PANAMA CITY — Asia Market 2 has become a resource for area restaurants and residents, including the owners.
“If we need to cook anything, we just grab stuff here,” said Thuan Nguyen, who opened the door and turned on the lights at his parents’ store, Asia Market 2, on Tuesday morning before his mother, Oanh Nguyen, arrived.
A table just inside the entrance was filled with containers of ginger candy, as well as other snacks, such as bags of taro chips, rice crackers and seaweed crisps.
“This whole section is traditional Chinese New Year stuff. We don’t have it all the time,” said Thuan, who was raised in Lai Thieu Binh Duong, Vietnam, “a half hour from Saigon.”
His father, who is visiting Vietnam, came to the U.S. in 1981 with Thuan’s oldest sister and brother. The rest of the family followed in 1984. The Nguyens have owned the market since 2001.
“Vietnamese follow the same tradition. We have envelopes here,” Thuan said as he showed me some of the traditional red envelopes for Chinese New Year, which is Feb. 10, that were being kept behind the counter. “Major customers are Thai, Vietnamese and Filipino.”
His biggest restaurant buyers from the beach include Jazmine Thai Restaurant, Oishi Thai Restaurant and Ketana Thai & Sushi Restaurant.
“The average coconut milk we go through per month is 30 to 40 cases,” Thuan said, pointing out a stack of boxes from floor to ceiling in the corner. “There are 24 cans in each case. Every month, I have to get a pallet. … Soy sauce, noodles and these are what I most push to restaurants.”
Shelves are filled with a wide array of sauces — Sriracha hot chili sauce, soy, sweet chili, Pad Thai, Squid Brand Fish, anchovy, oyster flavored, Hoison, Plum and Korean barbecue sauce, as well as marinades, oils, vinegar, spices, seasoning mixes and pastes for customers to create unique dishes.
“A lot of the lentils are for regular customers,” Thuan said.
Asia Market 2 also has a variety of frozen food, canned items, vermicelli noodles and rice, including rice paper and black sweet rice.
Fresh produce and exotic fruit arrive on Thursdays from Miami, such as longan. Other fruits, when in season, have included lychee and guava. On Tuesday, the refrigerator was filled with bok choy, baby bok choy and Asian eggplants.
“That’s helping us to stay in business,” Thuan said. “You can’t find them anywhere else.”
ASIA MARKET 2
Where: 2205 E. Fifth St., Panama City
Hours: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily; fresh produce and exotic fruit arrives on Thursdays from Miami
Details: (850) 914-2593