Marukai to Olson’s: Spice Things Up at L.A.’s Best International Markets

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Tired of the same old spaghetti or taco nights? Give your dinner menu a makeover with a visit to one of L.A.’s tantalizing international markets. Encourage your inner gourmand to get creative and check out the exotic offerings at these top ethnic grocery shops.

Marukai Market

Bubbly pop music and brightly lit aisles welcome you as you enter this popular Japanese supermarket in West L.A. You can easily spend an hour getting lost in the enormous selection of housewares and beauty products emblazoned with smiling anime faces. Once you manage to tear yourself away, however, hit the candy and snack aisles to stock up on Pocky sticks in every color of the rainbow and bags full of Sriracha-flavored peas and dare-you-to-try-it dried squid. Just make sure you don’t get too distracted from grabbing all the ingredients you actually need for dinner. Whether you plan to roll your own sushi with fish from their fresh seafood selection or grill up the paper-thin ribeye shabu-shabu-style, Marukai has everything you need.

Tehran Market

If you’re in the mood for Middle Eastern food, head to Tehran Market in Santa Monica. Visit on a Sunday and you’ll be greeted by the mouthwatering smells of house-made kabob wafting from the outdoor grill in the parking lot. Grab a sample and head inside to explore the tiny Persian shop packed with spices, dried herbs, fresh produce, and sacks of rice. The lively, staccato sounds of Farsi drift from the regulars conversing with the clerks at the counter. If you don’t feel like starting your meal from scratch, select one of the prepared stews tucked into the deli case next to tubs of marinated olives and bricks of fresh feta cheese. Don’t forget to top off the day’s shopping with some saffron and pistachio Persian ice cream.

Samosa House

The curry scent is so powerful at this Indian grocery store in Culver City that you can smell it before you even step in the door. Samosa House has everything you need to whip up some spicy Indian dishes: 20-pound bags of rice, tubs of ghee and spices, stacks of incense, and a small DVD collection of the latest Bollywood hits. However, the tempting options at the hot food bar may just have you scrapping a night in the kitchen for a tasty meal that’s ready to eat. Order a plate of the popular jackfruit curry to go, or if you just can’t wait, grab a table in the dining area.

Olson’s Scandinavian Deli

This charming, recently revamped mom-and-pop shop has been serving up Scandinavian delights in midtown Los Angeles since 1948. The cheerful and neat minimalist décor and scenic forest wallpaper will have you feeling like you’ve just arrived in Stockholm. Explore the wide selection of imported goodies, like Kalles caviar, Zoegas coffee, and bins full of candy – not to mention the selection of fresh-made favorites like their famous liver pate, herring salad, and house-cured gravlax. When you’re done browsing, order some lunch from the Olson’s deli menu, featuring toast skagen, the requisite Swedish meatballs, and perfectly light, thin pancakes.

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