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University of Missouri

The Market Is Open

Columbia offers food lovers international and gourmet grocery options.

Jun and Maria Gatica in Meechu's Filipino Market

Jun and Maria Gatica. Photo by Nicholas Benner.

When you walk into Meechu’s Filipino Market, you’ll find owner Jun Gatica scurrying around, wiping down counters, unpacking boxes and ringing up customers. His wife, Maria, will wave you past the rows of purple yam jam, milkfish and frozen calamansi juice to the grab ’n’ go kitchen in the back of the store. Over a hot stove, she’ll prepare a plate of caldereta (beef marinated in tomato sauce and coconut milk until tender), pork adobo and chicken adobo (meat cooked in soy sauce) served with jasmine rice, a staple in Filipino cuisine. Then there’s her cake to try; it’s a decadent blend of grated cassava root, coconut milk and butter, and her atchara, a sweet-and-sour pickled papaya salad. “I love cooking,” she says. “Especially when I see the smile of the people.”

The Gaticas opened the market and kitchen in northeast Columbia five years ago to bring a slice of the Philippines to the growing Filipino population in Columbia. “A lot of Filipinos in America migrated because they married an American,” Maria says. “And in some families, they don’t like to cook or don’t know how. So I bring it back.”

Marketing in CoMo

ramenChong’s Oriental Market | 701 E. Locust St.
What you’ll find: boxes and boxes of ramen, and not the ramen college students buy in bulk at Wal-Mart. Chong’s offers Asian varieties such as spicy chicken, Korean kimchee, soybean paste and Chinese onion. Most frequent shoppers walk past the more unusual things on the shelves — silk worms and dried black fungus strips — and head straight to the snack aisle, says owner Daewun Sin.

Kea International Market | 705 Vandiver Drive, Suite J and K
What you’ll find: Cambodian, Vietnamese and Thai foods, along with an assortment of curtains, clothes, incense, plates and DVDs. Owner Karen Ta Kea and family moved to Columbia in 1980 with the help of Columbia’s United Church of Christ. In 1993, the Keas started growing and selling food at the Columbia Farmers Market. In April 2001, they opened Kea International Market to meet the demand for Southeast Asian foods they saw at the farmers market. Along with five deep freezers stocked with more types of fish than you can name, they also sell their garden harvest.

COB-2Natasha’s Euro Market | 705 Vandiver Drive, Suite H
What you’ll find: Eastern European delicacies, from Russian vodkas to Hungarian salami, Bulgarian feta to Ukrainian rye and European chocolates. Lots and lots of chocolates.

Los Cuates Latin Store | 2908 Paris Road
What you’ll find: ingredients for one serious fiesta, complete with mole sauce for your tamales stuffed full of one of the 20 meats behind the counter, and some tamarind pulp candy flung from a piñata for dessert.

Hong Kong Market | 3510 Interstate 70 Drive SE, Suite D
What you’ll find: everything you need to make a stir-fry. Start in the rice and noodles aisle, pick up some beef shank or pork belly, grab gai lan (Chinese broccoli), shanghai bok choy and oyster mushrooms, and top it off with fish sauce (the market has plenty to choose from).

cheeseWorld Harvest Foods | 3700 Monterey Drive, Suite K
What you’ll find: the fixings for an elaborate wine and cheese party. It is truly a world market with more than 100 cheeses (try the Leyden with cumin seeds from Holland), 21 types of olives (try the Nicoise from France) and an impressive selection of oils and vinegars (try the 30-year-old balsamic from Italy), plus individual aisles dedicated to Mexican, Indian, Japanese and Thai cuisines.

Taj Emporium | 1400 Fellows Place
What you’ll find: comfort foods such as pani puri, Indian savory snacks filled with tamarind, chili, potato, onion and chickpeas, and a variety of chutneys.

A & Y Global Market (formerly Campus Eastern Foods) | 15 N. Fourth St.
What you’ll find: a 2,400-square-foot store, more than three times its former size, with falafel mix and fresh pita bread to satisfy Middle Eastern cuisine cravings.

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