The Asian Grocers

Thursday, January 26, 2012
The majority of the items are not in English though some are.

I had Recipe Club this week and our theme was "Chinese NewYear". I was assigned the entree and after some research I decided to make Char Siu, Chinese BBQ Pork. A few of the ingredients aren't readily found at my usual grocery store so I went to the Asian grocers. I forget how I love this place and I always wonder why I don't go there more often. I enjoy the feeling of being a bit out of my element and discovering new things. I love to roam the aisles and pick up foods and items that look interesting.

It made me realize one of the best things about living outside NYC--easy access to many cultures right in your own backyard.  I have to remind myself of these things sometimes, most often after I return from visiting Dallas and lament on giving up massive square footage to live in a 1/3 the space at over twice the price.
There are many, many Asian grocers in our area. We have an enormous Korean supermarket chain that is throughout our county but I prefer the smaller, Tawainese grocer only a few miles from my house. While it's set up like your typical grocery store, the items inside and the way they are displayed transports you. (I so wanted to take photos in the meat section & seafood section but I was purchasing items and didn't want to bust out the iPhone and snap some shots with the butcher).

I could have spent forever in the meat section. I bought pork butt for the Char Siu but couldn't keep my eyes off the pork uterus, pork tongue and ears. I also love to cruise by the seafood department and see the open display of  jellyfish.

I spent 20 minutes on one aisle looking at soy sauce. I had no idea that there were different variations of soy sauce--Light, dark, aged, tamari. For someone who is well-traveled by American standards, I felt totally unworldy and unknowing. And when it came time to find the Xiao Hsing Cooking Wine I felt stupid not being able to find it and only locating a bottle that read "XiaoShing Cooking Wine". I suspected it was the same, spelled differently. Instead of asking, I "googled" it on my phone. Of course, I could have asked, should have asked. When I went to checkout, there was a friend from my days in the Newcomer's Club asking for help finding yellow rock sugar. She was also making a dish to celebrate Chinese New Year.
 I ended up buying things not on my ingredients list. I bought a mango pudding made with aloe vera cubes, Fragrant pears from China, Korean pears, rice cakes and dried seaweed. I could have definitely bought more, but held back when I passed through the pastries and sticky buns.
I told Matt that as I walked through the store and felt out of my element I thought that someday too, Chloe could be shopping in this grocery store and feel the same way as I do, despite her Chinese heritage. And it made me a little sad. But, then again, I remembered that one reason we moved where we did was because this influence existed. And, while it was only a grocery store, there was a myriad of cultural opportunities for Chloe & Oliver.

And, besides, now that I discovered that they have dried seaweed in abundance and better packaging  (and cheaper) than where I was buying it before, we will be back. Frequently.

1 comment

Anonymous said...

FYI: If you can't find Xiao Hsing Wine, you can always substitute a good Sherry.