Far from traditional North American foods like honeyed ham or cranberry relish, several area ethnic grocery stores offer ingredients for Colorado Springs residents originally from Russia, Guatemala or Japan to cook familiar dishes.

Varieties of chilies, pickles or vinegars at Tienda Guatemalteca, Euro Deli or Asian Pacific Market greet customers ready to prepare holiday or everyday menus. They are popular spots for residents searching for fresh or unusual-in-this-country delicacies, snacks or drinks.

Christian Moore, shopping on Jan. 8 at Asian Pacific Market, spent four years serving in the Navy in Japan. Many of the foods at the 615 Wooten Road market bring him back to that time.

He waxed poetic about the, “so fresh and so natural” offerings. Then hefting a flash-frozen, 10-pound mackerel from a long, double row of hip-high freezers at the back of the store, he commented, “Imagine gettin’ that at Walmart.”

The store has a large fresh fish and seafood section, as well as long aisles of cooking and serving implements, including one very heavy stone pot priced at $45.

Moore had another enthusiastic comment about the noodle section of the store, “Don’t even get me started on the ramen.”

An assortment of rice noodles and rice-based candies offer expanded options for his mother’s gluten-free needs.

Moore’s mother, Lily Tullison, said she sometimes takes new foods home to try, just based on the pictures on the package. Ingredients and labels are written in Korean, different Japanese languages and Thai, among others, and most include no English translations.

Chef Chin Chung, who’s worked the morning shift for five years cooking in the deli’s kitchen, cooked for 10 years at a downtown restaurant. He makes, among other popular prepared items, filled, steamed buns, and Lo Mai Gai, a glutinous rice and chicken combination wrapped in lotus leaves.

He said customers usually know what they want and many have different favorites. An employee behind the counter said some days all deli items sell out by 1:30 p.m.

At Tienda Guatemalteca, 4337 N. Academy Blvd., where the language of the day is Spanish, in addition to shelves of Golden Canilla and other brands of dried rice, beans and jars of fajita seasoning, customers can purchase soccer memorabilia like team jerseys representing Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador and other countries. Frequently in use are a bank of colorful phones at the front of the store. Nearby, several choices of pacaya, or date palm in brine, sit on a shelf near fresh-baked pink-and-white swirl bread.

A short walk across the parking lot near Academy and Austin Bluffs, the neighboring Euro Market and Deli, 4329 N. Academy Blvd., features various jars of pickles, as well as pickled grape and sorrel leaves. Pierogies are featured, and there are two full deli cases of cold cuts and cheese. An adjacent candy section is full from top to bottom with an assortment of brightly colored, metallic-wrapped pieces.

The language of the day here is Russian, and the storekeeper revealed he is learning English. On the Euro Deli Facebook page, Meike Merriweather left a review, “I’m happy I have found food from my country which is very rare when (you) are so far away.”

The Guatemalteca website summarizes, “We are a small store with products and items from all over Latin America. We also offer services like money transfers, phone (credit) reloads/recharges and cash checks.”

The Asian Pacific Market is hosting a free Chinese New Year Celebration on Saturday, Jan. 18, which will include lion and dragon Chinese dances, plus Thai, Cambodian, Indian, Philippine and Panamanian dancing. Inside the store will be cooking demonstrations, food sampling and drawings for free prizes big and small, for both adults and kids.

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