BY ERIKA OBLEA
If you’re looking to prepare Asian cuisine for dinner tonight, your shopping might have to go beyond just the Asian foods aisle at a local market. For me and my family, that shopping trip usually entails going to 99 Ranch Market, a place where cultures collide to provide Valley residents (and beyond) a food haven full of sweets, spices, fruit, fish, poultry, and more.
The moment you walk into this chain-market located on the corner of Victory and Sepulveda, you’ll be hit dead-on by the almost deafening chatter, the distinct smell, and the vivid colors. It’s almost like a scene from an outdoor farmer’s market in a foreign country except the supermarket is inside, located in Van Nuys, and has shelves and refrigerators. After all, 99 Ranch does sell the typical milk, bread, and apples any other supermarket, but it takes these basic food groups to a completely different level.
My brother and I especially love taking a cruise down the sweets aisle where we uncover candies wrapped in brightly colored packages in a language we cannot read but of the contents we can immediately decipher as sugar. There’s the Pocky brand snacks, long sugary breadsticks dipped in chocolate or the Lotte snacks-koala shaped cookies filled with chocolate cream. It is in the refrigerated section directly opposite of this aisle that we can also only find our beloved black tapioca balls that occupy the bottom of our Boba smoothies we often purchase from Asian restaurants. We also pick up the canned Thai iced tea to accompany the tapioca.
However, a staple buy from this supermarket is always the cheese bread located in the bakery in the upper right hand corner of the place. My family and I can never quite decide what makes this baked good so delicious but it might be because the freshly baked bread only slightly incorporates a hard cheese into its soft interior. While you browse through the aisles filled with pastries stuffed with red bean paste, raisin toast, and mochi, there is the chatter of bakers bustling in and out of the kitchen refilling the shelves as the smell of rising yeast wafts from within.
This is also one of the few places I know where the produce section has more than just apples, oranges, peaches, and strawberries. I personally love handling and purchasing the fruit imported from elsewhere including the lychee, dragon fruit, mango, taro (purple yam), and tiny bananas.
Nevertheless, what makes this place unique from most others is the fish section. The frozen fish is laid out in the open, so shoppers must physically sift through the rows of fish, including: catfish, tilapia, and mackerel, and pick up their preferred fish with plastic bags to hand to butchers ready to clean, cut, and fry it.
There’s also live lobsters, shrimp and crab swimming in large tanks, as well as clean sinks filled with stone crab, mussels and clams. If you’re in the mood to make sushi at home, there is a fresh selection of sushi grade fish located in the produce section.
There are plenty of more aisles to explore, full of food, dishware and cooking supplies. Don’ t miss the 2-for-1 specials on some Boba drinks or the sesame balls at the front bakery counter.
I’ve only skimmed the surface of the endless possibilities that can be found — go and peruse the 99 Ranch Market yourself. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll find.
Erika Oblea is a rising sophomore at the University of California, Berkeley where she is studying Political Science and Statistics. When she’s not cramming for exams at the library, she’s reporting on businesses in Berkeley for The Daily Californian. She is a graduate of Chaminade and has lived in the Valley ever since she could remember –and could probably recite the exits off the 101 backwards and forwards.
99 Ranch Market N. 6450 Sepulveda Blvd. Van Nuys, CA 91411 (818) 988-7899 9am – 9pm