If you have not visited Mountain View Drive lately and you have an interest in food, you are in for a treat. That little span of asphalt might be the most interesting spot for eating and shopping in Anchorage. In a short drive, you encounter a Thai grocery, a Hmong grocery, pho, Polynesian food, falafel, German food, African food, tacos and sushi, among other interesting things. (Is Mountain View Wings still open? Anybody?) Read more about neighborhood food on Kirsten Swann’s neighborhood Mt. View food blog. I did a tour through the neighborhood recently with my friend Lam and made a stop at my all-time favorite market in Anchorage, Red Apple. Here are a few things that usually wind up in my shopping cart when I go there.

1) Soup bones.

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I’m a big fan of bean soup in the winter. But to make a decent one, a person needs a nice, smoky soup bone. BUT: Try finding one of these at Fred’s. In the era of prepacked meat, bones are not easy to find. When I asked the Fred Meyer butcher, he told me to buy a whole bone-in ham! I think not. You can get three bones at Red Apple for about $6.

2. Candles.

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These candles, meant for Buddhist and Hmong shrines, will set you back a couple of bucks. I use them for all kinds of things. Stick them in a couple bowls of black rice on the table for a fancy dinner, use them to light up a jack-o-lantern. I’ve even used them on birthday cakes. (There is also an ah-mazing knife and cleaver section next to these candles. I should have photographed it. Also on offer nearby: every kind of rice you’d ever want, tortilla presses, massive tea kettles.)

The Apple’s Asian shrine section (not to be confused with the Catholic saint candle section in another part of the store) is just cool. You can buy the incense they burn at the Lao Buddhist temple on Shodde Street and the metallic Hmong spirit paper I’ve seen cut into paper dolls and taped on doors in the neighborhood. These are the paper dollars burned during Hmong and Chinese ceremonies to send “money” to relatives in the spiritual world.

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3. Fresh greens and other produce.

Lam Thuy Vo photo

Lam Thuy Vo photo

You want long beans in January? How about some lovely, crisp baby pak choi? Basil? Baby eggplant? You’ll find them at Red Apple, and the prices will beat most every other market in the city.

Here are some banana flowers:

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And look at all these delicious greens:

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 4) Delightful beverages from around the world.

Lam Thuy Vo photo

Lam Thuy Vo photo

Mixology enthusiasts, Red Apple is the jam for interesting cocktail flavors. You can find everything from Goya pineapple soda to Malta cola from Africa.  I will personally give a prize to somebody who makes a cocktail with this:

Lam Thuy Vo photo

Lam Thuy Vo photo

5. Dried beans and lentils.

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On the subject of soup, one time I went to Carrs-Northway thinking it would be no big deal to pick up red lentils for this VERY DELICIOUS lentil soup recipe. There were no lentils in the store, and both cashier and manager were like, “Lenti-what-the-heck-are-you-talking-about?” when I asked. Anyway, that made me think that lentils were actually more exotic than I thought. And I started buying them at New Sagaya City Market, where they cost like $8 for a Dixie cup full. Then I went to Red Apple  and realized I was paying far too much. The Apple has an enormous dried bean selection, all well-priced.

 6. Unusual meat

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Red Apple’s protein section is something to behold. They cater to the entire Asian/Polynesian diaspora. I was in the market for the above oxtails (pho!), but a person can find whole head-on chicken, beef tongue and brain, and pork blood, among other things. Once again, best prices around. (If you’d curious just how unusual, look close at the freezer case below…)

Lam Thuy Vo photo

Lam Thuy Vo photo

What is your favorite Red Apple buy?