A shopper at Duc Loi Supermarket carefully selects large chunks of freshly fried chicharrones, while rendered lard begins solidifying on the counter nearby.
For over twenty years, seven days a week, Howard and Amanda Ngo have sold fresh, affordable produce and a quirky blend of both Latin American and Asian ingredients at the heart of the Mission District.
Looking for purple corn and whole-blossom jamaica in bulk? They have it. Ube yam and cashew fruit and banana leaves in the freezer section? Check. Dried peruvian beans or dried tofu nuggets? Check. Goat ribs and ox tails and whole, fresh pig heads? It's all there at the meat counter. Young, watery coconuts chilled and ready to hack open for sipping on a sunny afternoon? Most definitely yes.
The tart fruit of whole tamarind pods and the smokiness of boiled brown sugar satisfy a range of palates from Malaysia to Mexico.
Landing in the San Francisco in 1987, by way of Saigon and then Georgia, the couple's first store filled a mere 700 square feet. Two months ago, their newly built supermarket stretched its aisles to 4,000 square feet. That's still small for a full-service grocery store (major chain stores might cover 50,000 square feet), but their success in serving their immediate neighborhood's needs in selection and price reflects a commitment that bigger markets rarely have. This past February, the City of San Francisco awarded a certificate of honor to Duc Loi, which just happens to mean "ethical profit" in Cantonese.