To Market, To Market…

I do a lot of driving around going to markets.

One of the greatest things about living in (near) Los Angeles is the number of great markets we have. (Do YOU have an Indonesian market near you!?) I once told a non-food-obsessed friend about all the markets I go to. He said, “You have a problem.” My biggest problem is that they’re not all lined up next to one another in a strip mall. So like I said, I drive.

I have been accused of being bourgeoise for my relentless proselytizing about eating fresh and shopping often. And I do realize that I am fortunate to work for myself and actually have the time to drive around to markets. I have scaled back somewhat from the days when I might leave Topanga in the morning, drive to East L.A. for handmade corn tortillas, stop in Chinatown for chili oil and a duck, then head south to Westminster for sugar cane and soft shell crab. (A loop, for those unfamiliar with Southern California, that would encircle Manhattan a few times over.) These days I try to limit myself to either the Valley or the Westside. But even if you have less time, the concept of purchasing fresh food for specific meals is a good one, and one which doesn’t require much more than stopping at a market or two during the course of your day or on your way home.

On average, I probably go to markets three or four times a week (often combining it with a token trip to the bank or Home Depot so I don’t feel like a complete geek). I like to plan my meals in advance and make sure I’ve got everything I need — i.e. Monday night sushi, Tuesday night fish tacos, Wednesday the cuisine of Bologna, Thursday shabu shabu, etc. Where do I go and what do I get? I’ll give you addresses later in this post. Twice a week I go to farmer’s markets — our cute, quaint little market in Topanga on Fridays, and the epic, world-class Wednesday farmer’s market in Santa Monica (where I’ve seen Wolfgang Puck shopping alongside Bill Murray). I get most of my staples at Trader Joe’s, and pop by Vons for sugar, yeast or baking soda.

But probably best of all, what most differentiates L.A. from most other cities, are the ethnic markets. Yeah, that Indonesian market I mentioned for one — Simpang Asia, where I get the all-important ketjap manis (click here for more on that). But that’s just the beginning! On any given day in any particular week, I’ll also visit Chinese markets, Japanese markets, Hawaiian markets, Persian markets, Mexican carnicerias and super mercados, Indian spice shops, Italian markets and specialty purveyors, Jewish butchers, Polish sausage makers, sellers of Spanish goods and more. If you’re not fortunate enough to have markets such as these within driving distance of your home, you can get a lot of the same stuff online.

I’ve written on some of these stores before (Simpang Asia, the Japanese markets, Vallarta). And surely I will do separate pieces on many more of them. But here’s a brief overview of where I go and what I get (at least on the Westside and in the Valley):

Some favorite markets on the West(ish)side:

Simpang Asia
Where: National and National (locals will understand — address is ), West L.A.
What I get: Kejap manis, lumpia, take-out dinner from the little connected café
Guilty pleasure: Garuda spicy covered peanuts (I’m pretty sure Garuda is the Indonesian god of yumminess…)

Nijiya Market
Where: Sawtelle just north of Olympic, West L.A.
What I get: Fresh fish for sashimi, sushi nori, big bags of sushi rice, Sapporo on sale, green tea, real wasabi, matsutake mushrooms in season
Guilty pleasure: the cookie creampuffs next door at Beard Papa

Mitsuwa Market
Where: Centinela at Venice, West L.A.
What I get: sashimi fish on sale, great produce, fresh sardines in season, Australian wagyu beef
Guilty pleasure: Japanese crack snacks (rice crackers)

Safe & Save Japanese Market
Where: 2030 Sawtelle Blvd., West L.A.
What I get: sea urchin, great selection of Hawaiian products
Guilty pleasure: 2x as much sea urchin for the same price as the other Japanese markets

Sanchez Carniceria
Where: 4525 Inglewood Blvd., just south of Culver, Culver City
What I get: fresh salsa roja, marinated skirt steak for carne asada, lunch from the lunch counter
Guilty pleasure: carnitas from the case near the front

Tehran Market
Where: 1417 Wilshire Blvd. at 14th St., Santa Monica
What I get: a variety of fresh flatbreads, olives, semolina flour, spices, rose water and pomegranate syrup, fava beans, French and Bulgarian feta in water
Guilty pleasure: little funnel cakes in honey and rose water

J & T European Gourmet Food
Where: 1128 Wilshire Blvd. near 11th, Santa Monica
What I get: homemade sausages and more homemade sausages, great mustards, fresh baked rye breads
Guilty pleasure: Ummm, sausages?

Santa Monica Seafood
Where: 1000 Wilshire Blvd. at 10th St., Santa Monica
What I get: stupidly expensive fresh fish, oysters, seafood
Guilty pleasure: Indian candy (salmon) at $20 a lb.!

La Española Meats
Where: 25020 Doble Ave., Harbor City
What I get: paella rice, house-cured Spanish chorizo, canned tuna, other Spanish ingredients
Guilty pleasure: jamon serrano

*   *   *

Here’s the best of the Valley:

Where: All over, I go to the one on Sherman Way between Canoga and De Soto streets
What I get: homemade tortillas, chilies, Mexican cheeses, pre-marinated pork al pastor, pineapples, spices
Guilty pleasure: Torta cubana — a tower of ham, bacon, egg, beans, salsa… if you’re smart, you’ll eat it over the course of several days.

Jim’s Fallbrook Market
Where: 5947 Fallbrook Ave., Woodland Hills
What I get: insanely marbled Snake River wagyu flatiron steak for $20 a pound (the butcher told me he ate one and felt woozy and lethargic afterward. “Don’t try to eat it all by yourself,” he said)
Guilty pleasure: BBQ in the parking lot on weekends

99 Ranch Market
Where: 6450 Sepulveda Blvd, just north of Victory, Van Nuys
What I get: cheap everything — frozen ducks, live oysters, every kind of shellfish, frozen soft shell crabs in boxes of 20 … they even have the private parts of male animals, which I do not buy
Guilty pleasure: everything — why is it all so cheap?

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ant Patty
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 00:50:23

    Sean, now that I finally figured out how to sign up for your blog and not Word Press, I’m really enjoying reading this blog – and it’s not just because I know you and have been a participant at your glorious meals.

    The LA Time did a review in their The Find column about the Asal Baker & Kabob in Woodland Hills – I still haven’t tried it, but it sounds wonderful:,0,3213359.story


    • scolgin
      Feb 18, 2011 @ 01:16:48

      Glad you’re enjoying the blog, Ant Patty. Thanks for the tip on the baker/kabob. And get yourself over to the Vallarta market, quick!


  2. Lisa Gaskin
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 04:56:25

    I’m frankly overwhelmed by your shopping schedule


  3. Sally Wielage
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 18:13:54

    Sean i would like to tell you about a couple of places i like to shop. 1 is called Italia deli it is on Balboa and san Fernando Mission they bake the bread fresh every morning they have fresh cheeses and meat everything for an Italian feast. the 2nd place is called Van Nuys German deli on Roscoe near Woodly they have fresh sausages and meats. the next time you are in the valley you should check out either of these place you will love them. They are both small little hole in the walls but great.


    • scolgin
      Feb 18, 2011 @ 18:18:21

      Those are great tips, Sally — thanks! I’ll check them out next time I’m out that way. There’s a good German sausage place in Santa Monica too, but I can’t recall the name.


  4. paul
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 18:46:26

    Oh, Crap? That was pretty abrupt as advertised.


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