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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

San Gabriel Superstore - San Gabriel

While I love exploring new places, for some things I am entirely a creature of habit. This is especially true when it comes to grocery shopping. I like to wander each aisle, taking my time to peruse various items. Or if I'm in a hurry, I like knowing precisely where to go to grab what I need. Once I settle upon a store that I like, it's very hard to convince me to switch. So, would you like to go grocery shopping with me?

San Gabriel Superstore 1

The San Gabriel Superstore is part of a chain of Chinese Vietnamese grocery stores. But unlike some of the other locations, the San Gabriel store features stalls with merchants selling everything from clothing to CDs to make-up to jewelery.

I prefer the east entrance. The north entrance facing Valley Boulevard is where the coach buses pick up and drop off passengers headed to San Jose and San Francisco.

This entrance is directly across from the Saint Sava Serbian Orthodox Church.

San Gabriel Superstore 2

This lady is outside the store every time I'm there. Can anyone guess what she's making? I'll get to her later in the post.

San Gabriel Superstore 3

Past the Boba Corner, you'll find Vua Kho Bo (New Jerky Mfg., Inc.) and Yum Cha Cafe, where I buy freshly steamed shrimp cheong fun (Chinese rice noodle rolls), dim sum to-go items, and barbecued pork or duck.

San Gabriel Superstore 4

You can see the various stalls to the left and right. I'm headed straight ahead to the main grocery store.

San Gabriel Superstore 5

I tend to start on the right side of the store and work my way left. So on the far right of the store is the rice aisle. Well, just some of it, there's another row of bags of rice on the right of this row.

San Gabriel Superstore 6

Various fruit. Quick. Can you see the jackfruit in the picture?

San Gabriel Superstore 7

Various Western and Asian vegetables.

San Gabriel Superstore 8

Fresh rice noodle aisle. Fresh delivery each day around 11 a.m. so if you show up shortly after that, you can buy the freshest batch by just lightly touching to see which ones are still warm. There's everything from ho fun (Chinese rice noodle sheets) to banh hoi (Vietnamese steamed rice vermicelli noodles). To the left on the wooden shelf are sweet dumplings. To the far right are more sweets and breads.

San Gabriel Superstore 9

Galangal, chili peppers, herbs, banana blossoms, pickled bamboo, pre-shredded papaya, pickled mustard greens, seaweed, and mushrooms. And if you don't like peeling garlic, there's packages of pre-peeled garlic too.

San Gabriel Superstore 10

Fresh soy products - soy milk (with or without sugar), fresh soft tofu with sugar syrup, blocks of tofu, and fried tofu. For the freshest soy milk, make sure you get a bottle that's still warm to the touch.

San Gabriel Superstore 11

The fresh meat aisle with all the usual cuts of meat along with pork belly and pork blood cubes.

San Gabriel Superstore 12

While the store largely sells Chinese and Vietnamese products, this aisle has some Malaysian and Indonesian items such as belacan, candlenuts, palm sugar, and spice mixtures.

San Gabriel Superstore 14

And you've seen the fish sauce and soy sauce aisle before.

San Gabriel Superstore 13

Dried rice noodle aisle. The egg noodles are on the opposite side.

San Gabriel Superstore 15

Live seafood. There's also a large selection of frozen seafood as well as fish on ice and fish pastes.

San Gabriel Superstore 16

The pots and woks aisle, where I bought my second (technically third) wok.

San Gabriel Superstore 17

Clay pots and steamers.

San Gabriel Superstore 18

Tableware and big steamers.

San Gabriel Superstore 19

Fresh egg noodles and ramen noodles, kimchi, and fresh buns and other breads.

San Gabriel Superstore 20

Fresh wontons, more fresh egg noodles, and packaged tofu.

San Gabriel Superstore 21

And that's my usual circuit around the store before heading to the cash register. The prices are reasonable, the produce is fresh, and the store itself is well-lit and clean. So after trying a few other stores in the area, I've settled on here.

Now, after exiting the store, remember that lady making something from earlier? I decided to buy some sweets and filmed her making little cakes. It was a hot day and there's a small fire underneath that huge griddle. I ordered half a dozen of the little cakes - two cream, two coconut, and two green (mung) bean. At first she's just pouring out the batter and scooping out filling.

The she expertly flips one over the other. I don't know how she was able to tell which was which but she did.

Anyone know what these little cakes are called? She didn't tell me. I just call them "wagon wheel cakes" since that's sort of what they look like. 60 cents apiece, or buy 10 get one free.

Are these Chinese or Japanese? Who invented it first? I remember coming across a Japanese version of these at Mitsuri Cafe in Little Tokyo, which you can see on Henry Chan's Food Videos.

San Gabriel Superstore 24

Pour, pour, pour, fill, fill, fill, flip, flip, flip.

San Gabriel Superstore 25

They all looked alike to me. But I got exactly what I asked for - two cream, two coconut, two green bean. There's also red bean but I didn't order that. Red bean makes your body "hot" and it was already a hot day.

San Gabriel Superstore 26

The cream is a lovely custard and my favorite.

San Gabriel Superstore 27

The coconut was made of flakes and tasted a bit dry to me.

San Gabriel Superstore 28

I also bought 17 cans of Yeo's brand soy milk at 49 cents apiece. Special promotion that weekend for their 30th anniversary. Spend $8 in Yeo's products, get a case of soy milk worth $30 for free.

San Gabriel Superstore 29

So I got a box of 24 of these bottles of soy milk for free!

San Gabriel Superstore 30

Cousin Q's older brother was in town that weekend with his girlfriend and her sister, Salah Jonger, so we stopped by to see if they were still holding the promotion. Score! A case of 12 1-liter bottles for free for each of us. This time I bought cans of chrysanthemum tea instead.

San Gabriel Superstore 31

Sorry! The promotion is over, but the store still has plenty of other stuff.

Other store posts:
Oriental Food Value Supermarket - Portland - Oregon
Wing Hop Fung - Monterey Park

San Gabriel Superstore
1635 San Gabriel Blvd.
San Gabriel, CA 91776

1 year ago today, Mangoes with Sticky Rice - Vietnamese-Style.


  1. Yep, looks just like the Asian stores up here....I never knew there were so many brands and varieties of Soy sauce!

  2. I don't know how manytimes I am going to tell you I'm so jealous and you make me homesick. But, take it as a compliment!

    Where I lived in Aus has cramped and crowded stores, and I have to admit to preferring them to the ginormous superstores with large aisles. But, oh, the range! And woe, the range here in South East UK. Good thing I have a trip to London soon...

  3. Nice post! All I can find here in Belgrade is located in a small, 5 squared meters store in a Chinese mall near my home. And the lady that works there can't speak English or Serbian, so I sometimes buy food I don't know what is. :)

    Btw, there is Saint Sava's chuch in Belgrade too :).

  4. I am so envious!

    In Akron, we have one small Vietnamese store - about the size of your average convenient store - they have many of the essentials, but not too much beyond that.

    About 45 minutes from me, towards Cleveland is an Asian grocery store, probably about 3/4 the size of the store you've pictured - they have a lot to choose from and even have a small selection of woks, etc. My favorite thing there is the fresh roasted duck - just like buying them on the street in Viet Nam.

  5. thanks for telling me about the promotion! mel likes soymilk.

  6. Wow - I'm jealous! I wish we had something like that here! That is one mega superstore!!

  7. I love walking through supermarkets.
    Those cake looks good, I don't see them around here, usually the normal egg cake stuff.
    Free soy milk....lucky you!

  8. WC,

    That's where I usually go and wander after a great meal at Lu's Garden next door. Thanks for the post!!

  9. Those cakes look like imagawayaki! I've never seen coconut filled ones, but I've had red bean ones in Little Tokyo and even taro filled in Taiwan :)

  10. This place is huge and i love strolling supermarkets! I spotted Geoduck at the seafood corner. Is that for USD129.9 per kilo?

  11. Wow. That looks amazing. The stores here (Melbourne, Australia) are mostly so cramped and often dirty. I did find a new one last week though that I could actually fit a pram into . I'd love a superstore like that to shop in though.

  12. The lady out there? Is she making rice dumplings ? The Chinese words say so :P

  13. Peter,
    Didn't know Canada had such bounty too.

    I'm a clean store and wide aisles kinda gal. ;)

    Thanks for the link. I had no idea who saint Sava was.

    I remember when I lived in Chicago, VNese drove in from Ohio and Indiana and Iowa and would stock up like crazy.

    No problem. I still got plenty if you want more.

    Mega stores aren't really a European thing either though, are they?

    The cakes were yummy. And freshly made too.


    Lu's Garden. I've seen that pop up on BM, will have to check them out some time.

    Yup, that's be the Japanese version. I was wondering what the name is for the Chinese version. And what the English translation might be.

    Oh, nothing crazy like that! It's $12.99 per lb. :P

    Oh, yeah, struggling with pushing a baby while shopping, you'd need wide aisles.

    Cringe Schrapnel,
    Haha. Yeah, I live in SoCal b/c of the food.

    The sign says rice dumplings? They're definitely wheat-based cakes.

  14. I found some blog posts about similar red bean cakes in Hong Kong and in Singapore:


    Maybe they are a non-Japanese hot version of Dorayaki? They seem to be made of pancake-like batter?

    I love Dorayaki and I would be very glad to discover a new version :)

  15. I was looking at your photo here http://www.flickr.com/photos/wanderingchopsticks/2570005460 and even if I am definitely not Asian, I recognized some of the letters friends from China taught me once, so I put some of them into Babelfish and it says:

    米 = rice
    肉 = meat (they do not put meat in those, do they???)

    米糕 = rice cake

    Maybe there is some rice flour in those? But the literally translation from Chinese may be wrong, since I am sure they do not have meat in them...

  16. Ok first of all, I have a thing for learning about different grocery stores (I'm insane I know) so thanks for that amazing tour! Second of all...those cakes look good! I agree that the coconut probably tasted dry. You should have showed us a picture of the third flavor! Thanks!

  17. I think I remember seeing those little cakes being made all over Hong Kong. I used to love the special occasions when I would get to go to the SG Superstore with my parents. I remember in sixth grade when there was that butterfly clip craze...I bought some there. Haha. Btw how much do the coach buses cost?

  18. Litsa,
    Yes, pancake-like batter. Definitely no meat. It may be similar to dorayaki, but I haven't tasted that to know for sure. I think you'd like these anyway though!

    The mung bean cakes look like the custard ones. And I already had so many pictures already in this post.

    Don't know how much these coach buses cost but you want to stick to the Megabus. Unless listening to 6 hours of Paris by Night is your thing... :P

  19. Love those yummy little, chewy cakes. The ones we had were chewy, warm and tasty!
    Love the fun video too, they work so quickly and efficiently!

  20. WoRC,
    Next time you're in town, I can take you here if you want some. :)

  21. I have a question about soy milk in Viet Nam. I don't really recall seeing much of it in markets or grocery stores - is it something that the average Vietnamese drink much of, or is more just used as an ingredient in food preparation? Just curious...

  22. Jonathan,
    VNese don't really use soy milk in food preparation. Or do you mean soy products in general? We just drink it plain. It's a very common drink so I'm not sure why you didn't see any. It's usually always available whereever I go.

  23. Hubby and I usually make it down to LA abount once a year, 99ranch is our usual supermarket of choice. is SG Superstore a better place to stop?

  24. Jill,
    Depends on which 99Ranch you hit, but on the whole, I think the Superstore has better prices, selection, and quality. Try both next time you're in town and compare for yourself.


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