Newsday's Erica Marcus gives a tour of 99 Ranch Market, an Asian grocery that opened April 7 in Westbury. Situated in the southeast corner of Samanea New York, formerly The Mall at the Source, the Westbury store is the first New York location for this California-based chain. Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

With the opening of 99 Ranch Market in Westbury, Asian grocery shopping has taken a great leap forward on Long Island.

The supermarket situated in the southeast corner of Samanea New York — formerly The Mall at the Source — opened for in-the-know customers April 7. By the grand opening two days later, a store employee was directing traffic in the parking lot, the aisles were a welter of shoppers perusing the wares, clamoring to get closer to the sparkling seafood counter and queuing up (sort of) to check out. 

99 Ranch Market is a California-based chain with almost 60 stores in the U.S., most of them on the West Coast; Westbury’s is the first in New York State. Corporate Chairman Jonson Chen said everything about the location "made sense. Samanea is perfect for us — an anchor location in a suburban shopping center. And Long Island has a growing community of Asian shoppers as the second generation moves out of the city to find good schools and raise their kids. That is our market.”

At 46,000 square feet, the store is almost as big as H Mart in Jericho, Long Island’s largest Asian market; in fact the two national chains have a lot in common: Great selections of produce, meat and fish, and packaged goods from all over Asia, as well as conventional American groceries. But Chen noted that whereas H Mart is Korean owned "and goes deep into that cuisine," 99 Ranch was founded by his father, Roger H. Chen, a Taiwanese émigré. "If we have a focus, it's Chinese. But remember that Chinese methods, equipment, sauces — they form the basis of cooking all over East and South East Asia." 


99 Ranch does not confine Western grocery items to a few discrete aisles : You’ll find Lipton tea mixing it up with Chinese jasmine tea; Vietnamese rice noodles shelved next to Ronzoni rigatoni and A Chino boba milk ice cream bars in the same freezer case as Häagen-Dazs. 

Take your time during your first visit to 99 Ranch; every department has its own treasures and surprises. Here are six sure bets:

Pristine produce

No matter if you’re looking for conventional broccoli or any of dozens of Asian greens — bok choy (baby or adult), gai lan (Chinese broccoli), ong choy (water spinach), choy sum, chrysanthemum leaves — you’ll find them in pristine condition, most priced around $2 a pound. Snow pea leaves, an increasingly popular menu item on Chinese restaurant menus, are here ($4.99) as are less common vegetables such as aa choy (stem lettuce or celtuce), cultivated for its firm, juicy, 18-inch stem that can be stir-fried or served raw. The leaves, labeled as Taiwan lettuce, are also on offer.

Other treasures include Chinese celery, a thinner, stronger-flavored alternative to the usual American variety, Chinese “yard long” beans (closer to a foot long and, cut into segments, substitutable for green beans) and Chinese flat beans, indistinguishable from Romano beans. There are also pink and yellow dragon fruits, durians and jackfruits, fresh water chestnuts and lotus root, individually wrapped Asian pears and imported mangos. 

Stem lettuce at 99 Ranch Market in Westbury.

Stem lettuce at 99 Ranch Market in Westbury. Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

Dumplings in profusion

The bad news: Many restaurants serve frozen dumplings. The good news: Those frozen dumplings are available in profusion here : Crescent-shaped jiaozi stuffed with everything from traditional pork and chive to asparagus and shrimp; plump, translucent-sknned crystal shrimp dumplings; open-topped pork-shrimp shumai; Japanese gyoza to steam or pan fry. Other dim-sum dishes from the freezer case include rice noodle rolls with shrimp and egg custard tarts.

99 Ranch has taken to heart the current craze for soup dumplings and stocks an extraordinary frozen variety. You’ll find many brands and many fillings, from traditional pork to pork with crab roe and chicken with shrimp. Sizes vary too, from mini to regular to jumbo and you can even find them with purple skins. 

Fresh (and live) seafood

You’ll find a stellar range of seafood at 99 Ranch. Because Chinese chefs prefer to cook fish on the bone, most of them — including, but not limited to, red snapper, yellowtail snapper, fluke, tilefish, branzino, pompano, bonito, grouper, sea bream, croaker, perch, whiting, smelt, mackerel and pike — are sold whole but will be cleaned and filleted upon request. Tilapia and largemouth bass are also sold swimmingly live.

On the shellfish front, you’ll find not only standard LI mollusks such as oysters, mussels and cherrystone, littleneck and Manila clams but such rarities as surf clams (even larger than quahogs and traditionally used for chowder), whelks (sea snails), conch (scungilli) and razor clams. Crawling around large glass tanks are live lobsters, Dungeness and crystal crabs and, so big that there are only one or two per tank, king crabs. 

Howen Dond holds a live Dungeoness King Crab at 99...

Howen Dond holds a live Dungeoness King Crab at 99 Ranch Market in Westbury. Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

Handy housewares 

I’m in heaven when I’m in the housewares aisles of an Asian market. It’s a good place for big-ticket items like rice cookers, but I focus on the small stuff: Kitchen shears, wooden spoons, metal utensils, bamboo trivets, toothpicks in handy and colorful dispensers. If you’ve got a drawer full of disposable chopsticks, why not upgrade to a proper set (as low-priced as $2.99 for five pairs) and forgo them the next time you take out. 

I can never pass up the sturdy, metal-collared mesh kitchen sink strainers that trap anything rice-sized and up and yet permit unimpeded water flow. I keep a stack of them in my trunk and give them out to friends. Then there’s the so-called “spider,” a peerless tool for fishing out penne from boiling water or fries from boiling oil. 

Poultry paradise

The current trend for nose-to-tail cooking — using every part of the animal — is old hat for Chinese cooks. Indeed most Asian cuisines share a fondness for animal parts that rarely show up in mainstream American markets. At 99 Ranch you’ll find pig snouts and ears, duck tongues and even duck chitterlings (intestines) from Jurgielewicz, the Pennsylvania farm that, until 2010, raised their ducks in Aquebogue. 

You may not want to munch on chicken feet, the traditional steamed dim sum dish “Phoenix talons,” but put a pound of them in your next batch of stock to give it flavor and body. Another chicken delicacy you’ll find is the breed called silkie, whose distinctive fluffy feathers vary in color but whose skin and flesh is always black. It’s the main ingredient in a restorative soup also calling for jujubes, goji berries, dried scallops and dried lily bulb (all available at 99 Ranch). 

Black "silkies" chicken at 99 Ranch Market in Westbury.

Black "silkies" chicken at 99 Ranch Market in Westbury. Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

Prepared food

The western wall of 99 Ranch will be dedicated to independent food purveyors that have yet to open: River Sushi, Shanghai You Garden, Pho Grand. But the market’s own prepared-food buffet, “Hot Deli,” is up and running. The name is inadequate to convey what’s going on here: It’s one of the few places on Long Island to buy Chinatown-style roast meats like whole chickens and ducks, pork belly and barbecued pork. As soon as the kitchen gets up to speed, these meats will also figure in Cantonese-style noodle soups.

There’s also a steam table with a good assortment of dim sum: crystal shrimp dumplings, the biggest pork shumai I have ever seen, pan-fried pork or vegetable dumplings, shrimp toast, stuffed peppers and eggplants and more. For dessert, pick up a traditional Chinese bun or one of the East-meets-West cakes or pastries from the market’s on-site bakery. All of this can be packed up to go or consumed in the market’s dining area.

99 Ranch Market, 1500 Old Country Rd., Westbury; 516-888-8899,

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