One of the best things about living in a metropolitan area like the GTA? The wealth of international foods and cultures that you can explore. International and Asian grocery stores are the unsung cultural heroes of city living. More often than not, they feature a wealth of spices, sauces, and snacks that you would be hard-pressed to find at your local Loblaws or CityMarket.
Whether you’re looking to get more into cooking this year, or you want to shake up your routine, here are 10 of the best Asian grocery stores to shop in the GTA.
Canada’s biggest Asian grocery retailer and a veritable juggernaut when it comes to Asian grocery stores is T&T and this store has it all. From a bakery and hot foods, to fresh meat, seafood, household goods, and even hard-to-come-by Japanese and Korean skincare products, the store has been a one-stop shop for Asian Canadians. Since being acquired by Loblaws in 2009, the retailer since expanded its offerings to be more accessible to non-Chinese speakers interested in Asian goods.
Sanko Trading Co.
Open since 1968, Sanko is an iconic Japanese store in Toronto with its wide range of imported items. Not only limited to goods of the edible variety, however, the store also carries crockery and knives — both of which the Japanese are known for. Shelves and racks are crowded with Japanese snacks, ceramics, varieties of matcha green tea, miso, and more, and the staff are friendly and more than willing to help you hunt down whichever spice or sauce you need for the perfect Japanese culinary experience.
The perfect place to go if you’re hoping to get your Japan fix. Located in Markham’s J-town, Heisei Mart stocks a huge range of dry goods, snacks, sauces, mixes — you name it. Come here to stock up on dry ramen noodles, Pocky, ramune sodas or the kind of canned coffee you’d find in a Tokyo vending machine or convenience store! The store is also accompanied by cafeteria-style eatery Cafe Green Tea and pastry bakery Nakamura.
Not to be confused with the mall, this Korean grocery store chain has four more locations in the GTA. Special offerings include fresh rice cakes and kimchi (which often go on sale) and a wide range of Korean goods which you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. Recreate your favourite Korean dishes—DIY K-BBQ at home, anyone?—from the comfort of your own kitchen with imported ingredients straight from the source.
An easy hangout spot for students (it is right across from Ryerson, after all) — H Mart is a compact grocery store, not unlike a New York bodega with a compact produce section with a wealth of snacks and quick takeout meals to choose from. We recommend trying the oden from the food-stand in the front — a skewer of chewy fish cakes with a cup of hot broth is the perfect way to warm up on a cold winter’s day. The store’s Korean fried chicken and chicken katsu is also excellent! In case you can’t make it downtown, H Mart has 6 more locations to visit all within the GTA.
This Pinoy supermarket is located in Mississauga, but don’t let that deter you. Seafood City is a haven of Filipino foods, from lechon and sisig, to chicken adobo. Featuring produce, seafood, and a food court, this grocery store is the perfect stop for a day’s outing. Plus, the store is located right next door to Jollibee, the super popular and delicious Filipino fast food chain!
Offering manufactured spice blends, stone ground flour, as well as snacks and roasted nuts, Trupti has earned a reputation as the city’s most intriguing spice shop. While the store isn’t exactly known for its Asian offerings, the smells wafting out of this Indian spice shop are as tempting as they are intriguing. Depending on when you arrive, you’ll understand — especially if it’s right when the owners have just roasted a fresh batch of coriander seeds, or prepared a fragrant batch of cumin.
Iqbal Halal Foods
Located in the same plaza as Trupti, Iqbal’s sign proclaims a “wide variety of Asian groceries.” The store has been serving the Pakistani and Indian communities for over 20 years and are known for quality and convenience. Stop in for a wide selection of Halal meats, dry foods, pantry staples, snacks, bulk goods, and of course, fresh produce.
Nations Fresh Food
Head over to Nations Fresh Food for a grocery shopping experience unlike any other. Nations offers not only ready made Asian and Western foods, but also an impressive selection of fresh produce, snacks, bubble tea, sushi, K-beauty, and much more all under one roof.
Situated right on Bloor West is PAT Central and it’s known for being a Korean grocery store that also carries Chinese and Japanese items. The shelves are filled with delectable treats, fresh produce, and affordable meats and folks say that it’s the spot to visit for that those hard-to-find Asian ingredients. In the mood for a snack? Don’t miss out on the Bungeoppang which is delicious fish shaped pastry that’s stuffed with your choice of red bean paste, custard, and black sesame.
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