️ (828) 252-9700 | 🕒 Tues.-Sat. 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Sun. 12:45-5:45 p.m., Mon. 10 a.m.-7:30 p.m. | ⭐️ “Very friendly service and a large variety of European food and treats” – Anastasia B. via Google reviews

Whether you want to try to cook up a homemade mole sauce or just pop a few pre-made dumplings into a pan, hopefully now you feel empowered to get out + explore your local international markets.