Chan Oriental Market (Bloomington, MN)


I continue my slow-motion survey of the immigrant markets of the Twin Cities metro. My most recent stops in this survey were at Asian Mart in Burnsville and Rong Market in Richfield. Asian Mart, despite its generic name, is really a Filipino store, whereas Rong Market is centrally a Chinese store—though it also carries things used/eaten in various other East Asian cultures as well. The also generically named Chan Oriental Market in Bloomington is in fact at core a Cambodian market, though they carry a lot of Vietnamese and more broadly Southeast Asian products and ingredients as well. It was recommended to me by “R” in the comments on my Rong Market report a month ago and I’ve only just gotten around to checking them out. The boys and I stopped in just last evening. Herewith my report.

First, some confusion about geography. I’ve said they’re located in Bloomington because that’s what it seems like to me on the map. They’re on Lyndale Ave. just off 90th St. and places marked both Bloomington and Richfield are on the map to the north of them. However, if you google them you’ll see the address noted as being in Minneapolis. How this can be I do not understand but I am the first to admit that I do not have a grasp on the layout of Twin Cities suburbs and neighbourhoods. If you can settle this please write in below.

The store itself is located in the Great Bear shopping center and is nicely-sized and well laid out. The aisles are not cramped but they maximize the space nicely. As you enter there’s a deli section that features a lot of foods prepared in-house (in the rear). To see the best selection, I was told by the pleasant woman at checkout, you have to go in the mornings on weekends. We were there not too long before closing and so there wasn’t a whole lot out—which is not to say that I came away with nothing: I got two muffin-looking things that feature shrimp and mung bean paste (I was told to eat them for breakfast tomorrow) and a container of prahok ktiss.

Past the deli are five aisles of groceries and beyond them a freezer section. The first grocery aisle features a lot of Asian fruit and veg inside and outside refrigerators (there’s also some meats and sausage in there). The freezer contains a host of frozen fish, other seafood and chicken. And you can also find frozen lime leaves and other more esoteric leaves and meaty bits (tubs of beef and pork blood, for example). Nestled among the more specifically Southeast Asian items in the other aisles are chilli sauces and pastes and noodles and ramen and rice etc. etc. that will be of immediate interest to many people.

Take a look at the large slideshow below to get some sense of this. Better yet, stop in yourself and take a look and buy a lot. (In addition to the cooked things, we came away with onions, limes, long eggplant and sambal olek.)

The young woman at checkout said they’d been around for about 15 years. She said they get a fairly diverse clientele—Cambodian, Vietnamese and Filipino but also a fair number of non-Asians. She did say, nonetheless, that not a lot of people seem to know they’re there. I had to admit to her that despite having been in the general area for almost 14 years myself I had not heard of them till a month ago either. Well, if like me you didn’t previously know they were there, you know they’re there now. So do go give them some business. (And take your mask with you if you go—they still require a mask inside the store.) Many thanks to “R” for cluing me in.

For any Bloomington area people who may be reading: on the way there we passed a Chinese restaurant named David Fong’s. Worth a look for anything beyond American Chinese fare? Or does any of their American Chinese fare rise above the generic? Let me know if you have first-hand experience.

Alright, there will be no Pandemic Takeout report this week as the monthly “Coming Soon…” post claims precedence over restaurant reports when the first of the month falls on a Tuesday. Next Sunday will probably see a very different kind of food-related feature from a friend in Bengal. Pandemic Takeout reports will resume on June 8.

7 thoughts on “Chan Oriental Market (Bloomington, MN)

  1. Thanks for the review. Despite having lived in Eden Prairie and working in Bloomington for several years, I had never heard of Chan either. I will pay them a visit when I go to TBS Mart soon. It looks like they pack a lot into a relatively small store by curating (a few brands of coconut milk, not the half aisle of brands you might find at Dragon Star or United Noodle).

    David Fong’s has been around for decades. Never been there myself since it has always had the reputation of offering Chinese food that bears the same similarity to real Chinese cuisine as most Indian buffet restaurants here have to real Indian cuisine (same overrepresentation of one geographic area or glossing over of regional differences).

    Do you feel inclined to take on the use of the word “Oriental” when used openly by some people of Asian descent? My sense is that, like the “n-word,” it’s not to be used by just anyone, yet clearly there is little to no interest in eradicating the word completely or relegating it to only a historical context.

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    • While a part of me cringes a little whenever I see it, I don’t really object strenuously to the use of “Oriental” in these contexts by Asian owners of small businesses. Their goal is to attract at least some customers from outside their own (small) community and, sadly, it appears to be the case that in Minnesota this is still a way to do it. Though the equally generic “Asian” used by some other places (including Asian Mart) would be an improvement.

      In this case, I believe they inherited the name when they bought the store 14-15 years ago and just held on to it for name recognition reasons.

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  2. Thanks for showcasing this market!
    Bloomington is a suburb of Minneapolis. As such, the city address can show up as either Bloomington or Minneapolis.

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    • Is that true of all suburbs? I would have thought that with a mayor and city council and everything it would be more likely to be officially a completely distinct city and that it might be regular people who might blur it with South Minneapolis in informal use.

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  3. It is not uncommon to see even large corporations list addresses in Bloomington or Plymouth or Eagan as “Minneapolis” with the appropriate ZIP code.

    I believe it’s done for the sake of recognition. Despite Bloomington being one of the five biggest cities in Minnesota, if I were in Washington state or Munich, almost no one would have a clue where Bloomington, Minnesota, is. If, however, I say Minneapolis, I stand a better chance of locational recognition (and hearing about Prince).

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  4. A little history lesson of these Asian stores around Bloomington/Minneapolis area. Before 2008 the oriental market was owned by the Chan/Tran family and was more of a Chinese/Vietnamese based grocery store who sold other things like Banh Uot, cake, Banh Mi(for like 2.50$ea), until it was aquire to the owner of today, who purchased the store name to keep the signage. Before this the grocery store was a Vietnamese based grocery store called Ha Tien(now located St Paul, also did the Vietnamese Newspaper). This market has been located here for over 30+ years, just by different owners. For David Fong, it is also named after family. You can find one of their family members in a managerial position in Culver located near Menards. Most stores around this area are all family owned like Tammy Nails, Golden Wok, Sunrise Doughnuts, Sunfoods(more near the cities), Hana Market, etc. Use to all run in the same circle, but not too sure about today.

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