Food + Drink

From the Chronicle Kitchen:
Asian Market Shopper

Our guest blogger today is the fabulous Andrea Nguyen, noted cookbook author and food journalist, and author of Chronicle’s recently released iPhone app Asian Market Shopper.

Are you intimidated by Asian ingredients? Have you ever explored the varied and unique offerings in an Asian market, and purchased something you had no idea how to use in a recipe? Leave a comment and you’ll be eligible to win one of three iTunes Store download codes for the app we’ll be giving away!

Asian Market Shopper: App in Action Video

When the Asian Market Shopper launched, a number of users mistook it for a cookbook. Yikes—it was designed as a multimedia, interactive reference tool!

Like many people, I’ve had my fair share of confusion at Asian markets. One person’s remedy, as reported in Sunset magazine, was to bring one of my cookbooks to the store. I understood her plight as I’ve jotted down notes from cookbook glossaries before embarking on a shopping trip. A potent portable solution was needed and that’s why we conceived the Asian Market Shopper as an iPhone app that helps people understand, purchase, and use Asian ingredients.

I wanted to demo the app in action but it’s frankly awkward for me to do it. So I persuaded David Hawk to be the guinea pig. His mission was to test drive the Asian Market Shopper to buy ingredients for a meal based on the app’s recipe collection.


We met on Clement Street in San Francisco and our unscripted afternoon was captured in the video. The small neighborhood market where we shopped was not particularly English-friendly. My Mandarin Chinese skills were basic enough to roughly explain our purpose.

What really broke the ice was the app. When I showed the store clerk a few sample ingredient photos and audio pronunciations, she dropped her shyness and grinned ear-to-ear, giggling with delight.

The Asian Market Shopper is a nifty smartphone tool that can lend a hand when you’re in a bind. It also gives you a set of foundational recipes and technique videos to keep in your back pocket. What I discovered that afternoon was that the app is also great for making new friends.

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  • Halley | Flyers September 29, 2011 at 12:39 am

    Asian ingredients aren't intimidating. They're actually interesting because they bring out a different taste to food that a Western palette would find appetizing.


  • Erin September 29, 2011 at 11:51 am

    Love this idea! I'm constantly confused by all the variations of chili sauces—roasted, sweet, sirarcha, sambal…would love to finally learn about each and keep them straight!


  • alex September 29, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    I don't want this, I NEED this!


  • Andrea Nguyen September 29, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    Totally agree with you! Unfortunately, it can be tough for many cooks out there wanting to prepare new foods with unfamiliar Asian ingredients. The app helps them get over a major hump.


  • Elizabeth Q September 29, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    I love shopping for Asian ingredients. I have brought American friends to Asian markets, given them the tour and bought ingredients, then cooked dishes with them. So much fun to explore the world this way!


  • Catherine September 29, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    this is just what I need when I go to the market. Despite the friendly people at one of my favorite Asian market I often feel intimidated.


  • Noah Lessard September 29, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    This is a great idea! It will make it so much easier when deciding to cook an Asian meal on the fly!


  • Dario B. September 29, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    OMG, would love to expand my flavors knowing ingredients in more depth. ^_^


  • Linda Delcastilho September 29, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    This is such a great idea. Having this assistant while shopping would be such a helpful resource.


  • kelly September 29, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    This app is a great idea! Agree with the comments regarding the wide varieties of specific items. I look forward to Andrea’s recommendations. Thanks to @ruhlman for bringing this app to my attention.


  • wendy September 29, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    Shopping for Asian ingredients can be somewhat intimidating, especially if you don't live on one of the coasts. I would cook more Asian foods if I knew where to go for the ingredients (beyond the basics).


  • Mindy September 29, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    I LOVE Asian markets. I went crazy looking for one near where I live and finally found one only about 15 minutes away. Came home with an armload of stuff!


  • Lisa O September 29, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    I love this idea! It would make it so much easier to try new things!


  • Cindy L September 29, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    What a cool idea! Definitely would be helpful, as although I grew up in a Chinese household and was taught how to cook, there are plenty of dishes that I want to try that I don't quite remember what ingredients are needed.


  • Betty N September 29, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    What a fabulous idea! This would be useful even as an Asian who has shopped in Chinatown many times. This is so useful when signs are hard to read.


  • NitaW September 29, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    I love Asian foods and many times have left the market with what turned out to be not quite the right ingredient! This will be a great app for men:-)


  • NitaW September 29, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    That was to have been ” for me”, but men will like it too. Lol…


  • Anne Latham September 29, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    This would be WONDERFUL, just knowing what the different ingredients do, how they taste, and what to do with them. I would love, love, love this!


  • Cooking Pho Real September 29, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    What a great app! I usually would google image my ingredients to find what I'm looking for, but I'm not always successful. The language barrier also makes it difficult sometimes to find what i'm looking for. Thanks for the great app!


  • Kei September 29, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    Would be a great help in choosing brands or spontaneous purchases at the store 🙂


  • kmac September 29, 2011 at 11:54 pm

    Looks like a really useful app! The video was right on. The shelves of soy sauce hit home for me. Hope your developing for Android, as well.


  • Debra Hartmann September 30, 2011 at 4:18 am

    You must have been Asian in a past life, my friends tell me, because of my love for and curiosity about Asian foods. I would love to shop with Andrea, but next best would be to shop with this app! It looks awesome!


  • Derek September 30, 2011 at 8:19 am

    Great idea! I also love your dumplings cookbook. Can't wait to try the app.


  • Shannon September 30, 2011 at 10:07 am

    I am a reluctant Asian market shopper and would like help! 🙂


  • holllyyyyk September 30, 2011 at 10:11 am

    My mom would be so proud of me if I started cooking Asian meals… help me make my mom proud!


  • Lynne September 30, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    I love, love, LOVE this!!! I shop at our local Asian markets often, but so many times I'm not familiar with some veggies, or another product – this will make my shopping a total joy (not that it isn't already – but this will help me find more items to try)!!

    Thanks so much to Andrea for this


  • Scott johnston October 1, 2011 at 2:45 am

    Wonderful idea! Just what I need!


  • mike October 2, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    Any progress on that Android version? Anything?


  • Nancie McDermott October 2, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    I already have this handy-fun-beautiful app on my i-phone, and I'm here to testify: it rocks. Wonderful for shoppers and also excellent as a reference to what's-what while looking through cookbooks and deciding what to cook. Beautiful images (curry leaves! cinnamon/cassia bark! sichuan peppercorns!) show shopkeepers what I want, and the scoop on each ingredient helps when an item goes by multiple names. Love this app, since unlike that young nice man making shaking beef, I don't get to go shopping with A. Nguyen by my side.


  • Mag October 3, 2011 at 1:30 am

    This looks like an amazing app. It’s like bringing an Asian friend with you to the store.


  • slammie October 3, 2011 at 9:05 am

    very cool giveaway!


  • Peter October 5, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    Noah, Kei, and Lynne, congratulations – you are the winners of the Asian Market Shopper app download giveaway. Thanks to all for your comments.

    + Mike, as of now, we don't have information regarding an Android version of the app. I hope we end up formatting it for one in the not-so-distant future.


  • Tony October 7, 2011 at 10:20 am

    The App looks incredible. I will have to use it to make the gluten free dumplings. Thanks.


  • Mike October 8, 2011 at 11:00 am

    Android version, please!!!!


  • Donna October 11, 2011 at 11:16 am

    Bravo! Super idea — like having my Chinese grandma by my side!


  • Lynne October 15, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    Thank you SO much!! I am thrilled beyond words – and I have to tell you, I don't have a smartphone yet. I'm THAT much of a food-obsessed person.. I'm going to be getting a smartphone just so I can use this app – hopefully w/in a couple of weeks.


  • Robin Berry October 16, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    This is exactly what I need for the times I go into the Asian market near my home and there is a language barrier. I can either point to the pictures or play the audio and I will be able to communicate with the staff. Can't wait to get the app.


  • Viola December 3, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    I keep checking in for the Android version. So far, nada. I am also one of those Android people eagerly awaiting the app! Sigh!


  • Ali December 5, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    Hi Viola and other Android users,

    We have no plans on developing an Android version for this app at this time. Sorry about that!

    All my best,
    Online Marketing Manager


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