When I first heard that D.C. didn’t have much in the way of Asian supermarkets, my heart sank. As silly as it sounds, finding one was a high priority, along with seeking out good running/cycling routes and a decent movie theater. In NY, shopping at the Asian supermarket, Kam Sen, was part of my regular routine. Almost every weekend I loaded up on Chinese vegetables, canned goods and staples like dry spiced tofu and noodles. Life without Asian groceries? That wouldn’t do.
So it’s with great relief to write this post about these three markets in Maryland. Each requires roughly a 25-minute drive, but hey, I’ll take it. At least I know I can get what I need.
Here are a few first impressions:
Maxim: (not the men’s magazine)
Some reviewers said that Maxim was dark and not as clean as the other markets. The owners must have read that and adjusted accordingly; I found the store to be well lit and adequately clean as Asian markets go. All the necessities were there: canned items, sauces, oils, produce, rice, noodles, frozen goods, meats and seafood. Meat prices were reasonable — for example, pork loin for $3.29/lb, flank steak for $5.29/lb — and I saw several customers ordering fish from the fish tank.
Shelves were well stocked, there was an adequate selection of exotic and unrecognizable items, and I even spotted durian and chow fun noodles (the one thing my NY market shockingly never seemed to carry. Either that, or no one could ever explain to me where they were.)
At the front of the store is a hot food bar. To me, the food here didn’t look the freshest, like it’d been sitting for a while (this was around 3pm). But there were plenty of people queuing up to order, so I’m sure it was fine.
Finally, like every Asian market I’ve ever shopped at, the service was gruff. The cashier barked at me to place my items on the conveyor belt, and my wide smile and enthusiastic “hello” were met with stony silence. Oh well, I tried. And I’ll continue to try until someone finally smiles back, dammit.
This store appears to be Maxim’s rival. It’s only minutes away, and I believe it’s newer than Maxim. But actually, on the inside both stores look almost identical: about the same size with similar items, lighting and layout. Though Kam Sam’s seafood selection did appear larger and the meat case better stocked.
And the hot food bar looked more appealing and fresher to me than Maxim’s. I would have picked up some hot food to go if I hadn’t been making one more stop.
The largest of the three stores, more like a regular supermarket.. And not just Asian goods here — Hispanic, African, etc. These corn tortillas looked good.
Big selection of kimchi.
And a serious assortment of sauces, pastes, condiments and oils.
There’s also a sit-down area up front where you can order Korean dishes.
Korean Korner had the largest selection of produce of the three stores, but from what I saw, many of the greens and herbs were wilted. They looked old and tired. Smaller meat and seafood selection too. And the store itself was the grungiest of the three. Definitely didn’t feel as clean.
My haul for the day: oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, spiced dry tofu, sesame seeds, rice vermicelli, Asian pears, bok choy, ginger, garlic and scallion cakes. Of the three markets, I liked Kam Sam the best. It was fully stocked, parking was easy, and the hot food bar contained dishes I’d definitely order.
From what I’ve read, there are even more markets to explore, both in Maryland and in Virginia. Eventually, I plan on making my way to all of them. For Asian groceries, you go where to need to go.
460 Hungerford Dr.
300 N. Washington St.
12207 Veirs Mill Rd.
Silver Spring, MD