I Went to 3 Asian supermarkets in OC. Here’s what I saw:

Sign at H Mart in Garden Grove. Sarah Harwell / el Don

The novel coronavirus has led to two things: grocery stores getting raided with anxious customers, and anti-Asian racism. Because of this, some Asian grocery stores have lost non-Asian customers and been more empty than usual, while others are becoming more popular, as Asian families flock to stock up. 

Last week, I went to my favorite Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese grocery stores in Orange County to see what they still had in stock.

Mom’s Supermarket

5111 W. Edinger Ave, Santa Ana

A local Vietnamese market that is in a popular shopping center. There was a very little amount of people, which is normal for this low-key store. Most workers were wearing masks, but most of the elderly clientele buying groceries at the time were not. There was social distancing in practice, as many people moved away from one another or shifted their position to maintain their distance in the aisles. Huge shelves of rice were empty, as well as shelves of its substitutes, such as microwaveable rice. Employee Ryan Vo said that there were random incidents of panic buying, but no major influx of customers. He said the demographic that came in was around 90% Asian, signifying to him that it was still only regular customers shopping there. 

Some stores were limiting purchases of essential items like meat, rice and ramen to two per family. Sarah Harwell / el Don

H Mart

8911 Garden Grove Blvd, Garden Grove. hmart.com

One of the most well-known Korean supermarkets, H Mart was packed as always and had a security guard at the front that counted off how many people could enter. There was a line outside, with tape on the ground to keep people six feet apart. All the workers were wearing masks, and they had a low stock of everything. Almost all of the instant noodles were bought up, and a customer had a limit to only one box of instant noodles, a limit of two single-serving packages of instant noodles, and three meat products per household. All of the rice was gone and had a one per customer limit. Asian essentials such as noodles, dried seaweed, etc. were almost all gone. 

Dairy section at 99 Ranch Market in Anaheim. Sarah Harwell / el Don

99 Ranch Market

651 N. Euclid St., Anaheim. 99ranch.com

The only north OC location of this popular Chinese supermarket chain was more crowded than usual, with not much of social distancing practices. Every single worker and almost every customer was wearing a mask and gloves, even if they were just working the cash register. The dairy section was fully stocked of milk but was low on soy milk and lactose-free milk (in some communities, up to 90% of Asians are lactose-intolerant). The shelves were stocked with Asian snacks and dried and canned goods. The only coveted item was water and rice. Not many people were frantic, but instead casually shopping. It seemed that no one was panic buying, and each shopper was purchasing a normal amount of groceries. 

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