RAVI SHUKLA IS A MAN WHO CATERS TO MANY TASTES. Some customers pop into
his KJ Mini Mart to grab cigarettes, beer, and maybe a bag of chips. Others
linger, moving through aisles compact with basmati rice, chutneys, and curry
pastes. Shuklas store in an odd corner of a funky strip mall with
a Chinese restaurant neighbor is a hidden surprise.
In big cities, ethnic commerce is well delineated within a district. But, in
Reno, ethnic markets are scattered all over town. An exception is Wells Avenue
where several Hispanic markets have sprouted up in recent years. But even here
are surprises, such as the Indo-Asian market on Second Street and Wells Avenue
and Irmas Filipino Store just off Wells Avenue on Mill Street.
Whatever the location, the good news is Renos international market basket
has expanded. For Reno cooks, who travel the world in their kitchens, those
uncommon ingredients common somewhere else in the world now are
Backtracking to kJ Mini Mart, youll find the ingredients for Indias
dishes. Lining the shelves are such staples as lentils, split peas, and dried
beans, and the soul of Indian cuisine, aromatic spices. Other essentials include
chickpea flour, corn oil, ghee (clarified butter), asafetida (a flavor enhancer
with a strong odor culinary master James Beard compared it to the smell
of truffles), and jaggery, a raw, lump cane sugar.
The freezer case contains naan, samosa, pre-made curries, and Indian vegetables.
Fresh ginger, Indian eggplant, and other greens keep company in the refrigerator.
Shukla or his wife will help you if you feel lost: I always suggest you
bring in your recipe, said Shukla, so I can advise you correctly.
Blocks away from kJ Mini Mart, on Wells Avenue, youll find Latino products.
Several Hispanic markets dot this street but the largest is Mercadito Latino.
With its excellent selection of fresh produce and its variety of dried chilies,
sold in bulk, its a good place to start. Avocados, tomatoes, an array
of fresh chilies, Mexican papaya, and cactus paddles are just a sample of produce
selling at good prices. Nopales (cactus paddles in Spanish) are hugely popular
in Mexico and a big seller at the store, says owner Adolfo Sanchez. We
cater mainly to a Latin trade, carrying the products they use, said Sanchez.
Which means whatever ingredients for which your recipe calls, it is most likely
here. English-speaking help is spotty, but armed with your grocery list and
a few Spanish 101 words, youll do fine.
For meats specially cut for Mexican cooking, head for Carniceria Dos Amigos
II. Youll find beef cut for carne asada (grilled meat) in thinly sliced
strips no thicker than one-fourth inch. Youll also find pork ribs cut
into two-inch portions, used to make savory stews, impeccably fresh tripe for
menudo and fresh lard for tamale making. Quail, a typical game bird in Mexico,
is sold here, too. Besides meat, the carniceria carries other essentials of
Mexican cooking, such as dried chilies and beans. It also has a small produce
As for Asian markets, the super-sized Reno Asian Supermarket and International
Market cover your needs. Both carry an unbelievable inventory of Asian products:
noodles, rice, sauces, pastes, and pickled everything. Fresh and frozen fish
and shellfish, dried mushrooms, dried shrimp, goat meat, pork-belly skin. Fresh
produce from bok choy to bitter melon, lotus-root to long beans. Without a shopping
list, you can easily get sidetracked in exotica.
At International Market, whose inventory also includes Pacific Rim and Latino
products, ask owner Udomporn Parhubarn to help you when youre perplexed.
Shes the one at the cash register, her spot since the store opened 20
years ago. At Reno Asian Supermarket, the staff also is helpful in leading you
to that mysterious ingredient you need.
One last stop: the Moscow Market and Deli. The inventory, not exclusively Russian,
includes products from Israel, the Baltic countries, and Europe. The deli offers
a variety of sausages, ham, and Russian bologna, fresh sauerkraut, caviar, and
chicken liver pate. Pickled vegetables, Russian teas, and chocolates line the
orderly shelves. The newly opened market adds another layer of flavor to Renos
ethnic market basket.
KJ MINI MART
1086 S. VIRGINIA ST., STE. C 329-6225
MERCADITO LATINO 1575 WELLS AVE. 322-0550
CARNICERIA DOS AMIGOS II 677 E. MOANA LANE 829-0881
INTERNATIONAL MARKET 95 E. GROVE ST. 825-5258
RENO ASIAN SUPERMARKET 803 W. FIFTH ST. 322-8820
MOSCOW MARKET & DELI 465 E. PLUMB LANE 329-2633
Sandra Macias is an incurable foodie and former food editor at the Reno