Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The 99 Ranch Market in Chinatown, Las Vegas!


     This article was edited on 9-10-2014.  A few photos from a recent shopping trip were added!  The publishing date was changed to today's date, because this market is still as great as it was several years ago.  

     I have shopped at the 99 Ranch Market in Chinatown, Las Vegas for many years.  The 99 Ranch Market is a busy market that offers a vast selection of great Asian food!

     The 99 Ranch Market is located in the plaza at 4155 Spring Mountain Road at the intersection of South Valley View.  The Chinatown Mall, The Performing Arts Theatre, The Diamond Bakery, Sam Woo BBQ, Mother's Korean Grill,  a Chinese natural medicine pharmacy, Spicy City, Kapit Bahay Filipino Fast Food and the Harbor Palace are just a few of the great businesses that are located at this plaza.

     The 99 Ranch Market is not your typical asian market!  The produce section is stocked with many exotic fruits and vegetables that are rarely seen in common grocery stores.  The prices are reasonable, because this market has a high customer flow volume.
     Today I bought Indian bitter melon, fresh purple yam, Thai eggplant, Thai basil, mushrooms, green onions and lotus root.  All the items were very fresh and ripe!  A wide variety of fresh mushrooms were stocked.  King Trumpet, oyster, beech, brown beech, cows ear fungus, shiitake, Chinese black mushrooms and several other fungi varieties were offered fresh!  Jackfruit and durian are huge fruits that can weigh over 30 pounds and they were cut into manageable portions.  A nice selection of fresh Asian herbs were on the shelves too.  Fresh herbs are essential when cooking Vietnamese cuisine.

     The butcher shop is devoted to pork!  Some of the cleanest, nicest cuts of pork were offered at the butcher shop. The butchers at the 99 Ranch Market are some of the highest skilled craftsman that I have ever seen.  An apprentice butcher would be lucky to work with this crew.  The butcher shop was so busy, that the sound of meat saws was non stop!  Every cut of pork that you could imagine was offered at the butcher shop.  I selected a pork tenderloin that was on sale.  The pork tenderloin was the cleanest, masterfully butchered pork tenderloin that I have seen in years!  Absolutely no silver floss or fat was on the tenderloin at all.
     The butcher shop meat department had a large selection of chicken, duck, squab and quail.  Duck tongue was on the shelf and that is a gourmet item that I have been wanting to post in a recipe.  Deer meat was stocked too.  Every item is packaged with perfection in mind and all it takes is one look to see that the butchers package food items in a way that can only be described as professional.  These butchers are masters of their art!

     The tofu and bean curd section in the market was extensive.  The noodle and dried goods aisle offered a great selection.  Spices were cheap.  The canned and bottled goods aisles were stocked full of common and specialty asian items.  A great selection of Chinese vinegars and regional cooking wines were stocked.
     Dried, salted and fresh seaweed was offered.  Any kind of dried fish, shrimp, squid or jellyfish was offered.  Ready to eat jellyfish was stocked too.  I purchased some fish meal balls that were stuffed with roe.
     A very large variety of dim sum creations, bean cakes, dumplings, fish balls and steam buns were offered in the frozen food aisle.

     The frozen seafood aisle offered one of the largest varieties of exotic seafood that I have ever seen!  Varieties of sea cucumber were offered fresh and frozen.  Frozen nhong (Thai silk worms) was an item that I could not resist buying!  Nhong was in the seafood section freezer with other specialty items.
     The fresh seafood market offered a very extensive selection of fresh fish and most of the items were sustainable.  The live seafood section was remarkably clean and well kept!  Large aquarium tanks with several popular kinds of live fish were awesome to look at!  Live seafood is not something that is offered in most American grocery stores, but it is commonplace in asian markets.  It simply does not get any fresher than live!  Large live prawns and shellfish were offered.  Periwinkles and cockles were offered and they are hard to find!  The Maine lobsters in the tank were huge and very lively!

     Rice wines and fruit wines from asia were offered as well as Chinese brands of cigarettes.  There is a section of the store that is devoted to low price table wines and wines used for cooking.  There is also a glass display case by the customer service counter that contains premium quality Chinese wine.  Some of the very best traditional Shaoxing Wine can be found in this display case.  There is a world of difference in quality between a Shaoxing Wine that is meant to be used for cooking and one that is meant to be served on a special occasion.  A very nice selection was posted in the pictures above.

     Asian beauty products, cooking utensils and table settings were up for sale.  Traditional rice bowls, banchan side dishes, noodle bowls and elegant chopsticks can be found in this merchandise aisle.

     There is so many great items to choose from at the 99 Ranch Market, that I cannot possibly list them all!  If you are into reading labels and window shopping, then you could get a great education on Asian food at this market.  If you are into shopping for difficult to find Asian specialty food items, then moderation must be exerted, because the vast selection is so great, that it is all too easy to fill the grocery cart till it overflows!

     I must say, like every asian market, the aisles are narrow and making way for other busy shoppers is part of being polite.  It seemed like every time that I got out of the way of another shopper, I was forced to look at an interesting item on a shelf that I had never seen before.  I got the feeling that I was being directed to focus on certain items in the store.  Communication like this is something that has to be experienced to be understood.  The funny thing is, this experience is like being a human pinball in an Asian food shopper pachinko game.  This experience led to many comical moments that only a smile and laughter can express!

     The 99 Ranch Market staff were very attentive and courteous.  Some English and Spanish is spoken and several Asian languages are spoken fluently, so there is no need to be shy about asking questions.  The Asian customers like to be of help with questions too and they get a kick out of how Americans mispronounce nearly every Asian word.
     Funny moments can occur when trying to phonetically pronounce the words on some of the Asian food product labels!  Even orating English language words on product labels can lead to hilarious moments, like when asking which kind of fish balls would be best for a certain Thai soup!  Sometimes it is wiser to just point at a product than it is to try to say the words out loud, because the meaning may not be what one expects, especially when Vietnamese pho products are involved.  Las Vegas is a place where something funny is cherished, so never feel embarrassed if innocent words lead to laugher!

     I more than just merely recommend the 99 Ranch Market for those who seek a great Asian food marketplace!  The selection, variety and quality of the food is superb.  The prices are right too!  The pictures above are of a few of the items that I brought home today.  Yum!

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