Awash in eye-popping colors–from its hand-painted art to glass jugs of tequila infusions–The Fruteria hit the restaurant scene in December with an equally bright bang. The fruteria by day/cocktail lounge by night concept works perfectly: Breakfast with fresh fruit smoothies and loaded tortas or an evening of sophisticated tequila cocktails and creative interpretations of dishes like Chef Johnny Hernandez’s mole blanco. Lunchtime, however, is not to be overlooked. The pescado torta (fish sandwich) is one of the items that keeps bringing me back for lunch over and over. It’s an absolute delight.

The sandwich is anchored by a luscious piece of Atlantic cold-water perch. Reminiscent of the fish caught in the deep waters of Veracruz, the fish is mild and just flaky enough to really melt in your mouth. Yet it holds up really well in the sandwich and is an exceptional choice. The restaurant gives you the option of tempura-fried or grilled, but the tempura gives more flavor and crunch and is the clear winner to me.

The overall flavor is balanced and subtle for such a deceptively hearty sandwich. If you get it to-go, it comes with a tiny tub of red hot sauce. Apply liberally. The pickled veggies inside (cauliflower and green, yellow and red peppers) give a nice crunch and burst of acidity. Hints of Mexican oregano are detected with each bite. Freshly fried ultra-thin potato chips round out the meal.

It’s like a midday jaunt to coastal Mexico.

Pescado torta

As the largest city in South Texas, one would assume by the requisite Mexican influence that San Antonio’s Asian grocery offerings would be limited. The city is a dream for someone cooking up a Latin feast; it’s not hard to find many of the required ingredients at even the most basic of H-E-B supermarkets. But what about authentic Asian finds?

Fortunately, those seeking Asian ingredients will be pleasantly surprised to find a number of local markets. There are reminders that you’re still in San Antonio though. To wit, I recently carried my purchases home from Seoul Asian Market in plastic bags imprinted with GRACIAS. Here is a quick reference guide to help you source your next Asian-inspired feast.

Seoul Asian Market & Cafe

1027 Rittiman Rd.

The city’s best-stocked Korean supermarket, they relocated two doors down to an even bigger space in a fairly recently renovated strip center right across from Fort Sam Houston. The cafe has pleasant aromas wafting out from the back of the store, and is great to grab a quick lunch.

Come for:

Fresh, hard-to-find Asian vegetables like baby Napa cabbage, Taiwanese Gobo or young white radishes

Frozen fresh noodles such as Buckwheat, Acorn, and the wide Korean style

Variety of frozen seafood including many octopus and smaller fish

Large selection of dried seasoned seaweed

Kimchi made in-store

Tim’s Oriental and Seafood Market

7015 Bandera Rd.

This well-rounded Chinese and Taiwanese supermarket is also one of the cleanest, and is regarded as the go-to store for San Antonians looking for a solid Chinese supermarket with a good variety.

Come for:

Myriad Chinese and Taiwanese groceries

Fresh selection of choy sum, baby bok choy, and water celery (or water spinach, a mild green similar to spinach). Note: These go fast and selection can be rather limited.

Dry noodles of all kinds (best selection in the city)

Large variety of frozen dumplings and buns

Lots of candies and cookies (plenty of gift tins)

Fresh Mung Bean cakes

Tokyo Mart Japanese Grocery

825 W. Hildebrand Ave. 

A nice little Japanese foods store next to Niki’s Tokyo Inn Restaurant, run by the same owners. If the restaurant has leftover seafood, they will often sell it, frozen, here.

Come for:

Larger selection of Japanese sauces: soy, mirin, ponzu, etc.

Refrigerated fresh Japanese noodles

Dried seaweed

Instant Japanese soups

Japanese kitchenware: sushi-making tools, sake cups

Hung Phong Oriental Market

243 Remount St.

The most unusual and bare-bones of the bunch, Hung Phong is a Vietnamese supermarket with a warehouse feel. It has some Thai and Philippine foods thrown in as well. The smell can be pungent, so bypass the sort of exposed meat market in the back. If you’re heading to the produce section, go to the far left of the store, then head toward the back.

Come for:

Sauces of all kinds

Preserved fish of all kinds (The Vietnamese are known for their variety of preserved fishes in sauce. I was horrified to find a jar that contained the same type of tropical fish I had as a kid, named Al. It never occurred to me that Al was edible, but the label indicated otherwise.)

Vietnamese and Thai brands of seasoned instant noodles

Large selection of Melamine Chinese-themed dishware

Rice and tapioca spring roll wrappers of all sizes

Ice cream pops in taro, mung bean, and mango flavors at good prices. (Located in a freezer to the right of the register in the front.)

Vietnam Market

5360 Walzem Rd.

A tidy market with groceries in just about Asian category with an emphasis on Vietnam, as the name implies. (For some reason, they even have Heinz ketchup and H-E-B’s brand, Hill Country Fare, ketchup. Talk about thinking through product selection.) Market day is Thursday, so you’ll find the largest and freshest selection of produce then.

Come for:

Canned fermented vegetables

Dried seaweed  snacks

Prawn, shrimp, and other flavored chips

Philippine items

Fresh greens such as yu choy (Mild, similar to Chinese broccoli. See Steamy Kitchen’s blog here for instructions on how to stir fry.)

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