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MD Oriental Market serves a taste of Asia in east Hillsborough

BRANDON

If your shopping list includes butter, Diet Coke, moon cakes, dragon fruit and live eels, you're probably planning to visit more than one store.

But now you don't have to. MD Oriental Market, on Adamo Drive in the Brandon Crossings Shopping Center, offers everything from staples of the American diet to the most arcane foods from Asia and the South Pacific.

A spacious and welcoming Oriental food store is kind of a novel concept, manager Aileen Brandstetter said, but area residents have responded enthusiastically since the market opened in May.

"People watch the Food Network, they watch the Travel Channel, they watch the Discovery Channel," Brandstetter said. "They have heard about dragon fruit and lychee and jackfruit, but they don't know where to get them."

Brandstetter allows that there are many other Asian groceries in the area. But they're typically cramped, sometimes kind of dimly lit and maybe even a little off-putting to people who aren't familiar with Asian foods.

The 14,000-square-foot MD Oriental Market looks like a typical supermarket, with wide aisles and bright lights.

"When we built this store, we wanted to change people's concept of Oriental markets," Brandstetter said. "When people shop here, we want them to feel comfortable. We make sure it's clean. We make sure all our employees are friendly, and we make sure our customers can find everything they need."

It's not part of a chain, but the Brandon MD Oriental does have a sister store. The original 10,000-square-foot store opened several years ago at 1106 E Fowler Ave. in Tampa.

Both carry plenty of standard American fare, so customers don't have to go to other stores for their everyday shopping.

Brandstetter said the staff is educated on the store's stock, which includes items from India, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, the Philippines and other distant lands. Mastering the hundreds of products isn't easy, she said, because the labels are in many languages.

The staff can also give tips on preparing Asian dishes, she said. If customers eat at a Thai restaurant and find something they really like, the staff can probably tell them the ingredients it takes to re-create the dish.

Duane Jones discovered the store some weeks back and has become a regular.

"We live between here and Sarasota," he said. "It's a 15- or 20-minute drive, and it's well worth it."

It's not just the unusual food that brings him to the market, Jones said. Even on items he could pick up at the nearest supermarket, he saves enough at the Oriental market to make the trip worthwhile. Recently, he picked up a large package of fresh basil, priced at 99 cents. A store closer to home would have charged several dollars for a smaller quantity, he said.

Jones said he loves to cook, and comes to the store mostly for Asian recipe items he can't find anywhere else. But he's also discovered the prepared foods in the back of the store, where cooks make Peking duck and crispy pork and offer three-item deli meals for about $4.

"It's not just that I love it," he said. "But when I see it and smell it, I can't avoid it. I can't not have it."

Serena and Dhiman Bhattacharjee are relative newcomers to the market. They came first to buy lychees. By the time they returned, lychee season was over and the staff suggested a similar fruit called longan.

The fish tanks fascinate their young daughter, Hannah. Inside, eels, sea bass, stone fish and tilapia reside.

"It's a really interesting place," Serena Bhattacharjee said. "It's like taking our daughter to the pet store."

What Hannah probably didn't realize was that those creatures would be someone's dinner that night. Customers can pick their specific fish, and the market staff will clean it free of charge.

Although the market has been open for only a few months Brandstetter said it is already proving successful.

"We've been doing great," she said. "We have returning customers who come back again and again, and every day we have new customers who come here for the first time."

Marty Clear can be reached at mclear@tampabay.rr.com.

Fast facts

If you go

MD Oriental Market is located at 10127 E Adamo Drive in the Brandon Crossings Shopping Center. For more information, call (813) 443-2188.

MD Oriental Market serves a taste of Asia in east Hillsborough 08/26/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 25, 2010 5:02pm]
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