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Importing Good Taste: Best Asian Market helps import exotic flavors into home kitchens

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Van Chiu has made Best Asian Market one of the big draws in the Sprague Union District. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Van Chiu has made Best Asian Market one of the big draws in the Sprague Union District.

The shelves of Best Asian Market are stocked full of noodles, cans, sauces and other brightly packaged goodies printed with characters that are unfamiliar to non-native speaking customers. It all seems to jump out at you inside the building that was first built as a grocery store more than 80 years ago, located in Spokane's newly rebranded Sprague Union District.

The market is big — nearly 6,000 square feet — offering its mostly Asian customer base a little bit of everything. But even though owner Van Chiu is from Vietnam originally, the market doesn't focus on any one nationality or product.

Chiu and his family emigrated from Vietnam to a refugee camp in Thailand in 1979 and ultimately landed in Los Angeles, where he grew up. Chiu would later study civil engineering and earn his Ph.D. from UCLA. The firm he was working for after college eventually closed shop, so Chiu decided to take a year off to be with his siblings in Spokane. The break didn't last long, though, as Chiu soon saw a business opportunity at Best Asian Market, formerly Bay Oriental Market. He purchased the market in May 2003 as a business venture for his family. He didn't plan to stay for long, but he's kept busy 15 years later.

The real reward of the business has been the opportunity to give back to the community: Almost all of the market's 10 or so employees are immigrants or refugees from Asian countries, Chiu says. The market also regularly makes in-kind donations to benefit St. Anthony's in Spokane, a church with a large Vietnamese population, as well as the Spokane Buddhist Temple.

"I come from an immigrant family," says Chiu, "[and] one thing we pride ourselves in, we hire other immigrants who [are] fleeing persecution. Quite a few of them work for us."

Find Best Asian Market at 2022 E. Sprague Ave., 534-9300.

MARKETS: SHOP THE WORLD

A selection of the international markets of the Inland Northwest

Alpine Deli

417 E. Third, 455-5148

This German, Austrian and Bosnian grocery store sells a variety of foods from those countries, and makes all its desserts — even marzipan and baklava — from scratch.

Asian World Food Market

3314 N. Division, 327-2899

Here you'll find plenty of pantry staples for Japanese and Korean cooking, along with a wide selection of vegetables, noodles and kimchi.

Cassano's Italian Grocery

2002 E. Mission, 747-3888

This longtime institution specializes in cured meats and hard cheeses imported from Italy. Cassano's also operates an in-house deli counter and a catering kitchen.

Damas Middle Eastern Grocery Store

21 S. Thierman Rd., 703-7677

This local mini mart is stocked full of Middle Eastern delights like dried dates, baklava and traditional ingredients, such as fava beans, olive oil and halal foods.

De Leon Foods

102 E. Francis, 483-3033; 15530 E. Sprague, Spokane Valley, 926-5009

De Leon Foods stocks a massive variety of traditional Mexican and Latin American products — cheese, milk, yogurt, sour cream and Mexican sodas.

Good Choice

9512 E. Sprague, Spokane Valley, 927-3962

This Russian market with shelves full of treats and products from all over Europe also has a bakery that serves fresh-made cabbage, potato and meat-filled piroshkis.

International Foods Store

3021 E. Mission, 466-4784

Here you'll find all the essential ingredients for cooking many traditional Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes, such as Greek yogurt, halal meats, lentils and more.

Kiev Market

3716 N. Nevada, 4823 E. Sprague and 16004 E. Sprague; facebook.com/kievmarket

This market sells traditional ingredients and brands from Russia and nearby countries, along with a variety of breads, herbal extracts and vinegars.

La Michoacana Mini Market

9907 E. Sprague, 926-8251

This authentic Mexican restaurant also houses a mini mart stocked with traditional Latin ingredients so you can try your best to replicate the restaurant's flavors at home.

Lieng & Phane Oriental Market

13124 E. Sprague, Spokane Valley, 922-0924

This family-owned and operated Asian market opened back in 2004 and has become known for offering hard-to-find items commonly used in authentic Asian cuisine.

Malinka Euro Market & Bakery

9564 and 18203 E. Appleway Blvd.,

Spokane Valley, 321-7479

This is a popular go-to for fresh fish, ice cream treats, hummus, cheese, milk, baked treats and other products from all across Europe, including bread and meat.

Mariam International Foods

116 E. Wellesley, 489-4961

This Middle Eastern store sells a variety of foods, meats and Mediterranean dairy products, like Gaimar and Valbreso brands.

Mariupol European Bakery & Deli

3329 E. Sprague, 535-4426

Here you'll find smoked fish, imported sausages, jars of pickled eggplant, cheeses and dumplings, along with freshly baked rye, cakes, chocolates and specialty food from Russia.

Miller's Country Store

1326 Baldy Mountain Rd., Sandpoint,

208-263-9446

This market, deli and bakery sells bulk ingredients at wholesale prices along with specialty products such as Amish rolled butter, raw milk and farm fresh eggs.

Odessa Deli

11415 E. Trent, 928-4272

This market offers a wide selection of meats, sweets and branded, imported products from Russia, Germany, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Israel.

Oriental Gifts & Food

4270 W. Riverbend Ave., Post Falls,

208-773-4757

A one-stop-shop in North Idaho for organic and natural Korean, Chinese, Thai and Japanese ingredients, the shop also offers teas, energy supplements, Asian diet food products and spices.

Oriental Market

3919 E. Trent,, 535-3936

Locally owned since 1977, this Asian foods market sells a variety of specialty produce, including persimmons, pomelos and lychee and other ethnic products, such as ramen noodles.

Phung-Mart

317 W. Sixth St., Suite 103, Moscow,

208-892-0938

This Asian grocery store serves the Moscow area with fresh vegetables and other traditional ingredients, like spicy pickled bamboo, sesame paste, tofu and kimchi.

PNW Halal Meats

1045 N. Grand Ave., Pullman, 339-6294

This Palouse vendor sells Middle Eastern, Persian, Indian and Bangladeshi pantry items, including halal meats, vegetables and dairy products.

Shin's Asian Market

1475 S. Grand Ave., Pullman, 339-6084

This Asian market on the Palouse stocks goods needed to make a variety of authentic dishes, including samyang spicy cheese noodles, kimchi and butter chips.

Vina Asian Market

1715 E. Francis, 315-9478

This grocery is filled with Asian fruits and vegetables like dragon fruit, bitter melon, kohlrabi, and breadfruit, along with staple ingredients including fish, rice and noodles.