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Lee Lee Oriental Supermarket

December 24, 2009

Some of my purchases from Lee Lee Supermarket

(l-r) Madam Pum Ginger & Garlic Chilli Sauce, Maesri Masaman Curry Paste, Chin Yeh Fried Gluten, Mekong Seasoning Sauce, Rock Candy


After months of hearing “next month”, Lee Lee Oriental Supermarket opened in Tucson yesterday.  I went by there to scope it out and…wow.

It was something of a zoo – people crowding all of the aisles looking in wide-eyed amazement at so many things they’d never seen (or maybe that was just me), product placed in seemingly random places in the hurry to open, people talking in many, many different languages… Yeah, Lee Lee is my kind of place.

Before we go any further, do people still use ‘oriental’ in reference to things Asian?  It’s a word I usually avoid, but Lee Lee has it in big, bold letters on their signs.  Just wondering.

So here are the things that excite me about this place (in no particular order):

  • Fresh fish of every size and description: Skate, catfish, tilapia, halibut, something called beltfish (I’m thinking eel, folks). Not to mention live crabs, clams, and oysters.  They said that their selection will change/grow based on demand, so I’m hoping that folks will demand more!
  • Pork products: pork belly, pigs’ feet, uncured slab bacon…  Things that I sure can’t get at Safeway I can get there, and I’m looking to do some experimenting.
  • Condiments: I don’t know what they all are, but I’m going to try to figure some of them out.
  • Wacked-out sweets: The names alone of some of them are enough to make me want to try them.  Sort of.

So if you have some time, head to 1990 W Orange Grove and spend a while wandering the aisles.  When you’re done, let me know the best thing you found.   And if there’s something there that you think I should try, let me know!  I’m pretty sure I’ll be going back soon (and often).

This has nothing to do with Lee Lee, but I want to wish all of my readers a very happy holiday season, and a peaceful and joyous new year.  I appreciate all of the support everyone has given me along the way, and wouldn’t be doing this without a lot of encouragement.  Thank you all, and happy, happy holidays!


8 Comments leave one →
  1. December 24, 2009 1:55 pm

    Great to have another, but why is everyone acting as if we didn’t already have the Sandyi, G&L, 17th St., Grantstone, etc.?

    • December 27, 2009 6:59 pm

      Hi Wes,

      I feel like there are some differences between some of the other locations you mentioned, and reasons why I’ll stop at any one in particular.

      I love the 17th St. Market. It’s close to my work and it’s the only place where I can consistently find sushi-grade fish. They’ve got great organic produce, and a nice mix of products. I think Lee Lee is going to cut into some of 17th St.’s business, but probably not too much.

      Grantstone is on my way home, and I stop there occasionally. Unfortunately, I’m usually hassled either on my way in or out (sometimes both), and service and cleanliness are lacking.

      Personally, I’m excited about the new addition because, well, it’s new and exciting. It also has a huge selection (with lots of things I’ve never seen before), is clean, the staff I dealt with were friendly, and I had a pleasant experience overall there. Will that continue? Maybe not, but I hope it will.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to take anything away from the other Asian/international markets we have in Tucson. But this place is a little different, and I’m glad they’re here.

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!


  2. Elena Acoba permalink
    December 26, 2009 10:02 am

    I went on Dec. 24 and I felt I landed in Disneyland: the thrill of enjoying old favorites. Here’s my take:

    The veggie, fish and meat sections all stock items that I can buy to finally cook some of my comfort foods and maybe introduce my Filipino food heritage to my 14-year-old daughter and Ango husband.

    I also really loved the mix of shoppers and languages, from Spanish to an Indian dialect and almost every Asian one in between. It’s just like my diverse hometown, Carson, Calif.

    Yes, Oriental is still used when talking about goods such as food and art. Not sure why, but I don’t take offense. It may be because it covers the entire silk road region and not just what people picture as Asian (usually China and parts east and south).

    Like other Asian food stores in town, the store still skews to one cuisine, I think Vietnamese in this case, but at least there is a better balance of foods from a variety of countries, including European food that is consumed in Asian countries. I was able to find a lot of Dutch stuff that Indonesians eat, so my husband and his dad can also enjoy some comfort food that we can now easily find.

    I suggest checking it out before lunar new year. That place will be crazy in prep for that.

    Hooray for Lee Lee Oriental Market! It’s a very nice holiday gift.

    • December 27, 2009 7:03 pm


      Thank you for adding your impressions, thoughts, and lesson on the word ‘Oriental’! I love having your viewpoint as someone who is much more familiar with some of the products than I could ever be.

      I’m glad you enjoyed it as much as I did, and if you ever see me wandering around there (with a glassy-eyed expression, most likely) make sure you say ‘hi!’.


  3. December 28, 2009 9:17 am

    Kevin, thanks for sharing your experience! I am super excited about Lee Lee opening. I moved here from LA 5 years ago where there are so many choices and it’s great to have another choice here in Tucson. I’m out of town now but can’t wait to check it out when I get back. We should have a Tucson foodie meet-up/tweet-up there!!

    • December 28, 2009 9:33 am

      Hiya, Julie!

      A meet ‘n’ tweet (or something like that) there sounds great! Let me know when you’re back in town and we’ll get it going!

      Happy travels,

  4. Morgan permalink
    December 28, 2009 2:01 pm

    I can’t wait to check this place out! Great post!

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