Visiting Sun Oriental and Haknuman Meanchey
If you want to make authentic Asian food, chances are you’ll need to source some specialty ingredients. Lucky for us, there are just over a dozen international markets within the Portland peninsula. Portland Food Map does a great job highlighting the locations of the city's various markets, but specialty shops typically do the best business by word of mouth. I can’t speak for everyone, but I personally feel more confident trying somewhere new if I'm able to do some research to get a feel of what to expect. To help with this, I ventured out to two different Asian markets in Portland: Sun Oriental on Congress Street & Haknuman Meanchey on Forest Ave. These were the most accessible markets for me when considering location, hours, and variety.
First stop was Sun Oriental. Though the bulk of the store can be seen on Congress Street, customers currently enter through the back door, which is around the corner and in a parking lot. You’ll be asked to wash your hands, wear a mask, and only start shopping if there are carts available. There are arrows throughout the floors that allow you to explore everything while maintaining social distancing. On entering, you’ll Immediately see dried noodles and a large variety of single serve ramen packets, freezers full of various meat cuts plus dumpling/egg roll wrappers and buns and frozen desserts. The back wall is lined with refrigeration packed with fresh produce, miso, quail eggs, tofu, and fun juices/sodas. The interior shelves are loaded with seasoning packets, oils, vinegars, sauces and starches. I made sure to pick up Furikake, a blend of dried fish, sesame seeds, seaweed, a seasoning I love to shake onto rice, eggs, and sushi- like meals. I picked up some tempura mix, eel sauce, gyoza wrappers, steam buns, miso and kewpie mayo! I was so excited to see many familiar things in the mix of so many unknowns. Checking out was simple, I was able to stand back while things were rung up, mostly to admire the knives and various tools hanging on the back wall, after swiping my card I was able to walk out and be on Congress. So convenient!
Haknuman Meanchey is located off Forest Ave, across from a brightly lit Dominos. When I went there was no sign above the entrance, but a blinking Open sign and a peek inside let me know I was in the right place. I was instantly greeted with freezer chests of whole fish and sausages as well as a large display of produce at impressive prices. I quickly collected a bag of Thai Chiles, fresh ginger, pickled mango, some jalapeños, and white flesh sweet potatoes. Towards the back is a meat freezer with all the poultry parts you miss out on at a traditional grocery store. Throughout the aisles were overflowing bins of dried beans, noodles, nuts, mushrooms, baskets of seasoning packets, and teas. Snacks were at the front of the store as well as a wide variety of 25 & 50 lb bags of rice. The two most prominent types were Jasmine Rice and Sweet Rice. Sweet Rice is a very glutinous rice also known as mochi rice or sticky rice. It’s very common in Thai cooking and sweet desserts. Jasmine rice is a long grain, fragrant rice native to Thailand. This shop had an incredible snack selection (I unknowingly make some poor flavor choices. All part of the experience)! I made a last-minute decision to add on a sushi rolling mat since my pantry is now fully stocked with rice, edamame, tempura mix, and eel sauce. Once I get some Nori I’ll be sure to tempura that sweet potato and make some autumnal themed rolls.
Final thoughts on this trip: If you need more help browsing/this is your first-time shopping at an international market, Sun Oriental is easier to navigate. If you’re planning an authentic meal & you feel confident in what you’re looking for, Haknuman Meanchey is a great spot to explore. Stay tuned - I’m going to try Veranda Market and some of the Halal shops next. Thanks for coming along and hope to see you in a market soon!