The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.

The Northerner

The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.

The Northerner

The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.

The Northerner

Five international markets share a slice of home

This story was written in partnership with LINK nky, Northern Kentucky University’s Advanced News Media Workshop class and The Northerner for this series on the changing face of Northern Kentucky.

Read the other stories in the series here:

“We just hope that everyone can join us and grow together to make our beautiful state the best place, full of cultures,” said Abdirahman Nur, co-owner of Yasmin Halal Market. Yasmin Halal is one of five international markets in Northern Kentucky we visited to learn more about what the region can learn from emerging local cultures – and their cuisine. 

The markets, above all, aim to foster familiarity and ease the homesickness of other immigrants by bringing products from distant lands as well as introducing local individuals to their distinct cultures. 

Thawng Asian Grocery

“This is Golden Pompano,” Grace Thawng said, holding up a plastic bag with a frozen white and gold colored fish inside. “It’s a very good type of fish. It is one of our most popular fish.”  

Thawng put the fish back in the freezer and walked down the packed aisle of the Asian grocery, pausing and pointing at certain products to explain what one could do with that ingredient and where it’s used in Southeast Asia. The smell of sweet bubble tea drifted through the shop and the bright colors of packaging glistened throughout the market. 

Thawng Asian Grocery, a Burmese Chin-run international market, specializes in products from cultures around Southeast Asia including Burmese, Japanese, Thai, Filipino, Vietnamese, Micronesian and Korean foods and products. Thawng Asian Grocery is the only family owned and operated Asian market in Northern Kentucky. Founded in 2021, Thawng caters products to many different Asian immigrant cultures in the area. 

Run by the Thawng family – Cung, Hlei, Andrew and Grace Ramthalen Thawng – the market aims to make Asian products available to Northern Kentucky audiences. 

“Thawng means strong and good news,” Andrew said. 

The Thawngs try to have a personal knowledge of the products they sell so that they can give recommendations to customers.

“We want to know the items that we sell,” Grace Ramthalen Thawng said. “If we order something and we try it because we want to recommend it. If a customer asks, we want to be able to tell what it tastes like and what it is.” 

Thawng offers products ranging from canned and packaged goods to fresh produce, frozen meats, housewares, spices, drinks, breads, bubble tea and fresh sushi, which the owners make daily. The market’s most popular products beyond sushi and bubble tea include golden pompano fish, coconut sauce, kimchi and varieties of canned fish. 

“When we came here, we missed our own food, the food that we ate back home, and we didn’t have ingredients,” Grace Grace Ramthalen Thawng said. “We hopefully have enough varieties to provide those who have immigrated here what they are looking for so then they can make their own meal from back home.” 

The Thwangs hope to expand the market to include additional products. 

“The community has been so supportive,” Grace Ramthalen Thawng said. 

If you go 

Address: 3155 Dixie Hwy., Suite A, Erlanger

Phone: 859-414-7855


Unique International Market Indo Nepali Grocery

Neat rows of colorfully packaged ingredients and spices lined the aisles, their labels a mix of languages. 

Copper-hammered pots and brass plates glistened in the evening sun, which streamed in through the front windows. 

“Hello, my name is Bhim Dahal,” the owner said. 

Dahal’s smile often welcomes customers in the door of Unique International Market Indo Nepali Grocery. Dahal welcomes anyone who wants to find products from their homeland or who wants to learn and experience other cultures into the market of unique products, where the grocery got its name.  

“We have a very popular item that people are buying every day: ready to eat fish,” Dahal said, holding up the spicy chili fish packets. He also said that handicrafts from Nepal, along with momo dumplings, paratha bread, ivy bean, bamboo shoots and certain varieties of rice are also very popular items.  

Dahal immigrated from Nepal in 2009 and opened the market in April 2023, when he realized  that, in order to find Nepalese products, he would have to drive all the way to Jungle Jim’s, which was 45 minutes away for him. 

“Our mission assessment is to connect with people from different backgrounds, with that local hub here, and provide the best product with good customer service,” Dahal said. 

While Dahal said that his first focus is still to the people of Nepal and India, he is slowly incorporating other products from Southeast Asia for other ethnic communities in the Northern Kentucky area. 

“I think a lot of people are homesick,” Dahal said. “They are looking for the product they are used to back at home.”

He said it takes time for immigrants to get assimilated to another culture and that his goal is to make their move easier and provide comfort to those in Northern Kentucky. 

“My favorite part is interacting with the people,” Dahal said. “I meet many different people from different backgrounds – young, old – and they come to the store to buy the product, but we end up kind of talking to each other, sharing cultures.”

If you go

Address: 8125 Connector Drive, Florence

Phone: 859-817-0035


Diakas International Market LLC

The smell of cooking meat, fish and plantains wafted throughout the market as Didier Diakandulu greeted customers in French when they walked into the market. 

The market itself is packed with drinks, corn, beans, rice, spices, canned fish and all measures of products sourced from Africa. 

At the back of the store is a restaurant filled with food from the Democratic Republic of Congo containing dishes like roasted chicken, pork feet, swordfish, beans, cassava greens and plantains. 

Diakandulu moved to the United States from Kinshasa, Congo’s capital, in 2004 after being selected from the Diversity Visa Lottery program. The government program makes a limited number of visas for immigrants available to people each year who meet certain requirements.

Diakandulu graduated from Northern Kentucky University in 2010 with a degree in mechanical manufacturing engineering technology and founded Diakas International Market in 2019 with his wife and four children. 

Diakandulu said his mission for the market is “to make sure all the Africans from Congo and around Africa are satisfied with food that they were eating when they were growing up and that in America they can have that type of food.” 

Diakandulu said that there are many challenges of running the market and sourcing the products from Africa, but he wants to provide that taste of home for immigrants from Africa since “it is very difficult to change what they eat since they were born.” 

He said that he loves the opportunity of “being with people every day, people you talk to, and it’s a good time all the time here.” 

Diakandulu said some of the Congolese food staples served at the restaurant include pondu (cassava leaves), makayabu (salt fish) and makimba (fried plantains). 

“By bringing the food of Congo [to the U.S.], then people can find out the world is not limited,” Diakandulu said. “The future goal is to open more stores around the United States to sell more to Congolese people.” 

If you go 

Address: 7009 Dixie Hwy ste E, Florence, KY 41042

Phone: 859-866-9041


Supermercado Garcia LLC

Supermercado Garcia reverberates with vibrant colors, piñatas hanging from the ceiling, shelves stacked with candies, spices, drinks and coffee, the upbeat sound of mariachi guitar music, and the smells of sweet pan dulce bread and spices wafting through the grocery.

Founded in 2009 by Irene Garcia, the supermarket showcases South American ingredients and cuisine to Northern Kentucky through their well-stocked grocery store. 

Garcia’s daughter, Fatima Mejia, and son started with a sales business 20 years ago, she said, but it started in Ohio before growing into Northern Kentucky. 

Garcia emigrated from Mexico to the United States when she was 18 in 2001 and now wants to bring groceries and goods from Central America and South America to the Latino population here, Mejia said.  

“America’s like a melting pot so it’s hard to maybe find products from your country, so I wanted to help other people make it easier to find their stuff,” Garcia said. “We want customers to be able to find something from home so they don’t miss the food that they would be able to find there.” 

The market’s produce, including different types of peppers, tomatoes, tomatillos, pepino, cilantro, epazote, mangos, pineapples and more, along with butcher products, have been very popular products for the grocery.  

The market’s goal is to help customers find fresh produce and products, Garcia said.  

“We have a variety of products that they are able to come and be familiar with. Some of the products that are here would be in their home country as well,” she said.  

“We have tamales Saturday and Sunday morning, so they run out very quickly,” Mejia said. “We sell green sauce [tamales], which is chicken, and red sauce [tamales], which is pork, and grilled chicken on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.” 

Garcia said the market’s goal is to keep growing and helping people by providing products from Latin America. She explained that her favorite part of running the market is being able to spend time with people. Mejia agreed.

“I like talking to new people and meeting new people so working here kind of helps me get to meet people from all over,” Mejia said. 

If you go

Address: 7914 Dream St., Florence

Phone: 859-372-0129


Yasmin Halal Market

“Have you ever heard about Somalia before?” asked Abdirahman Nur, co-owner of Yasmin Halal Market. “Did you ever taste their food?”

Nur piled seasoned long-grain Somali rice onto disposable plates, topping it with large chunks of tender goat meat and basbaas cagaar, a green Somali hot sauce. 

“We welcome everyone from different countries so they can share with us our beautiful culture and join us to grow together,” he said. 

Abdirahman grew up in Somalia, fleeing to Kenya during political unrest, where he and his family lived in a refugee camp until they were given an opportunity by the United Nations to settle and build a new life in the United States in March 2013. 

“It was really difficult to find halal meat because we are Muslim,” Abdirahman said. “We just wanted to benefit our community where they can come and get good food and good groceries and Halal meat.”  

Yasmin Halal Market opened in 2016 and sells ingredients and products ranging from traditional spices to clothing which are inspired by Somali culture. The market specializes in products from Somalia but also has introduced items from other countries like Morocco and Senegal. 

“It’s better for the community to have different cultures where the more you learn about these cultures the better,” Nur said. “It inspires us and makes us wise.” 

The market’s most popular products are a certain small grain rice from Somalia and a traditional spice mix which includes ingredients like coriander, garlic, salt, paprika, cumin, onion, tomato, sugar, citric acid and parsley, Nur said.  

If you go 

Address: 7133 Turfway Road, Florence

Phone: 859-525-1555