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boulder: asian seafood market

Local readers often ask me where I get my Asian groceries. The truth is that I hunt and gather Asian groceries wherever I go. Typically when I visit my grandmother in California, I’ll bring an empty duffel bag and pack a small boatload of hard to find items to take home with me. For special ingredients required to prepare big meals like on Chinese New Year’s Eve, I make the trek to Denver’s H-Mart because their Asian produce is probably the best selection and quality in the state and the store is huge by Colorado standards. Pacific Ocean Market in Broomfield is another good source for Asian groceries (the produce is pretty disappointing, although I haven’t been back in a year so maybe it’s changed). I’ve even purchased a Peking duck there before. But I have to admit that I quite hate driving all the way to Denver or even to Broomfield just to look for basics like Three Crabs Brand fish sauce, bean thread noodles, Shao Xing cooking wine, hoisin sauce, chili garlic paste, black vinegar, or pickled mustard greens. Luckily, I have access to a well-stocked little store in Boulder, Asian Seafood Market.

they carry more than just asian groceries

it’s a little store that packs a lot of goodies

One of the first things I did after moving to Colorado was search for an Asian grocer. I found a couple of tiny places that had less on their shelves than I have in my cupboards. This would not do. Luckily, I stumbled across Asian Seafood Market which happens to be on my normal grocery shopping route in town. Like most of my favorite places to buy Chinese, Thai, Japanese, or Viet ingredients, this place was packed to the hilt. There are no empty shelves. The more I delve into Asian cooking, the more I am finding at this little local store. It’s a little like an adventure in the good sense. And if I can’t find something, I can always ask Maria.

owner: maria nguyen (left), sweet pastries and fresh longans

Maria Nguyen was born in Vietnam, but eventually settled in California. She told me she had terrible allergies in California back in the day. When she moved to Boulder over 20 years ago she opened Asian Seafood Market, building the business from scratch. And her allergies went away. Maria has a precise knowledge of the store’s inventory. If I can’t find something, she’ll shout down the aisle to ask what I’m looking for and then either show me where it is or shout that it will be restocked on Wednesday, or Thursday, or Monday…

indian dal (top left), dulce de leche from argentina (bottom left), and oodles of rice (right)

I often bemoan the fact that Boulder doesn’t have a good authentic Chinese restaurant (according to the Official Jen Yu Council of One on Authentic Chinese Restaurants in Non-Coastal US Cities). Luckily for me, I am moderately competent at cooking Chinese food and so I like having a dedicated Asian grocer in Boulder. Just a short list of things you can find: noodles, rice, beans, lentils, Asian vegetables and herbs, frozen fish, live crabs, spices, sauces, pastes, vinegars, flours, starches, frozen dumplings, frozen pork or vegetable buns, wonton and eggroll wrappers, mushu shells, edamame, fishballs, tempura cakes, ice cream (e.g. green tea, red bean), mochi, kimchi, quail eggs, miso paste, soft drinks, tofu, daikon radish, udon noodles, a few boxes of seasonal fruits, canned fruits and vegetables, dishes and cooking equipment, Asian candies, Asian snacks, curry pastes, dulce de leche…

canned jackfruit, lychee, mangosteen (top left), customer for scale (bottom left), 8.5 pounds of chili paste! (right)

daikon radish and bok choy (left), cute little rice bowls (right)

I’ve been shopping at Asian Seafood Market for over four years – much of that time as a passive patron. When I underwent chemo last year, there were long stints where I didn’t venture by the store because I wasn’t cooking as much and I definitely wasn’t eating as much. At one point while paying for my groceries at the register, Maria said she hadn’t seen me in a while. I smiled and said I had been… busy. I had thought I was some sort of invisible customer, but from then on we have made small talk whenever I come through the store. I consider it my store in many ways because Maria checks that I find what I am looking for and tells me about what is fresh and what is on special.

miso paste and jars of kimchi (left), little frozen mochi treats (right)

Asian Seafood Market sells wholesale and retail, and they can arrange for special orders if there is something you need. The store receives new shipments of dry goods every Monday, fresh produce on Wednesdays, and Japanese products on Thursdays.

Asian Seafood Market
The Villa Shopping Center
2829 28th St.
Boulder, CO 80301
Ph: (303) 541 9377
Monday through Saturday: 10am to 8pm
Sunday: 10 am to 7 pm

Full Disclosure: I am writing this post of my own volition and without compensation from Asian Seafood Market.

31 nibbles at “boulder: asian seafood market”

  1. Eglė says:

    Oh my! Couple years ago, me and my husband (boyfriend back then) were doing “Work & Travel” programme in USA (Winter Park, CO). We were lucky to visit Boulder a little bit more than couple of times… Sweet memmories. Actually, Boulder is our place no.1 to live, if we were living in USA. It’s a pitty I did not know this place is there. Perhaps I would have gone crazy there ;)

    Greetings from snowy Lithuania ;)

  2. Phoo-D says:

    What a gem of a place! It makes life so much nicer to have access to hard to find ingredients like that. I’d be in sorry shape if I didn’t have a small place like that nearby- we pack in enough hard to find foods from traveling as it is!

  3. Fiona says:

    Looks like a really nice store. We have several groceries here, but I favor the smallest one because the owner is so friendly and helpful. One thing I really like about your blog is that you often demonstrate the use of ingredients I can get but don’t know how to use.


  4. Joyce says:

    Its nice to find a asian food store outside our own country. These shops are the BEST!!… i hope the one in Queenstown, NZ is as best as yours. Hehe… its because i living in an outskirt the supply of asian ingredients has its limitation. Wish i had your shop right in town, then i will be able to cook all ur recipes.. your recipe are my inspiration. Thanks very much.

  5. haya says:

    wow that’s awesome! and very fortuitous for you.

    (also from what i’ve seen, your chinese cooking looks way better than a lot of stuff i’ve seen/had at lots of asian restaurants around here, and i live in like asia-central (toronto))

  6. dawn says:

    those little mochi treats? evil I tell you evil!!!

  7. jeanne says:

    Hi Jen,

    I just wanted to say I just searched for you photo site to see again your ‘she blooms again’ photos. Your work is divine. You inspire me. I hope you know that you inspire many people. There is so much that is stunning here. The food, the photos, your wit, your depth. For some reason I als felt compelled to ordered a new camera mainly because you inspired me. It’s been years since I did “photography.” Not sure I will, but it’s there just in case. Just wanted to say thank you.


  8. Debbie says:

    We have an Asian grocery store here in Woodbridge, Va that is called Global. This store is huge and I am not exaggerating. It consists of mainly Asian foods and some American ones but the Asian theme dominates this store. I’ve never seen one like it. It has fish tanks of live fish in the back of the store (I don’t go back there when my son is with me – I had him with me once back there and don’t even ask – I’m sure you can imagine….). I love exploring this store. So many of the items I have no clue as to what they even say since they are not written in English but it is just so much fun going there. Since they must buy in very large quantities the prices are always very good too.

  9. Katie says:

    I just moved to Boulder and have been missing the plethora of Asian groceries in the Seattle area. So thanks for the recommendation! I’ve got the new Andrew Nguyen book on Asian Dumplings and I was needing a source for some of the more exciting recipes!

  10. TheKitchenWitch says:

    Jen, I pass by this place ALL the time (going to Chez Thuy for my pho fix) and I’ve never been in! I will definitely stop by next time and tell Maria that you sent me!

  11. jo says:

    Oh wow Jen, your Asian grocery looks extremely well stocked from what I can see in the pics. And there is really no substitution (well not as great any way) for Asian ingredients especially if you are cooking an Asian dish. By the way, I’ve never seen a canned mangosteen before .. I guess we take it for granted in the part of the world as we get it fresh.

  12. Mrs Ergül says:

    are Asian stores like this only popular among the Asians? or it is that you patronized during the off peak hours. I’m pretty surprised that I don’t see this store packed to the brim with patrons! I thought that is expected of any where Asian :D

  13. Kristin says:

    Beautiful grocery store. It takes me forever to find what I need at my Asian grocery store, so I get to wander around looking at all of the fascinating ingredients & wonder what I would do with them. I might have to head there today to get miso…I’ve been wanting to make Misoyaki salmon from SGCC but couldn’t find the miso…duh! Thanks for the knock to the head…seriously, my kids must be sucking out all of my brain cells.

  14. Eileen says:

    Wonderful! I’m so envious, my life in WV involves crazed hoarding sprees whenever I visit a civilized city (deemed so by having an asian grocer). By the way, can you please jump on the cookbook train? :)

  15. caramelsutra says:

    Oh, I miss Ms. Maria!!! For the 4 years my husband and I lived in Boulder, we shopped there a few times a month. She was always smiling (and shouting). It took a few visits to get friendly with her (she used to be so prickly) but when we told her we were moving away she gave us both hugs and wished us good luck. What a sweet lady! Have you eaten at her sister’s place next door???

    You have GOT to try “Five Spice” in the same strip mall as the Safeway (3325 28th St). A close friend who happens to be Taiwanese introduced us to it, and their food is heavenly!! Of course, I don’t know how authentic it is, but my Taiwanese friend says it is!!!

    Say Hi to Boulder for me….missing it in North Carolina…

  16. emhuze says:

    Mmmmm Hmmmm… Cookbook + JenYu = Very Good Idea. Asian Market going up in my neighborhood… a big one. So, will need some recipes and lessons on How To… OK?? Good! ;)

  17. Kimberly says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. I was searching for Asian ingredients last week and stopped by one of the aforementioned bare-shelved stores in Boulder. I was so disappointed by the lack of product. Asian Seafood Market sounds perfect!

  18. Bee says:

    When we lived in the Midwest, Asian grocery store was my happy place!!! We are really too pampered now here in CA.

    BTW, I made the char kuey teow and posted the recipe if you are interested. :)

  19. Sherry says:

    It’s amazing how no matter where you are, Asian grocery stores give you a sense of familiarity. That place could have easily been a place I frequented in NYC or the one I’ve been going to since I was a kid in Portland, OR. It’s lovely (and very fortunate!) that there’s a place like it where you live. Unfortunately my town of 1.8% Asians can’t support even a small Asian grocery… :( My family has to drive out an hour once a week to stock up on goodies since we’re impossibly Chinese and eat it pretty much for every meal everyday.

  20. Nate says:

    Your store is probably more well-stocked than most grocery stores here in Kuching. Seriously. Because of the variety of products you can get there in the States compared to here in Sarawak. Bee is right, we were too pampered back in CA.

  21. Sarah says:

    I think that every Asian grocery store has a little lady who owns it and yells at you (lovingly of course).

  22. audra says:

    i’ve been there! on your recommendation, of course. ;) i moved to Boulder last year, emailed you as i was in desperate need of some chopsticks and ‘home food’. you were very helpful!

    just an update: at the time, i also asked for recommendations for Chinese restaurants in the area. one that you suggested was Golden Lotus (because it’s right there), though you did warn me there’s no good Chinese food and i think you said you had not actually been yourself. if you haven’t gone yet– don’t go! the food was a horrible experience, and overpriced. if anyone you know insists on going, suggest that they check first to see what people have actually found to be good. hopefully, this returns the favor a tiny bit.. =)

  23. TheKitchenWitch says:

    Audra: Jen and I feel your pain! Why is the Chinese food so shitty around here? Hubs and I went the other week to a highly recommended spot, Spice China, in Lafayette, and were not impressed. ARGH! Why is everything so greasy and nasty?

    I mean, we can get awesome Japanese/sushi in this town, which is totally land-locked, so why is the Chinese so terrible??

  24. Diane says:

    I love little stores like this. Even here in the SF Bay Area some mom & pop Asian stores are struggling with the downturn in the economy. My favorite Lao store is now only open 3 days a week. I do everything I can to patronize the small places, if their proprietors are nice and I can find what I need. Good selection of Asian produce is one reason I’lll never leave Berkeley – and I’m not even Asian!

  25. jenyu says:

    Fiona – you can always take a photo of an ingredient and email it to me. I can’t say I know what everything is, but I can always take a stab at it!

    Jeanne – awww, thank YOU.

    Debbie – I think my folks might know of that store!

    TKW – you’ll have to drop by and check it out, woman :)

    Mrs. E – It’s popular with non-Asians too. Boulder doesn’t have a huge Asian population anyway, so I’m not surprised.

    Eileen – Oh boy, I can’t see myself wanting to write a cookbook, but thanks for thinking I should!

    Caramelsutra – I didn’t know her sister ran the place next door. I’ll have to try it out. Thanks for the tip on Five Spice too.

    Kimberly – yes, and hopefully you’ll find the ingredients you were looking for :)

    Nate – CA is definitely where it’s at!

    Sarah – very true.

    Audra – bummer, eh? I had been to Golden Lotus once and didn’t quite go for it. It’s all very “white”.

  26. Sterling Eason says:

    Jen – I just happened upon your blog and I was at this store over the weekend trying to figure out what the heck to buy! I decided to go home, refer to my Kylie Kwong cookbook and go back to tackle this. I will be checking out your blog regularly as I am passionate about cooking and live in Boulder. Thanks for the contribution!!

  27. Brett Borders says:

    I cook Japanese, Sri Lankan, Malaysian, Indonesian and Thai and I can get most ingreedients at this store, the Indonesian store behind Best Buy on 28th, and Pacific Ocean Market in Broomfield. Thai cooking is the hardest to get sutff for. I cannot find fresh kaffir lime fruit anywhere in Colorado.

  28. Brett Borders says:

    re: “Golden Lotus”

    I am no expert on Chinese food but, I don’t think I have ever had “good” Chinese food in the USA. Just cooking artocities with over-fried stuff and obviously jar / bottled sauces. That being said, I haven’t really hunted it down. Yelp reviews are worthless because the reviwers are 99% people who have NO $#%$# IDEA what Chinese food should taste like.

    Can you get real Chinese food in Colorado outside of someone’s home kitchen?

  29. jenyu says:

    Brett – you might want to ask about fresh kaffir lime fruit. As for real Chinese food in CO – I haven’t found any so far…

  30. Steve says:

    One of my Chinese co-workers says the most authentic (though not perfect) restaurant around is JJ Chinese Seafood Restaurant in Denver. I stopped by for dinner a couple months back and I must say it was quite good.

  31. eric says:

    brett, you can get kaffir limes from lek’s thai grocery in aurora.

    steve, the authentic and pretty good chinese list from a hk (american born) kid:

    dim sum: star kitchen, superstar
    cantonese dinner: jj’s, hong kong bbq, star kitchen, superstar
    hot pot(da bin low, not clay pot) : king’s land, hk bbq
    cantonese late night (open until around midnight): star kitchen, jj’s, superstar
    hong kong bakery: celestial
    taiwanese: tao tao noodle bar in aurora, lao wang
    sichuan: china jade in aurora
    beijing food: chef liu’s in aurora

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