12950 E. Colonial Drive | 407-615-8881 | eastsideasianmarket.com | $
For the noodle-obsessed sequestered in the far East near UCF, there’s hope. Eastside Asian Market not only contains a wide array of Asian groceries, it also houses a small café. The food is made to order, which can take time, so if you’re going to order, do it before you shop and pick it up after you’ve collected your haul.
The market is brightly lit, well-organized and full of Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Viet and Thai ingredients and produce, from tofu skins to winter melon to gojuchang. The family owners/staff are more than willing to help find an ingredient if you’re not character-fluent: Seemingly endless rows of fish sauce, soba noodles and rice crackers fill aisles capped with an equal array of frozen fish, dim sum offerings and meats in cold cases and shelves full of candy; the obligatory kitchen equipment and dishes round out the offerings.
Don’t expect carnivorous bliss when you order from the café, though. Every dish is vegan, including the steamed “special buns” and ramen, the two dishes I sampled. The ramen ($8.99) was tender and comforting, swimming in a brown soy-based broth plenty spiked with Thai chilies. Soft tofu and crisp baby bok choy floated alongside the noodles, as well as some crispy, texturally pleasant, curiously savory and satisfying “vegetarian beef.” Unfortunately, I didn’t love the steamed buns ($4.99) – perhaps diners more accustomed to faux meats would enjoy the spicy-sweet filling, but it wasn’t to my taste.
Eastside Asian Market is just outside Avalon Park, but the distinctive aroma of dried mushrooms and five-spice powder is so pervasive that before you even step into the place, Mills 50 feels much closer than 12 miles away.
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