The new Veranda Asian Market at Forest and Vannah avenues in Portland — owned by the same family that owns the Veranda Thai restaurant and the Veranda Noodle Bar on Veranda Street — bills itself as the largest Asian market in Maine, and that’s not hard to believe.
The first time I ordered takeout here, they told me it would take about 15 minutes, so I took the opportunity to wander the aisles, check out all the foods I’d never heard of before, and marvel at the fish case and large selection of huge exotic fruits and vegetables.
Who knew that mangosteen juice came in a can? Not me. I’ve also never heard of “grass jelly drink,” a canned liquid with bits of grass jelly floating in it. I figured it was probably something like bubble tea, but I still couldn’t bring myself to try it. The words “grass” and “drink” just don’t belong in the same sentence.
I decided to stick with takeout, which is prepared to order in a kitchen in the back of the store. On my first visit, I tried a plate of grilled sliced beef, jasmine rice and salad for $12.95. The beef was tender, the rice well-cooked, and the salad much tastier than I expected it to be on first glance.
The menu is basically a blend of the menus from Veranda Thai and Veranda Noodle Bar. There’s a Wok Rice Plate section, and a Noodles and Fried Rice section where you’ll find staples like Pad Thai and Drunken Noodles.
There are Seafood Rice Plates, Thai Curry Rice Plates, a Vermicelli Noodle section, a Grill Rice Plate section (choice of chicken, sliced pork, shrimp, sliced beef or pork chop) and some Duck Rice Plates (roasted duck with snow peas, carrots, onion scallion and broccoli for $16.95, one of the pricier items on the menu).
If you’re in a hurry, try the Asian barbecue, which will be sliced off for you in front of your eyes from a slab of hanging pork, or a whole duck or chicken. The BBQ Rice plates are all $10.95, and you can add more meat or vegetables for $2 extra.
I tried a plate of barbecue pork, Korean kimchi and jasmine rice. I was hoping to substitute the mustard greens that come with the roasted pork, barbecue duck, salted chicken and soy sauce chicken for the kimchi — I like kimchi just fine, but I’m not a huge fan — but there was a bit of a language barrier, and the gentleman who made my plate didn’t understand my request.
You can buy the barbecue pork by the pound ($9.95 per pound) as well, or buy a half ($12.95) or whole ($22.95) barbecue duck. The salted and soy chickens are also available by the half or whole bird. You can see the entire take-out menu on the restaurant’s website.
On my first visit, the grocery was packed with the curious checking out the grocery aisles; many of them, like me, waiting for takeout. The crowds had dwindled by the time of my second visit, and I found myself worrying that this might become more of an outpost of the other two restaurants than a market with a wide selection of Asian groceries that Portlanders are lucky to have.
I resolved to go back again, this time to support the market by doing a little grocery shopping and buying a few things that fall outside of my comfort zone.
Maybe I’ll even try that grass jelly drink.
The staff of GO anonymously samples meals for about $10.