Fresh International Market is a relatively new store in town, specializing mostly in Asian ingredients and products. The store has a wide range of awesome products that I have not seen in many other places around town, if at all. Produce was a large section with amazing looking vegetables. While good looking produce is important, I was after the prepared foods.The prepared foods section was a good size and seemed to have a wide array of items ranging from whole roasted ducks to little side salads. All of the prices on the prepared foods looked to be of about average price you would pay for prepared foods at any other store. 

One of the first items I grabbed was the prepacked spicy California roll (6 pieces, $5.99). The pieces came organized neatly with ginger and wasabi, of course. The pieces were large and filled with actual ingredients — it was not mostly rice as some sushi is served in some establishments. The ingredients not only tasted fresh but also smelled fresh, we all know about bad smelling fish. Each piece was topped with what tasted like a siracha mayo, just the right amount of heat. According to the label on the container, it looks like they pack sushi and then allow 3 days to sell it before considering it no good.

Next I grabbed a spicy radish salad ($2.49) which was among other interesting prepared side dishes. Upon opening the container, I could smell a strong pickled and spicy scent. The radish was nice and crisp; it hadn’t become soggy as I was afraid of. The taste was spot on from my experience with other spicy radish salads: a nice refreshing crunch from the radish followed by a nice spicy kick immediately after taking a bite.

Finally, I grabbed a container of sesame cookies ($2.79) because I just couldn’t pass up trying something sweet as well. I will admit, I had never had sesame cookies before so I was rather excited to try them. I popped one in my mouth at first and instantly got this very mellow sweetness in partnership with the almost nutty flavor from the sesame seeds. They were rather rich and knowing that there was lard in them, I only allowed myself a few of these decadent little cookies.

I noticed some very appetizing looking containers of barbecue pork in the same area as the sushi. I would certainly recommend going in and trying some items from the prepared foods. Don’t be intimidated if you’ve never been; all of the staff are very kind and welcoming. It seems like a really great store to begin to expose yourself to new culture and foods. Although it was closed when I went in, I’ve heard the prepared foods counter in the food court even makes fresh juices. I have gotten a sample when I’ve gone in before and remember it being delightful, made with very fresh fruit.

Fresh International Market is located in the same strip mall as the infamous Golden Harbor. Be sure to stop in and grab some quick snacks or even enough of the prepared foods to create your own meal similar to what I did, you will not be disappointed. 

Fresh International Market is located at 2020 South Neil Street, Champaign, and open Sunday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. 

All photos by Brian Plotner.