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Everest Asian Market: Feeding Vermont's Hunger For International Flavors

A basket of blue crabs for sale at Everest Asian Market in Essex Junction.
April Qian
/
VPR
A basket of blue crabs for sale at Everest Asian Market in Essex Junction.

It will be some time before the official 2020 U.S. census tally of Vermont residents is complete, but whether or not the state population has diversified in the last decade, Vermonters' culinary interests appear more varied. Everest Asian Market in Essex Junction is expanding, and the owner said he's seen sales triple in just the last couple of years.

Part of what's driving that success, owner Damber Adikhari said, is what the market offers. It isn't what you'd likely find elsewhere: Fresh Maryland blue crabs in a basket by the checkout counter, blazing red chilies, piquant spices and vegetables not traditionally part of Vermont cuisine.

A person stands in a supermarket.
Credit April Qian / VPR
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VPR
Everest Asian Market owner Damber Adikhari.

"We are looking at over 150 kinds of different fruits and vegetables, and over 5,000 different kinds of Asian ingredients," Adikhari said.

The goods come from across Asia: Japan, Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, India, China, Nepal and beyond. 

Adikhari was hustling back and forth, unloading supplies from his truck, when he stopped for a few minutes to talk with Vermont Edition about what it takes to run what he said is Vermont's largest Asian market. And he talked about his own path to Vermont.

Born in Bhutan, he lived in a refugee camp in Nepal for 17 years before coming to the United States in 2009. Now Adikhari owns and runs the market after he and his brother bought it from the previous owners a few years ago.

And he takes pride in the variety of foods he can offer.

Chiles, vegetables and several kinds of eggplant on offer at the Asian market.
Credit April Qian / VPR
/
VPR
Chiles, vegetables and several kinds of eggplant on offer at the Asian market.

"We have five different kinds, maybe more, of eggplant," he said. He rattles them off: "Thai eggplant and Chinese eggplant, we have Italian eggplant, Indian eggplant ... so many products you can only find in my store."

Customer Vitela Srivastava was in the checkout line and shared what she was buying.

"This is mainly for the ethnic stuff, so if you need those spices, those vegetables, this is the place," she said.

She buys typical Indian spices "which I won't find in any other grocery store," but that day she was also buying Thai curry paste, cilantro, and "five more things than what [I] came for." 

Adikhari wrangles more than 75 vendors each week to stock his store, spending hours on the road each week to collect items from Maryland to New Jersey to New York.

He admits that, for some of the items on the shelf, even he doesn't know what to do with them.

"Some of the product, I still don't know how to use it," he said. "I ask customers what I'm missing ... and I just go and get it. I just know the price, but sometimes I don't even know their names."

"I sometimes ask my customers here, 'How do I use this one?' And they explain that to me and I try to remember it for next time," he laughed.

Adikhari's customers may come in looking for a taste of home, but he's also seeing business from customers who are simply interested in Asian cooking.  

“Our business has grown over 300% in the last two years,” he says. “That shows me, if I do my job right, if I have everything the customer is looking for, more people are interested. Even if they don’t know anything about Asian food. They will learn. They want to learn.”

The storefront of Everest Asian Market in Essex Junction.
Credit April Qian / VPR
/
VPR
Everest Asian Market in Essex Junction is, according to owner Damber Adikhari, the largest Asian market in Vermont.

It hasn't always been easy. Adikhari said he cried a lot when he first arrived in the U.S., and had to learn how to take a bus, use an ATM and to speak English. Despite the challenges, he said “now, everything is working well.”

"If you have a dream and if you work hard for it, this is the land of opportunity," he said. "You will get there."

"I strongly believe that," Adikhari added. "And I wish everyone believed that."

Listen to the full interview to hear more from Adikhari, and the customers and employees who keep Everest Asian Market going.

Broadcast on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020 at noon; rebroadcast at 8 p.m.

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