There's a little Asian grocery store near my Bible study (at a different church than I normally attend), so frequently the kids and I wander over to see what's "in" after our Thursday morning study time. I think of it as the "Chinese store," but it's really quite Asian in scope. There are Thai, Korean, Chinese, and Japanese items in the tiny, crowded, staffed-by-Asians-who-don't-speak-much-English place. Why do I drag my double stroller with 21-month-old twins plus pre-schooler into this tiny little place? Why go to another store? (And I'm adamant that I won't go to more than 1 store plus a produce market each week.)
Here's why: it's always an enriching experience (I once wrote about the bond of motherhood I experienced with an Asian mom in there). My kids and I definitely stick out; we're American, don't spick a lick of any Asian language, can't tell what we're buying, and people have to move out of our way because the aisles are only wide enough for 1 stroller or person to walk down. This ensures we will have an interesting experience because we have to interact with the aforementioned, non-English-speaking store personnel. I first went to the store with my husband; we'd been referred by a friend who'd spent time in China (as did my hubby) and said this was a good place to get the genuine goods. My hubby helped me learn what things looked like that I might want to buy. Now, I'm brave enough to venture in with my just my kiddos.
What do we buy? Produce, tea, steamed buns with red bean paste (yum, yum, yum!!!), sesame candy, gyoza wrappers, brown jasmine rice, .... We once got a TON of real (loose) Jasmine tea for about $4. I found out that their produce truck comes in on Wednesdays, that the store is too crowded for me (and the kids) on Wednesdays, and that coming in Thursday at lunch-time was a good time to have a nice selection of produce without a crowd of people (that info came from the one time I ran into an English speaking Thai girl).
Well, this week I took the ultimate challenge: to buy my produce for the week at the Asian store instead of my usual, beloved Pratt's (the produce market I often refer to that is right around the corner from my house). We went in yesterday on one of our little Thursday excursions and there were tons of vegetables this week! I made a spur-of-the-moment decision that I would indeed find enough here to feed the family for the week (well, I do have a nice stock of frozen veggies on hand as well). Remembering our terrific discovery of baby greens there this past summer, I headed down the tea aisle, which was made possible because a nice Asian man moved out of the way for us, walked past the frozen food section where I spurned the pork belly, weird seafood, and such, picked up some frozen gyoza wrappers and steamed buns with red bean paste, and began the produce adventure:
- unnamed baby greens in plastic bag in refrigerated section (look like mustard greens?)
- baby bok choy-looking baby greens in plastic bag in refrigerated section
- snow peas
- Taiwanese cabbage (looks just like regular American cabbage, but is much lighter in weight and is "sweet" according to my limited English exchange with nice Asian store lady)
- 4 Kirby cucumbers
- 1 head broccoli
- 1 red pepper
- passed over meat in water in a little tub in the midst of the veggies--liver, maye? hmmm
- green beans (they're soooo much better than ours!!)
- big bag of bean sprouts for $1.39
- big head of green leaf lettuce ("yes... lettuce" to my inquiry)
- passed over the chickens in plastic bags sitting in a carboard box near the veggies--3/$10. Hmmm.... still into my American ideals of food safety, thank you.
- 4 Florida oranges
- 8 red apples
- weird bunch of Thai bananas--"more sour" and "more chewy" and "yes you can cook them same" (to my query as to whether I could cook them like plantains). "three days" and "more yellow" (to my query as to were they ripe). This was because I didn't see any other bananas and thought we'd make this the culmination of our Asian produce experience.
The cashier (with whom I'd conducted the inquiries already described) told me that I did not have baby mustard greens or baby bok choy but something else--I caught something about a flower and that I could cook them the same way.... I got home and did a small google search. I think I have flowering cabbage and another version of baby bok choy.
So, what are we going to cook/eat this week? Since many of the things I got need to be eaten pronto, we're going to have sauteed unnamed greens as a side dish to our Pad Thai with bean sprouts and chicken tonight (the Pad Thai is a sauce mix from Kroger). Tomorrow, we'll have the baby bok choy alongside Creamy Peanut Chicken. Sometime Sunday or Monday, we'll try those bananas--maybe as a side dish to beans and rice.
Our next adventure: the Mexican Grocery store! I do speak a wee bit of Spanish and am much more familiar with Mexican and South American cooking--now that I've braved the Asian store, the Mexican store should be a piece of cake! (or piece of flan if you want to be technical...)