Need to find vegan jjajang sauce? Looking for ube halaya with no milk?
I’m here to help you navigate the best way to find vegan items at Asian stores here in Austin.
This is part of Austin Food Blogger Alliance 2022 City Guide. Go check out all that Austin has to offer!
Here’s a list of stores that I visit when I need ingredients or equipment. All are a bit different and I will highlight the best vegan items to get there. You ask, “Why do you need to go to these Asian stores so much?” Well, it’s part of my heritage. My mom is Filipina, I grew up in Japan and I’m part of a spiritual tradition from India. I feel at home at these places. I love hearing Tagalog in the aisle, being able to read Japanese packaging, and talking to the cashier about some puja items for an upcoming Hindu holiday.
asahiimports.com – 2 locations Main: 6105 Burnet Rd Austin, TX 78757
South: 3005 S Lamar Suite B-105 B Austin, TX 78704
Closed on Mondays
This Japanese store has been in business since 1967. They recently opened a new south location in the fall of 2021 with great success. I have been shopping at Asahi since 2007 and have seen them expand their initial space to add more frozen food and pantry items. Asahi Imports has a loyalty card too so ask for one to start earning towards a reward for purchases. They may even have vegan matcha soft serve on the weekend at the Burnet location!
Related Post: Favorite Japanese Kitchen Tools
Unique things to buy here:
Fresh, in-house Onigiri – Vegan options – kombu, miso shishito, radish greens, umeboshi plum or paste
Furikake – Check ingredients (some have fish, bonito, egg, shrimp). I watched Doraemon as a child and this is ao nori and sesame seeds.
Japanese cucumber – this is the best tasting cucumber with only tiny seeds and a long, thin body with burps (these are the bumps on cucumbers).
Japanese Shiitake – I love to buy artisan shiitake grown in Japan with no added sulfites.
Myoga – fresh ginger buds
Haiga rice -This rice is partially milled brown rice that still contains the germ. The Hukkura brand is my favorite kind!
Koji and Rice Bran – For making pickles and amazake – see related fermenting post here.
S&B Japanese Curry Powder – The best spices for making Japanese curry rice – カレーライス .
Sun Noodle Ramen noodles – These are fresh made ramen noodles from California. The Kaedama (which means extra portions) and some of the other packages do not come with any broth. You can find large packs in the freezer.
Mochi Crackers – These crackers looks like a crunchy explosion. They are made of glutinous rice, fried, and then coated with soy sauce and seaweed.
Hmart – 11301 Lakeline Boulevard, Austin, TX 78717
This is a Korean megastore! I love going to Hmart and make the trek from South Austin about once every 2 months. The produce and fruit section is amazing. I generally buy organic and local food but I often make an exception when shopping here.
They have best selection of Korean products and homewares but also food from all over Asia. Sometimes you can find organic brands here too. Hmart also has an eatery with restaurants, a common area and live music and events. There are also beauty, K-pop, gift stores, appliances shops, and bakery.
Things to buy here:
Fresh mushrooms – A wide variety of mushrooms, including baby King Trumpet
Asian fruit – Lychee, Korean pears, Dragon fruit (Pitaya – white, pink, yellow)
Asian root veggies – cassava, yucca, taro, all kinds of sweet potatoes, UBE!
Korean cucumber, radishes, perilla leaves
Kabocha squash – I consistently find these at the best price. This is my favorite winter squash.
Asian greens – Shanghai bok choy, Chinese Broccoli, Snow pea tips and more
Vegan Korean Sauces – doenjang, gochuchang, jjajang sauce, soup soy sauce
I like the Sempio brand. Look at ingredients and try to find ones without preservatives and are naturally brewed/fermented.
Get Joanne Molinaro’s cookbook The Korean Vegan to make jjajangmyeon!
Sesame seeds and sesame oil
Seaweed – Both Japanese and Korean seaweeds can be found here, including onigiri seaweed that comes with the plastic layer for picnics on the go
Pickles & Banchan & Kimchi – read ingredients and check for fish sauce, anchovies, or shrimp
Frozen and sometimes fresh tteok – Korean rice cakes
Stainless Steel Chopsticks – These can go in your dishwasher’s top rack!
Butane Gas Stove – Perfect for hotpot at the table or emergencies
MT Supermarket – 10901 N Lamar Blvd G, Austin, TX 78753
This huge store is located in Austin’s Chinatown center off North Lamar and is the biggest international store in Central Texas. Before Hmart opened, I was mostly shopping at MT Supermarket and have been since I moved to Austin in 2007.
MT Supermarket also has food from all over the world and I hear many languages when I shop.
The aisles are labeled for ease of shopping. Be sure to check out the equipment section if you want large bowls to wash greens.
Things to buy here:
Frozen mock meat – There is giantic floor freezer full of frozen mock meat from Taiwan. You won’t find this variety at any other Asian store in Austin. Read labels as some may contain eggs or milk/whey protein. You can find vegan shrimp, crab, ham, chicken, pork, lamb, fish balls, cutlets, and vegan hot pot mixes.
Companion Foods Mock Duck -This brand from Taiwan makes a variety of canned vegan meats including mock duck
Seasoned tofu and soy products – There is mushroom and dry “tofu” , tofu skin/beancurd sheets/beancurd sticks, dried soy meats
Canned Asian goods – great prices on bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, red bean paste, Lao Gan Ma (Spicy Chili Crisp), fermented tofu
Noodles – They have the widest variety of noodles: dried ramen, Chinese noodles, Thai rice noodles in all sizes, mung thread, many Filipino pancit varieties
Mushroom Powder – Adds great umami flavor!
Calamansi Juice – Frozen kalamansi juice packets
Ube Jam – The ITC brand does not contain any milk
Mochi Ice Cream – Imura brand – Vegan Coconut Mochi ice cream. My favorite is Matcha!
Carbon steel wok – If you have a gas stove, you need a rounded bottom wok to make great stir fries. I love the one I bought here in 2008. It’s naturally non-stick if you take good care of it!
Ceramic soup spoons – Great prices on white ceramic ware, including spoons.
99 Ranch – The Crescent, 6929 Airport Blvd. Suite #110 Austin, TX 78752
This popular Asian supermarket chain started in 1984 and has locations all over the US. In Austin, it’s at The Crescent, another Asian shopping center in Austin off of Lamar and Airport Blvd. I honestly have only been here a couple times after visiting Kinokuniya Bookstore and going to the Daiso. It has primarily Taiwanese and Chinese brands, but like most Asian supermarkets, they carry other foods from Japan, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines.
Things to Buy here:
A-Sha Noodles – Yummy Taiwanese non-fried noodles. Only wheat, salt and water. A cute Kerropi package!
Hawaiian Papaya – Once you’ve had a Hawaiian papaya you realize others don’t come close!
Wu Chung Mock Chicken – made from wheat gluten so gluten-free people be aware.
Frozen Bao and Jiaozi – check ingredients on labels, try mustard greens!
Fermented black beans
Organic Roasted Chestnuts – this is one of my favorite healthy snacks!
Desi Brothers – 3421 W. William Cannon Dr #133, Austin, TX 78745
Grocery store in North and South Austin that carries products from the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East. One great thing about most Indian stores is that they don’t have a meat or fish section. This has one tiny freezer in the back corner that carries frozen meals with meat.
It was previously know as Gandhi Bazaar which has another location off Spicewood Springs Rd.
Desi Brothers carries great produce and pantry items for making traditional Indian food from many different regions. It’s a very organized and bright space.
Things to buy here:
Indian veggies: different eggplant varieties, gourds and squashes, bitter melon, tindora, okra, moringa pods (drumsticks).
Fresh herbs: curry leaves, methi (fenugreek leaves), cilantro, dill, green chilies
Organic spices: Check Jiva Organics. Buy the smallest container if you don’t use spices on the regular.
Organic grains and lentils: I eat kitchari (rice and mung bean stew) almost every week so having a good source of organic mung beans is a staple. See link to recipe below.
I also like getting gluten-free flours here, like chickpea, amarantha, millet and buckwheat flour. Always a better deal than health food stores.
Fresh made dosa and idli batter: Perfectly fermented and ready to use. You can buy the pans here too!
Spice mixes and blends: I generally make my own spice mixtures but sometimes I will get a container of sambar powder for back up.
Rose water – You can sometimes find orange blossom and kewra (pandan flower) water too.
Frozen goods: Don’t want to make your own samosas or chapatis? Check out the freezer. Just make sure to read the labels. Many items can have milk, ghee and butter.
Stainless Steel: Find stainless steel cups, katoris (shallow, small bowls), thali plates, cookware
Puja items: incense, arati lamps, diyas for Diwali, pick up a Bhagavad Gita and learn more about living a life in the mode of goodness without the consumption of animals.
Related Post: Learn to make Kitchari
Man Pasand – 3601 W William Cannon Dr Ste 750 Austin, TX 78749
Small vegetarian Indian Grocery store. Even though it’s a bit small and sometimes not very organized, I like visiting to buy a few things. The products are very similar to what they have at Desi Brothers.
They also have costume jewelry, forehead bindis, and Ayurveda formulations.
Things I buy here:
Ashoka Mango Pickle/ Pataks Mixed Pickle – I like these particular brands as they sometimes have pickle in olive oil. I try to avoid cottonseed oils that are often in Indian pickles.
Frozen kachori – I love kachori! They are slow fried dough balls with lentil or pea fillings. Look for dairy free ones.
Fresh frozen coconut – Great for coconut chutney and South Indian meals.
Pani Puri shells – The sensation of a pani puri popping in your mouth is a needed experience. Look up a recipe online and switch out the yogurt with cashew yogurt or kefir.
Sev – fried chickpea noodles. I’m addicted to these! Try to find without dairy and palm oil.
Dry Samosa/Kachori – Fried foods are my nemesis. I only get these occasionally because they are so tasty and hard to resist.
Arati Lamps – They have beautiful brass arati lamps here and outfits for Laddu Gopal around Diwali
Filipino Asian Mart
Filipino Asian Mart – 615 W Slaughter Lane Suite 110, Austin, TX 78748
This is a small Filipino store that also serves food that changes on a daily basis. Maybe only the Biko – coconut sweet rice, is vegan. I basically will come here for just some small staples if I don’t want to drive up North. The owner, Jing, told me that when my cookbook is published she would sell it in her store. Super sweet!
Things I buy here:
Ube powder – dried purple ube powder to use in desserts
Ube halaya – look for brands without milk and food coloring. I like the ITC brand.
Frozen items – ube, kalamansi, moringa leaves, coconut, guava
Nata de Coco – fun coconut gel made by a special process created by Filipinos using a bacteria.
Pancit noodles: My favorite are Pancit Bihon (thin rice noodles). You can also get Pancit Canton (yellow wheat noodles). Sometimes there might be a variety flavored with malunggay (moringa).
Tausi beans – fermented black beans
Sometimes they have plastic-free, handmade brooms that we call walis. They are great for sweeping indoors. I also have bought a Filipino comic here that explains the precolonial culture and wisdom of the Philippines, Maharlikan Chronicles.
If I had to pick a store that would have most of these items I would pick either Hmart or MT Supermarket.
Again, this is just a small overview! New products come in everyday and things get switched out. The best way is to go yourself and explore! I would love to know what you find!
Come share with me on Instagram @veggiebytes or @plantbasedpacific
Would you be interested in a vegan tour of these stores? I did these in 2019 and would like to do it again.
Contact me : info @ chefveggie.com (take out spaces – I’m trying to prevent SPAM)
My Top 10 Tips to enjoy your shopping trip and cooking at home when you return:
1) Keep an open mind!
2) Go for the fresh produce…that’s going to be vegan!
3) Read, Read, Read labels…even if you bought it before.
4) Take your time and slow down. Relax and see it as a cultural exchange.
5) Learn authentic recipes from good sources and convert them to plant-based.
6) Participate in local cultural events to learn more about food from different countries.
7) Don’t demonize MSG more than other ingredients in processed food. There are worse things to worry about. MSG has less sodium than pure salt. It’s actually racism in the guise of health concern. I don’t know of any other ingredient that gets so much hate that restaurants have to say they don’t have it. Learn from https://msgfacts.com/
Words for MSG in other languages: Ajinomoto-in Japanese Vetsin-in Tagalog
8) Try something new on your next shopping trip!
9) Know that Asian food is super diverse, just like all the people who come from Asian countries. Some food is fancy, some pedestrian, some healthy, some processed etc.
10) Don’t call everything a curry, learn traditional names of dishes when possible.
I’d love it if you leave a comment below! Let me know what your favorite vegan find was!
ありがとうございます & Salamat,