East Texans Spice Up Holiday Meal With Taste Of Orient - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

12/22/04-Tyler

East Texans Spice Up Holiday Meal With Taste Of Orient

Nestled in a shopping center in South Tyler is a little store called Import Emporium. In it you can find thousands of items imported directly from Asia and fresh produce and meat brought in weekly from Houston.

The owner, Nitaya Russell, came to Tyler nine years ago from a city 100 times bigger: Bangkok, Thailand. She missed her native cuisine and soon discovered there was a market for it in East Texas.

"Now the people start to talk out about the store and bring more people in everyday," she said.

The Asian grocery store has been open just over a year and it's drawing customers from all cultures.

We found Carol Shao, from Shenzhen, China, who now lives in Tyler. She used to have to go out of town just to get a taste of home.

Now, "I don't have to drive all the way to Dallas," she said. "That's really bad to drive two hours just for some groceries."

Joyce Lobb from Tyler comes in at least once a week. She fell in love with authentic Asian food after her husband went overseas on business.

"Just as soon as I heard that they were going to be here, I got in as soon as I could," she said. "So I'd have a whole Chinese banquet with everything."

Elizabeth Beasley came all the way from Shreveport with her foreign exchange student and a long-time friend from Harrison County.

The store carries some common, recognizable foods like instant noodles, but it also has some more exotic items like a bottle of what looks like ketchup, but it's actually banana sauce. It turns out, it's the Filipino version of ketchup.

So whether you're looking for dried mangos, shrimp chips, or traditional Oriental clothing, you'll find it at Import Emporium, located on ESE Loop 323 near South Broadway, in the shopping center across from Robert E. Lee High School.

The owner is getting ready to double the size of the store and add more variety to meet the growing demand.

Julie Tam, reporting.

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