The other day we shopped at our local Asian market. We find Asian grocery stores to be a treasure trove of interesting new foods, expanded varieties of things we are used to, and a very cost-effective way to shop.
You want eggplant? Check out the varieties. They had Thai eggplant, Indian eggplant, Chinese eggplant, Japanese eggplant, and of course, regular ol’ eggplant. I can’t wait to try out my Thai and Indian eggplant in a nice Thai curry dish.
If you want fresh herbs, this is the place to get them. They are far less expensive than at most grocery stores and Iusually see a better variety. Here you’ve got cilantro, tarragon, parsley, mint, basil, Thai basil and more! If you want to cook Thai food these are the places to pick up galangal, lemongrass, and kaffir limes.
Bok choy? Chinese broccoli? Try about 12 different varieties. These are great for stir frying and are a nice way to change up a normal broccoli side dish.
Our grocery has walls of exotic fruits and vegetables from other places. While we enjoy eating local produce, sometimes it’s fun and interesting to try new foods from around the world. It certainly adds a touch of the exotic to one’s normal routine. We have a Vietnamese place we enjoy eating at and they put a vegetable in one of their soups that we had never before encountered. When we asked about it they told us it was called a Chinese celery. We saw it at the Asian market, (it’s the one on the top right side of the picture) along with a number of other fun-looking foods.
And then there were the durian fruit. That reminds me of a story. About seven years ago Steven and I visited Thailand. While in Bangkok we stopped at one of the local fruit/veggies stands on the street to peruse their selection and pick up some fresh fruit (only things in peels of course). Steven likes to try new things and he saw something he’d never seen before. They told us it was a durian fruit and that it was very good (read, gullible tourists). So we bought one and put it in a bag in our backpack. Then we spent the day touring Bangkok in 104 degree heat. That night we arrived back at our hotel, road-weary, hot and sweaty, and ready to try our new food. We opened the backpack and wow! if only I had smellivision on this computer. It had to have been one of the most disgusting smells I’ve ever smelled in my entire life! It was like a diaper pail mixed with kombu seawood, teenage boy armpits, and dead fish. Our whole backpack stunk and we couldn’t possibly bring ourselves to eat this mortifyingly stinky fruit. We walked around with a durian-smelling backpack for the next three weeks. We asked a local about it the next day and they laughed as they told us that yes, this is possibly the stinkiest fruit ever but that the inside is delicious and one should NEVER leave it in one’s backpack in the heat. Now you know too. And if you want to laugh read this Taste Test of the durian. I laughed so hard I cried.
Spending some time at an Asian market is a good way to get inspired to cook some yummy new things or put a twist on some things you normally eat. Our new find this week was a bag of brown rice patties. They are about the size of a quarter. I made a homemade miso soup and added in the brown rice patties for some extra bulk. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. We also picked up several bags of soba noodles and udon noodles. They make for a nice change from whole wheat pasta.
Have you ever shopped at an Asian grocery? What’s the most interesting item you’ve ever gotten at an Asian grocery?