Cooking Lesson 1: Anchorage Ethnic Markets (Part 2 of 4)

By Laurie Constantino and Nora Morse

Last week, for Cooking Lesson #1, I took Nora Morse to some of my favorite Anchorage ethnic stores. Starting April 1, Nora and I chat about stores we visited. Lesson #1 (all 4 parts) is the first of a series of columns Nora and I are writing about her cooking lessons. Lesson #2: Knife Skills is next on the schedule.

Lucky Market

Lucky Market, Anchorage Alaska

Lucky Market, Anchorage Alaska (Photograph by Laurie Constantino)

Nora: Next, we were off to Lucky Market. Right off the bat, Lucky Market felt open, less cluttered, and very clean. Not that the other markets weren’t clean; they were! It’s just that Lucky Market gives off a clean feeling the minute you walk inside.

Barry Yu, Lucky Market owner

Barry Yu, Lucky Market owner, helping a customer (Photograph by Laurie Constantino)

Laurie: Barry Yu, a native of Hong Kong who’s lived in Alaska since 1976, owns Lucky Market. Barry opened Lucky Market 6 years ago at 5011 Arctic Boulevard. The store is open from 11 am to 8 pm daily.

Noodle Room In Lucky Market

Remodeled space at Lucky Market holds wide array of noodles (Photograph by Laurie Constantino)

Since opening Lucky Market, Barry has remodeled it many times, continuously adding square-footage and improving efficiency. So far, Barry has added a storage room, sales space, an Asian Deli, and a more spacious produce section. The store is brightly lit, with wide aisles and shiny freezer compartments.

Lucky Market specializes in Southeast Asian ingredients from Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Laos, and southeastern China. It has a good selection of fresh produce, all of which looked fresh and vital when we visited. Barry says his specialties are excellent customer service, quality produce, wide selection of ingredients, and low prices. Lucky Kitchen, on the north side of the store, serves well-seasoned Chinese and Filipino food.

Barry works with 27 wholesalers, all outside Alaska, to supply Lucky Market. Although the logistics are complex, doing so helps Barry keep prices low. Frozen, canned, and dry foods are shipped by barge. Fresh ingredients, including produce, are shipped via airfreight.

Jerry at Lucky Market

Jerry at Lucky Market stocking shelves with pork, quail, and fish. (Photograph by Laurie Constantino)

Nora: Lucky Market had a great selection of frozen fish.  There were fish I hadn’t even heard of (and I LOVE fish!).  The store was very well organized and products mostly well labeled and easy to find. It’s the perfect place to get exotic seafood, including beautiful whole octopus.

Laurie: The seafood section is filled with fish that, like Nora, I’d never heard of, much less tried. Barry sells rabbit fish, silver barb, rohu, golden pompano, ranifish, smelt, crevalle jack, mullet, tiny shrimp, head-on shrimp, dried big-eyed scad (matang baka), dried round scad (galunggong), dried nemipterid (bisugo), dried slip mouth (sap sap), and many many more.

(Is anyone willing to do a guest column on Southeast Asian fish? I’d love the education and so would my readers. The more we know, the more we buy!  If interested, please comment on this post or send me an email.)

Salted Dried Plums

Salted Dried Plums (Photograph by Be sure to check out the recipe for Li Hing Popcorn at MarioBataliVoice.

Nora: While browsing the aisles at Lucky Market, Laurie impulse-bought dried salted plums. Apparently in Hawaii the kids all go crazy for them, so I thought they were going to be candy. We each popped a whole plum in our mouth. Laurie immediately spit hers out, while I tried to figure out what was happening to me.

All of a sudden I had a mouth blackout. The flavors were so intense I couldn’t physically move or think or do anything but focus on this plum. It was intensely sweet, salty, sour and bitter all at the same time. You really have to try dried salted plums to understand the intense sensation. I’ve learned you’re supposed to nibble the plums, taking only tiny bites. If you do this, dried salted plums are strangely addictive.

Laurie: That plum assaulted my taste buds! Spitting it out was a reflex action. Salted plums get their intense flavor from li hing powder. Nora definitely won the exotic food tasting prize that day. No way to say it, except that I wimped out. Li hing plums are definitely an acquired taste. I’ll try them again using Nora’s nibbling technique.

Lucky Market Fresh Rice Noodles

Fresh Rice Noodles at Lucky Market (Photograph by Laurie Constantino)

Lucky Market Black Sesame Ice Cream

Lucky Market Black Sesame Ice Cream (Photograph by Laurie Constantino)

Fish Freezers at Lucky Market

Fish Freezers at Lucky Market (Photograph by Laurie Constantino)

Lucky Market Coffee and Chicory

Lucky Market Coffee and Chicory from Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans (Photograph by Laurie Constantino

Fresh Greens at Lucky Market

Fresh Greens at Lucky Market (Photograph by Laurie Constantino)

Lucky Market Fresh Quail Eggs

Lucky Market Fresh Quail Eggs (Photograph by Laurie Constantino)

Next time I visit Lucky Market I’m going to buy fresh rice noodles (the only place I’ve found in Alaska that sells them), quail eggs, Filipino tocino (cured pork), and black sesame ice cream. Or maybe I’ll just buy a bag of black sesame seeds and make my own ice cream using this recipe from Savory-Bites.

Owner Barry Yu and nephew Barry Kwan working at Lucky Market in ANC

Owner Barry Yu and nephew Barry Kwan working at Lucky Market in ANC (Photograph by Laurie Constantino)

[Nora and Laurie’s food adventures continue. Monday’s column (April 1) is about Central Market (north side of Northern Lights in the Valhalla Center), today’s column (April 2) us about Lucky Market (northeast corner of Arctic and International); Wednesday April 3 is about APA Asian Market (southwest corner of 36th and C) Wednesday. Next week we’ll go to the Eastern European Deli (36th east of Arctic)]

13 Responses to Cooking Lesson 1: Anchorage Ethnic Markets (Part 2 of 4)

  1. I’m loving your ethnic market series. In Hawaii I heard that they like to make a hole in a lemon theat has been rolled around to make it juicier and put a li hing mui salted plum in it and then you suck out the juice.

    • Laurie Constantino says:

      Kim, that sounds like it would be good – it would give better balance to the flavor. Thank you for the great suggestion! I’ve also read that putting li hing powder on sour gummy worms and the like is quite tasty. So glad you stopped by!! Laurie

  2. Liana Hanson says:

    When I was growing up in Hawaii li hing mui was definitely a go-to snack, and yes, you have to nibble at it in small bites. Li hing mui is one of many seed snacks fondly called “cracked seed”. There would be cherry seed, sweet whole seed, “football” seeds which were candied olives, and yes, cracked seed. Alan Wong even make a li hing mui salad dressing which is quite tasty. I’m sure you will like it. I’ll have to find a like recipe and then post it here. You can now make a home made dried fruit concoction called prune mui. It is still an intense flavor, but you will probably tolerate it more than li hing mui straight up. You can eat this as is or over a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Here’s a recipe that comes from the Star Bullletin:

    • Laurie Constantino says:

      Liana, I wish I’d talked to you about nibbling before I tossed the entire thing into my mouth!! The links you sent are fascinating. I had no idea that Chinese preserved lemons even existed – I’m only familiar with the Moroccan kind. As for Alan Wong’s salad, I want it now! It looks gorgeous and a way to introduce li hing neophytes to its incredible flavor. SO glad you posted the links – thank you!!! Laurie

  3. Liana Hanson says:

    This is a link to Alan Wong’s Li hing vinaigrette. I had the tomato salad pictured in this article and it was fantastic. I’m not a tomato lover, but I do love li hing mui. Here is a version of Alan Wong’s Li Hing Vinaigrette:

    • Laurie Constantino says:

      I wanted to post the picture of that tomato salad because it is so gorgeous. Can’t put pictures in comments, so I’m putting it up on facebook — crediting you of course!! Thanks again Liana!!

  4. Judith Mack says:

    My husband who is from HI also loves li hing mui. We always hit the HI cracked seed shops. I think I saw a hint of a tear when his favorite shop at Ala Moana closed. I have also read that you can rim a cocktail glass with the powder, just like you would do a salt rim with a margarita. Not sure about the cocktail though!

    I love Lucky Market’s produce! Very fresh and well priced. Wish it opened earlier.

    • Laurie Constantino says:

      Judith, I completely agree about Lucky Market opening a little earlier, but I’m very glad we have it in Anchorage. Do you like Li hing mui?? Did you like it immediately or did you learn to love it? Just curious!!

      • Judith Mack says:

        I am not a fan of li hing mui. Jon and my older daughter Hana both love it. Sometimes my husband orders it from HI and it is like Christmas for him. I think it is strongly cultural. There are very few foods I don’t care for, but I think that would have to be on the list.

        • Laurie Constantino says:

          That makes sense Judith. We often prefer what we’re used to and li hing mui was most definitely not what I’m used to. On the other hand, the tomato with ling hi vinaigrette recipe Liana sent looks pretty darn good to me. I’ll let you know.

          • Judith Mack says:

            I would be interested to hear how you like it. BTW, made the “Gigantic Beans” last night following your recipe and they were wonderful!

  5. thomas cappiello says:

    another one of my favorites, thanks for pumping up their business. The little Filipino cafe next door is ok, too, I have to have my dose of pinakbet (with the bitter melon) every now and then.

    • Laurie Constantino says:

      You just sent me on a search for pinakbet — I’ve never had it, but it looks delicious. Guess I need to go back to Lucky Kitchen! Thanks for the suggestion!!

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