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Originally published April 2, 2009 at 12:00 AM | Page modified April 3, 2009 at 11:43 AM

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Spices and lots of life in multicultural White Center

A look at interesting places to shop and dine in White Center.

Seattle Times staff reporter

White Center looks more like the south-end version of Seattle's Chinatown International District every time we visit — only more diverse, with Halal meat markets and Latin American cuisine.

Located outside of Seattle's southwest city limits, White Center features a large number of Cambodian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean and Mexican supermarkets. It also has as many pho, bánh mì sandwich and bubble tea hangouts as the ID and the Ave.

On any given day, you can hear five to six different languages spoken along the main strip. That's because one of Western Washington's most diverse gathering places attracts many migrants and Southeast Asian refugees.

Lately, though, foodies have discovered White Center as the go-to area to pick up exotic spices and ingredients, especially if you want to avoid the traffic and crowds at the ID on weekends.

We visited the block of Southwest 98th Street between 16th Avenue Southwest and 15th Avenue Southwest.

1. New Angkor Market, 9660 16th Ave S.W. The usual Asian fare of frozen shrimps, bok choy and 50-pound rice sacks. A popular stop for Cambodian and Vietnamese immigrants.

2. White Center Plaza, 9651 15th Ave S.W. It's actually one big store, perhaps the area's biggest hip-hop fashion center, featuring do rags, sneakers and a large collection of Al Pacino's Scarface hoodies, jackets and T shirts.

3. Pho Tai, 1521 S.W. 98th Ave., Suite A. A popular weekend pit stop for Vietnamese families. Or to be more specific, a popular place for Vietnamese men to gather and wait after they drop off their significant others at the Asian markets.

4. Taqueria La Fondita No. 2, between 15th Avenue Southwest and 16th Avenue Southwest. One of the area's best taco trucks. Carne asada tacos are popular, plus (when available) shredded-beef chimichangas. But really, you can ask 10 regulars about favorites and you'll get 10 different answers and a debate going. There is a sitting area under a canopy next to the truck.

5. "Roasted Corn" stand, between 15th and 16th avenues. This vendor stall specializes in ... we'll let you guess. Also serves Mexican fruit cocktails. Outside of the Tacoma Flea Market, you don't see many stalls like this in the area anymore.

6. Samway Market, 9811 15th Ave. S.W. A Cambodian supermarket, specializing in exotic fishes such as golden pomfret, blue runner and milkfish.

Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or tvinh@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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