The Hana Japense Market, located at 17th and U St. NW, is a teensy tiny treasure trove of an Asian grocery. Filled chock full with every item you ever needed for your teriyaki, homemade sushi, and okomiyaki, this little store has, as far as I can tell, the distinct reputation of being the only Asian grocery within District bounds (besides the wholesalers at Union Market).
Hana, which only opened in 2008, is managed by a Japanese couple who oversee about three staff. They are delightful and will cheerfully lead you to your item of choice should you not be able to decipher Japanese. One of the most amusing parts of the market is that it shares space with a Japanese travel agency—I can’t speak to it at all, but it leads to the walls being lined with lovely photos of the world abroad. The store has quite the variety of items and variations on themes, including prepared foods the freezer, candies galore, 15 kilo bags of rice, and enough soy sauce options for any of your soy sauce needs. Also, of great import to us Westerners, is the fact that all items imported from Japan have English labels on the back so we know what the heck they are and what ingredients are in them.
Now, I’m no connoisseur of Japanese cuisine, so it’s difficult for me to say exactly what Hana is missing. However, reviewers on Yelp! and Chowhound are quire impressed with the selection, listing all kinds of random ingredients and foods that can be found there and that their bellies have been yearning for. I, for one, am still experimenting with Japanese food, but managed to find vegetarian dashi (soup stock) which I was sure didn’t exist, as well as shichimi togarashi (flavored red pepper flakes) for my maiden voyage with miso soup.
Hana is also the location for delivery of fresh fruits and vegetables, from both a farm in Virginia and Los Angeles. If you walk by during the summer you might even find little seedlings for Japanese basil and eggplant sitting outside for sale in a small cardboard box.
This little market will serve many of your Asian food needs, as it also carries a handful of Thai and Chinese ingredients, and the cheapest Sriracha sauce I have seen so far!
To visit: 2004 17th St NW, a short walk from the U St. and Dupont Circle Metro stations. Also right off of the 90s and L2 bus lines. (202) 939-8853.