Stallings business adds Asian flavor
by Toby Clark
Editor’s note: The annual Taste of Union event will take place in September, with residents coming out to try different cuisine from across the county. Proceeds from the event goes to benefit Christian ministry Operation Reachout. Leading up to that Sept. 24 event, Union Weekly will highlight a different restaurant or culinary experience in each issue.
From within the heart of Stallings, foreign delights tickle the customer’s fancy at Grand Asia Market.
Located on Potter’s Road, this market hosts an eclectic mix of various food items, herbs, medicines, dishes, pots, specialty cakes and even a restaurant.
Large tanks of live fish rise in the back of the store, full of swimming tilapia, striped bass and catfish. Large coolers line the floors in the back of the store, filled with frozen dumplings, spring roll wrappers and other prepared Asian foods. More aisles are loaded with various noodles and spices. The market supplies many specialty items that cannot be found in a regular grocery store.
“(They have) the best fried rice, and amazing roast duck,” Lisa Stratton, a first time customer, said. “I have been looking for traditional Asian food, and I will be back here.”
Manager Alice Chan smiles at statements like that.
“That is what makes me happy,” Chan said. “We want everyone to leave here that satisfied.”
Chan was born in America, and she believes Americans “are passionate about learning (and) about finding something new.” She describes one’s first experiences in Asian markets as “an adventure exploring new things.”
The market hosts a monthly gathering through Charlotte Meetup Group, providing anyone the chance to learn more about the Asian culture with cooking demos and tastings. Chan says people always ask her about authentic Asian food, and she believes “in the end, it’s just about what tastes good. It is all good food, just different good food.”
The market supplies ordinary things like carrots, onions and potatoes, but it also includes items like lychee, longan and other Asian fruits. These fruits may be commonplace in Asia but are rarely found fresh in American grocery stores.
Chanelle Cake is the in-house bakery, where delectable sweets are baked “Hong Kong-style,” something bakery employee Hong Gao says is a more “Western” style.
Fresh steamed buns, called dim sum, are always available. “Dim sum” is a term describing a wide variety of buns, steamed or fried, with skins ranging from rice to wheat and stuffing ranging from roast pork to mashed beans. The term even describes sweeter egg tarts stuffed with chocolate or taro.
The buns make popular delights for afternoon tea. According to Gao, whose favorite tea is green or jasmine, “Chinese people like afternoon tea, and these Hong Kong-style buns are part of that tradition.”
The phase “going for dim sum” in Cantonese is the equivalent to “going to tea.” The tea becomes just as important as the steamed buns, and the Grand Asia Market supplies both.
The Grand Asia Market also offers a host of non-food items, varying from dishes and chopsticks, to herbs and medicine. Shelves are lined with artisan-decorated sake or tea sets as well as hand-made woks and cleavers.
The herbs and medicines displayed near the front of the store offer a variety of cures, with various creams and lotions and potions. According to the market’s website, “Eastern medicine concentrates on healing from the inside out, targeting the root of the problem, rather than masking the external symptoms.”
The Asian herbalist on hand at the market warns American customers not to be put off by the strong herbal stench of some of these products.
The market is adorned with red Chinese lanterns and handmade, cloth-painted umbrellas. Wooden, jade and ivory statues line the front wall with their intricate designs and hand-carvings. The restaurant, The Joy Luck Club, and Chanelle Cakes, occupy a small side of the building, while the market sprawls across the rest of the space.
“We are here to serve the community and community means different things,” Chang said. “We serve the Asian community, looking to cook authentic food and we serve the American community looking to bring diversity to their lives; learning about new foods.”