Han Ah Reum
(25 W. 32nd St., nr. Broadway; 212-695-3283)
THE VIBE: A multiple-aisled, fluorescent-lit home away from home for Manhattan’s Korean expats, who make up about half of the supermarket’s clientele. The rest, according to a manager, is 30 percent Chinese and Japanese, and 20 percent increasingly kimchee-obsessed Westerners.
INSOMNIAC ALERT: Open 9 a.m. to midnight daily—a late-night supermarket for a 24-hour block.
WHAT YOU’LL FIND: Frozen mandoo, soybean paste, Korean pears, Asian cookies and candy, prepacked sashimi, and—because assimilation is inevitable—Hellmann’s mayo and Heinz ketchup.
WHO YOU MIGHT SEE: Momofuku’s Chang: “It’s the only place where we can get salted small shrimp for our kimchee.” And Tía Pol’s Alex Raij, who likes to sprinkle Korean-pepper threads on her chocolate-chorizo montadito. “I also get acorn flour there. Koreans use it for desserts, but I use it for gnocchi.”
Essex Street Market
(Essex St. at Delancey St.)
THE VIBE: This La Guardia-era covered market is one of the few vestiges of a rapidly vanishing Lower East Side, full of local families and longtime residents on the prowl for dinner bargains.
WHAT YOU’LL FIND:
A fish vendor, Jeffrey the butcher, a Manischewitz-wine outlet, a botanica, and perhaps the city’s foremost collection of canned Goya products.
PROFESSIONAL OPINION: This isn’t exactly a haunt of Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s, but Raij likes to pop in for the basics and “really good prices on lemons and plum tomatoes, Mexican chickpeas, legumes, and herbs. It’s really good for family meal—posole, tamales, whatever the guys like. They’re Mexican, but I teach them how to make it.”
(at Chelsea Market, 75 Ninth Ave., at 15th St.; 212-633-9090)
THE VIBE:: Bustling Italian-foods bazaar run by San Domenico owner Tony May’s brother, Mimmo Magliulo.
WHAT YOU’LL FIND: Wide selection of Setaro-brand dried pastas and regional Italian olive oils, Puglian burrata, Pantellerian capers, well-aged prosciutto di Parma. And survivalists, take note: a three-kilogram, $39.95 tub of Nutella.
WHO YOU MIGHT SEE: Maremma chef-owner Cesare Casella, who likes Setaro’s “calamari” pasta and the Sicilian oregano.
BONUS SNACKING POINTS: Great Neapolitan homestyle cooking at two prepared-foods counters from Mimmo’s wife, Zia Tonia; the moody, black-clad Sicilian barista manning the coffee bar pulls an excellent espresso, and if you time it right, you might get your hands on a batch of zeppole straight out of the fryer.
Asia Market Corp.
(71 1/2 Mulberry St., nr. Bayard St.; 212-962-2020)
THE VIBE: Small and manageable, with a Pan-Asian panoply of packaged goods imported from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, China, Korea, and Japan, and a limited but choice selection of fresh produce packed in cardboard boxes on the floor.
WHAT YOU’LL FIND: Frozen durian from Thailand, Filipino purple yam, dried Korean wakame, three-for-a-dollar instant soups from Indonesia, Taiwanese preserved duck eggs (six for $2.25).
WHO YOU MIGHT RUN INTO: Emissaries from 66, The Four Seasons, and Aquavit, plus Zak Pelaccio and Mainland chef Brian Young, who’s been shopping there for ten years. “I get a specific size of bok choy sprouts in a particular color—jade green instead of the normal white—called Shanghai sprouts. She gets ’em exactly the size I like to use. And barley glaze for my duck.”