A great perk of having an international campus in C-U — besides my gainful employment, of course — is the culturally diverse food options that are inspired by the campus population around town. Even North Prospect, an anathema to a lot of local foodies, has hidden many gems. My current favorite for home cooks and Asian food lovers is the Asian Supermarket.


A quick note — especially since it was Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month when I visited — that it is easy for white folks like me to claim to “discover” places like Asian Supermarket, a store that many in our community use everyday. My intention is to express that Asian Supermarket is easily overlooked in relation to the many grocers we have in C-U.

Inside Asian Supermarket on North Prospect in Champaign, there is a brightly lit store with a simple belt at check out. Photo by Elisabeth Paulus.Photo by Elisabeth Paulus.

Avid readers of SP will know that there are many ethnic grocers in town, and it’s tempting to shop at more upscale East Asian stores like AMKO or Fresh International Market. The location of Asian Supermarket seems a bit bleak and uninviting, sharing a building with Piccadilly Liquor on a busy section of Prospect between Bradley Avenue and Bloomington Road. The name may seem not very trendy, but the selection and low prices at Asian Supermarket can’t be beat.

The freezers are mostly full at Asian Supermarket. Photo by Elisabeth Paulus.Photo by Elisabeth Paulus.

The online reviews rave about finding items here that can’t be found at more eclectic Asian stores in town, especially in the candy and frozen foods sections.

Inside Asian Supermarket, there are shelves of Asian snacks in bags. Photo by Elisabeth Paulus.Photo by Elisabeth Paulus.
On white shelves in Asian Supermarket, there are breads and noodle options. Photo by Elisabeth Paulus.Photo by Elisabeth Paulus.

During the height of the pandemic, I found that Asian Supermarket had a website that allowed for browsing their items and placing orders for in-store pick up, but that is no longer available now. There was a language barrier when trying to ask for some items, but the clerk kindly asked me to show a photo on my phone of what I wanted, so they could help me find it.

On the shelves at Asian Supermarket, the goods are neatly arranged. Photo by Elisabeth Paulus.Photo by Elisabeth Paulus.

On my most recent trip, I took the opportunity to stock up on a few basics, even though the salty treats and copious ramen options always call to me. I purchased a 24 ounce bottle of rice wine vinegar for $3.99, which is in constant demand in my house to make a Thai-inspired cucumber salad.

A photo of the author's four items purchased at Asian Supermarket in Champaign. Photo by Elisabeth Paulus.Photo by Elisabeth Paulus.

I also picked up a bottle of Shaoxing cooking wine for $2.99, a bottle of hoisin sauce for $2.19, and a bottle of low sodium soy sauce for $1.99. These staples are most often used in my kitchen for an egg roll ramen skillet and a black bean and chicken stir fry since I’m a sucker for the food blog recipes I find on Pinterest.

Venture over to North Prospect to shop at this amazing store hiding in plain sight to buy treats, produce, cooking basics, or whatever yummy things catch your eye.

Asian Supermarket
1215 N Prospect Ave
Champaign
10 a.m. to 9 p.m., daily

Top image by Elisabeth Paulus.