Overlooked LB: Fried fish, handmade goodies at Riverside Supermarket

Each time we see a notification that another Overlooked LB submission has landed in the Hi-lo’s inbox we feel giddy. Yet another opportunity to showcase the overlooked details of a neighborhood only its residents know like the back of their hands, or, in this case, a Tuesday afternoon spent perusing the aisles of a market off Anaheim Street, one that at first glance seemed shuttered.

Savannah Fortis, a documentary photographer and writer, was walking through Cambodia Town when she stumbled upon Riverside Supermarket at 1842 E Anaheim Street.

“On the outside, the building is bright pink with writing in Khmer, Spanish, and Chinese,” said Fortis. “The front windows are barred with metal gates, giving it an almost closed and deserted feeling. However, walking into the market is an experience to be had, with whole fried fish sizzling under bright heat lamps, Chinese, Thai, Lao, and Cambodian cooking spices and candies hanging off shelves, an elderly woman hand cutting tropical fruits into flowers in the back aisle, and fresh, handmade delicacies for purchase.”

So Fortis approached the store clerk, Lee, who showed her more about the community that frequents the shop, and the different types of cuisines sold there.

“It’s establishments like Riverside that make our city a diverse and interesting place to live and it shouldn’t be overlooked,” wrote Fortis.

Instagram: @svnnhfr
Website: savannahfortis.com

To submit your own photography excursion to Overlooked LB, email [email protected] 5-10 photos with captions, a black and white photo of yourself, your name and general location, a 100- to 200-word description of your walk through town and any social media platforms you’d like mentioned.

It’s Tuesday afternoon, outside of the bright pink market. A pair of men chat in Khmer while inside a line of five or six people forms at the registers. Some shoppers fondle papayas and small edible cacti, while others weigh bags of rambutans or pick out whole fried fish with silver tongs. Conversations about each other’s days and families can be heard in more than one language. Photo/words by Savannah Fortis.

Photo by Savannah Fortis.

Riverside Supermarket is located at 1842 E Anaheim St., in the middle of the one-mile stretch known as Cambodia Town. It offers a unique selection of imported products and specialty goods that aren’t on the shelves of most chain grocery stores in the area, catering to clients of mostly Cambodian, Lao, Chinese and, increasingly, Hispanic heritage. But more than that, markets like Riverside are part of a larger ecosystem that helps sustain sub-community groups within larger, broader communities. Photo/words by Savannah Fortis.

Photo by Savannah Fortis.

Riverside Supermarket has been serving its local community for over 30 years. Previously, it was run by two other sets of owners, but for the last 12 years it has been operated by brother and sister duo, Lee and Terri Kuy. They come from a family of Cambodian heritage with parents who, like many Cambodians in the area, fled the Khmer Rouge, gained refugee status and eventually made Long Beach their permanent home. For years, they ran and operated a 24-hour donut shop on Slauson and Crenshaw, and have passed down their ethic of hard work and community building to their children. Photo/words by Savannah Fortis.

“We’re known for our fried bananas, taro root and yams,” Terri said. “It’s really simple, just sliced and fried in flour and black sesame seeds. They’re three for one dollar. People just come in and grab a bag full of them, we always run out.” Photo/words by Savannah Fortis.

Lee gave me one of each to sample, explaining that the taro is the most neutral tasting, the yam is savory, and the banana is sweet. When asked which one is the best he said it truly depends on the customer. I personally enjoyed the taro root, which is a chalky brown color on the outside with a white center covered in veiny purple marks. Photo/words by Savannah Fortis.

Riverside is also very popular for its fried fish. “We’ve seen an influx in customers of Hispanic heritage” Terri told me. “The neighborhood is diverse, and you know a lot of my Hispanic customers seem to like our fried fish. They keep coming back for it.” Inside the market, the signs for fried fish are in three languages: Khmer, Spanish and English. The fish at Riverside are fried fresh onsite and whole; eyes, tail, and all! Photo/words by Savannah Fortis.

Terri also let me in on another custom that Southeast Asian and Hispanic cultures have in common: chili and salt on fruit. “Oh yeah, people love it. They come in and buy young mangoes or papayas or lychees and we give them a tiny packet of chili and salt to put on top of it. But ours is much more tart than the Hispanic version. We don’t add sugar. That’s a big difference in our cuisines, we like things very tart!” Pictured: Fresh in-season lychee, rambutan and Buah Kedondong (green fruit). Photo/words by Savannah Fortis.

Photo by Savannah Fortis.

Aside from fried food and tropical fruits, Riverside Supermarket also has a variety of freshly made hot soups, hard boiled eggs, egg rolls, spring rolls, dumplings and other delicacies that change daily. Photo/words by Savannah Fortis.

Photo by Savannah Fortis.

A small sign in Khmer. Photo by Savannah Fortis.

When asked about other the Cambodian markets in the area Terri said, “We don’t view each other as competition. In fact, we try to help each other. We’re small businesses and ultimately we’re here to serve our community. We need each other. When developers came in and tried to knock out the plaza with KH-Market and many other locally owned Cambodian businesses, we all came together, signed petitions, and fought back; it’s about community.” Photo/words by Savannah Fortis.

Stepping into places such as Riverside Supermarket is a reminder that although Long Beach is the second-most populous city in LA county, it does a really good job of fostering inter-community relations. I hear it often said by locals that Long Beach is a big city with a smalltown feel. I would add that it is an integral part of Los Angeles because it too has the world in its backyard for citizens to explore and help foster cultural understanding. It’s establishments like Riverside that make our city a diverse and interesting place to live and it shouldn’t be overlooked. Pictured: Riverside from the back parking lot. Photo/words by Savannah Fortis.

Photo by Savannah Fortis.

A requirement of submitting your photo adventure to Overlooked LB is to include a black and white shot of your beautiful face. We think it creates community by helping you (and us) see the talent behind the lens, the wonderful people highlighting these overlooked pockets that make Long Beach, Long Beach. Everyone, meet Savannah!

Photo of Savannah Fortis. Courtesy Savannah Fortis.




Support our journalism.

Hyperlocal news is an essential force in our democracy, but it costs money to keep an organization like this one alive, and we can’t rely on advertiser support alone. That’s why we’re asking readers like you to support our independent, fact-based journalism. We know you like it—that’s why you’re here. Help us keep hyperlocal news alive in Long Beach.

Asia Morris has been with the Long Beach Post for five years, specializing in coverage of the arts. Her parents gave her the name because they wanted her to be a world traveler and they got their wish. She has obliged by pursuing art, journalism and a second career as a competitive cyclist.