A Dong Market

In the mood for pickled banana blossom? How about preserved duck eggs, bean paste pastries or perhaps the famously foul durian fruit? These can all be found at Salem's A Dong Market, along with a wide selection of Asian spices, dried mushrooms, frozen whole fish and fresh herbs. Several friends met me at “The Dong” today and together we spent almost an hour perusing the tiny store, examining labels, smelling the herbs and ogling the giant woks, bowls and rice steamers and the gorgeous dinnerware.

We each walked away with a thrilling bag full of imported goodies. Some purchases were clearly made for the sake of novelty, but A Dong carries some more familiar fare as well, and often at much better prices than can be found in a regular grocery or natural foods store. Asian staples such as lemongrass, galangal, sesame seed, chili paste and cilantro are very inexpensively priced, as is their extensive selection of dehydrated mushrooms. Vegetarians and vegans with and adventurous spirit will find a wide array of canned and jarred meat analogues in various shapes and flavors. I spotted mock abalone, turtle, pork and chicken, as well as something slightly resembling a styrofoam chicken egg which was labeled “vegetarian yam.”

The store appeared to be clean and the clerk was friendly, if somewhat perplexed by the oohs and ahs of a half dozen foodies extolling the virtues of various styles of mochi. I was slightly disappointed at the selection of frozen foods on this visit, but I think it's rather hit or miss. Sometimes the wall-length freezer case is bursting with seafood, various meatballs, and whole frozen fruits and vegetables. Today the selection was spartan, and my friend Jacob, who is always on the lookout for good spices, was especially disheartened to find the box marked “kafir lime leaves” empty, with the exception of a few stems and crumbs. But overall he was charmed by the store and its offerings, as was the rest of the group.

I caught myself thinking more than once that I'd like to buy one of everything, but I managed to narrow down my purchases to three, a pack of sesame crisps for my kids, a bag of something called snow crackers (which I bought because it had a cute bee on the label) that turned out to be an equally salty and sweet rice cookie, and my prize acquisition, a jar of European Formula Ovaltine. Manufactured in Thailand for Ovaltine International, this powdered malted drink mix bears little resemblance to what you find on most grocery shelves in America, and in fact the recipe for Ovaltine varies widely by region. As a malt fanatic, I was very pleased to find this super-malty, unsweetened version right here at home.

I was first introduced to the Dong by my dear friend Gabrielle, whose devotion to Badaifuku Mochi Rice Cakes brings her into the store frequently, despite the hefty price of eight dollars for a pack of six. A popular item at metropolitan Sushi bars, Gabrielle got hooked on the chewy, gelatinous little cookies while living in New York City. I guess you can't put a price on the taste of nostalgia or true love, which is why I'm headed back to the Dong tomorrow, to buy out the rest of the Ovaltine stock.


starlit said...

great piece on a great store with mostly reasonable prices. we stock up on all kinds of noodles, sauces, spices, and teas (all priced much better than at the major supermarkets). i especially love the rice-cashew vietnamese cookies, a treat at 99 cents!

eboston said...

Where is Dong's market located?

tracylee said...

I love A Dong Market and used to be able to walk there when I lived in the area! My favorite item (of many) is the Moon Cake with 1 egg yolk baked in the center.

eboston - they're at Silverton and Lansing.

BK said...

Oops, I should have included the address:
2990 Silverton Road Northeast
Salem, OR 97301-0850
(503) 371-3076

jeff said...

My mom started shopping at A Dong when they were located in a house on River Rd. in Keizer (since demolished, I believe).

Great place to go if you are into Vietnamese cooking.

Question: Did anyone visit Kim Huong Vietnamese Restaurant next door? I think it's the oldest Vietnamese restaurant in the Salem area, and I've enjoyed it when I've gone there.

Anonymous said...

I love this market! Some of my favorite memories of past summers are riding out there on my motorcycle, filling my shoulder bag with goodies, and hauling it all home to cook a delicious meal. My husband and I almost wished we could have registered for our tableware at A Dong for our wedding! Love their pretty dishes.

The prices are great and the selection is pretty good. I like to go when I don't need to buy anything, just to see what I can find to inspire me or to try for the first time. I think this is the only place in town to purchase Thai basil? Correct me if I'm wrong. But it is always fresh and well priced. I love it.

I've heard amazing things about Kim Huong Vietnamese restaurant next door... someone want to do a review? Or maybe I should go today for some Pho. Mmmmm.

Karen said...

Such a great day at A Dong! Lucky for me, I discovered the kids don't like mochi ice cream. I got the strawberry kind, which is my favorite. Who doesn't like pink food, especially pink ice cream. Well, apparently my offspring don't. Just means more for me!
I scored and got a huge bottle of loquat cough syrup for $7 or $8 dollars. They have a small selection of Asian herbal remedies, but what they had was everything we need.
Can't wait to head back to The Dong to buy some more exotic goodies. I also want to get one of those t-shirts that says "I shop at The Dong". :)

Amecameca said...

A Dong is good, but I prefer Wing Wa Market which is just down the road a bit. It has a better selection of Chinese groceries, including some hard-to-find ingredients for Sichuan food like fava bean chili paste, and sun-facing chilies. They used to have roast pork and duck, but sadly they didn't sell enough and they don't have that any more. If you enjoyed your visit to A Dong, I am sure you will enjoy Wing Wa as well. Take the last right turn off Silverton Rd. before you get to Lancaster and you will see it on your left.

Alas, the best price for mochi ice cream is at Trader Joes!

Anonymous said...

Wing Wa and A Dong are equally great Asian food markets. You can most likely get the same items at either store but A Dong has the benefit of having THE BEST PHO RESTAURANT IN TOWN next door. Kim Huong Restaurant has great Pho, super quick and very healthy. The owners or employees are always very nice and normally when I go in, a few of them are sitting at a table right next to me eating their meals as well. We've tried quite a few Pho restaurants in Salem and Portland and Kim Huong is our favorite.

Anonymous said...

The greatest at A Dong are their Vietnamese sandwiches, a lunch bargain, they used to heat them up for you but I don't know if they still do. Also, amazing fresh rice noodles in the refrigerator in the back, great for Vietnamese dishes, when they have them. I agree, Kim Huong is great for lunch (grilled shrimp on noodles, yum).

Anonymous said...

Looking for red Thai chilies; aka Bird's Eye Chilies. Will A Dong Maket carry these?

Chuck Bradley said...

+1 on the Banh Mi (Mentioned by Anon 10/7/10.) They make 'em fresh daily and they are delicious for only $3! They sell out early. When they're gone, they're gone, so don't wait too late to pick 'em up.