I have always loved uber local food markets. When traveling, there is not a whole lot that excites me more than the cacaphony buzzing around markets like the Boqueria in Barcelona or Campo di Fiori in Rome. Because we humans are inextricably connected to our food source, these eons old trading posts provide a perfect window into the rich culture surrounding them. For a self-proclaimed foodie and lover of humanity it just doesn't get any better than this!
My recent obsession with local specialty markets in the Phoenix area has has not been disappointing. What started out as a hunt for authentic ingredients for pad thai has led to the discovery of concentrated pockets of people representing the rich cultural diversity woven into the Phoenix fabric. For tasty discoveries and heartwarming cultural connections , meld into these markets or join me on an upcoming market crawl!
The Experience: This Saturday morning farmer's market actively embodies the charming nostalgia created by markets of old. Not only is it a food oasis for downtown Phoenix residents, it has become a gathering place and cultural hub . Sandwiched between local musicians and food trucks are local vendors selling a wide variety of fresh organic produce, specialty items and mouth-watering street food. Together they create much of what I call the Phoenix Vibe.
Cultural Highlights (Representative of the Phoenix population)
Jerusalem Bakery..."Oh My" mouth watering breads. My favorite...Turkish Borekas.
Al Hamka-IRC Farmers (IRC is an acronym for International Rescue Committee)
Adobo Dragon- Latin/Chinese fusion fare also found at DeSoto Market
Paz Taqueria Truck- Mexican food with truck painted by local artist Lalo Cota
Vegan and Organic Food Culture represented by a plethora of vendors
Out of all the culinary experiences I've had I don't hesitate to say that slowly savoring one of these Turkish Borekas from the Jerusalem bakery was one of the most memorable!
The Experience: From the whiff of wondrous spices upon entering, to the rumble of languages I don't understand this place is exquisite! This tiny international market carries all the right stuff for middle eastern and mediterranean cuisines. Olive oils, specialty flours and legumes abound. My favorite part is the back wall complete with a halal butcher, a do-not -skip cheese & olive section and oh....the bakery !
Tasty bites you must try!
In-house Baklawa: The honey oozes out with just the right thickness over a flaky pastry.
Labne Cheese with Olives: Ask the attendant for a cheese and olive pairing.
Fresh Pita and other regional breads: Soft and fresh...always!
The in-house restaurant: Tasty and affordable middle-eastern fare.
The Experience: Los Altos Ranch Market is actually a chain of stores catering to cuisines of Latin and South America. Amazingly, it's largeness has not diluted the experience one bit. From the banda music playing overhead to signage ending in -eria give you get the sense that not only that you are in a different country, but that you are in for a special treat.
La Tortilleria: Fresh tortillas made before your very eyes!
La Cremeria: Cache of regional creams and cheeses. TastiNGS available!
Aguas Frescas (I know...it's not an -eria). Choose from 10 different kinds of "Fresh Waters" including pistachio, banana, mango, coconut, melon, tamarind and more!
The Cremeria serving creamy options with varying concentrations of salt & spice.
#4 Chinese Cultural Center and the Big L Market
The Experience: While there are quite a few large markets dishing up daikon & bok choy around the valley, a pilgrimage to this particular site is an Arizona must do! The stunning gardens featuring replicas of actual Chinese Pagodas and reflecting ponds serve as a symbol of Phoenix's improved relationship with the Chinese people living in Arizona. Fun Fact: In 2016 according to AZCentral Asian immigrants were the fasted growing group in Arizona!
Market & Cultural Center Highlights
Wide selection of noodles, teas, legumes ...and lucky bamboo!
Chinese bakery offering authentic yolk pastries and traditional moon cake
Zongzi-Sticky rice with sweet red bean paste wrapped in bamboo leaves-YUM!
Ready to heat chinese dumplings. You by them, they heat, you eat!
Keep your eye out for announcements of annual on-site celebrations.
My first Zongzi-Sticky Rice with sweet red bean paste wrapped in bamboo leaves-yum!
The Experience: During a cooking kick about 8 years ago I was told to go to Lee Lee's to find fish sauce, rice noodles and lemon grass. With aisles named after countries instead of food categories it was a little overwhelming at first, but a walk through the produce section packed with exotic fruits had me hooked. Nowadays there are a handful of similar markets, but this was the first of it's kind in the valley and comes with a sweet love story to boot! With Meng's permission (the guy in the yellow shirt as he calls himself) I occassionaly do tours in his store samplING exotic fruits, telliNG his story and the story of the community that has grown up around this place!
Fried Mackarel from the fish department. They'll fry it, season it and you take it home!
Anything from the Thai bakery at the front of the store has been fabulous
Seasonal exotic fruits like hairy rambutan, longan, jackfruit and durian
Any kind of noodle, rice, or sauce you could imagine.
Caters to cuisines throughout the world
Disclaimer: I knowthere are other fabulous markets around town...but I reserve the right to write more about this topic later! If you have a favorite market in the valley or anywhere around the world...please share!
Hi! I am Lori Ann, the passionate local that decided in 2016 that Phoenix needed walking tours...so I went for it! Here are some things I've discovered along the way. I hope you'll join me on my journey!