One of the things I love about my home town is there a lot of ethnic grocery stores in the area. There are several Asian markets, a European market, an African market, an Indian market, a Balkan market and probably even more I don’t know about as I know about most of the markets by word of mouth or through one of my explore the city walks.
I love spending time walking up and down the aisles, looking at stuff and picking new stuff to try. Sometimes, I get lucky and find an absolute treasure like this Tea Masala, that makes a Masala tea exactly like the one I love at my favorite ethnic restaurant, the Himalayan Yak. Other times, I don’t get so lucky and bring home Durian flavored cookies. If you never heard of Durian, it is a fruit that supposedly tastes delicious but smells like something rotting. It is bad and I just had cookies. I can’t imagine what a whole fruit smells like. But by far, I have had more positive shopping experiences at ethnic markets then bad ones. Trying new things is always a chance no matter where you shop.
My current favorite ingredient that I bought at the Asian market is Gochujang, a Korean hot pepper paste. This ingredient was way outside my culinary comfort zone because I am a hot spice wimp. The first time I used Gochujang in a recipe I was expecting it to blow the top of my head off like a scotch bonnet pepper. Instead, it has a pleasant heat and earthiness that I really like.
I found the recipe for this simple stir fry sauce by googling easy stir fry sauces. I was so excited to try it Because I love a good stir fry sauce and it did not disappoint. I don’t know how authentic my vegetable choices were to Korean food, I used Bok Choi, green beans and white mushrooms, but it was delicious.
A Few Tips For Shopping At An ethnic market:
- Be respectful. You are going to see things in ethnic markets you don’t see in your average grocery store. The words yuck, ick, or that’s disgusting should never leave your mouth. Just move on to the next thing or leave the store. This shouldn’t even need to be said but after watching two people throw an absolute fit because they couldn’t find “American” food in an Asian market I guess it does.
- Google and Google translate are your friends. You won’t know what a lot of the items are on the shelves, although some will be very familiar. Google products to find out what they are. Snap a picture of the ingredients or directions if they are in another language and run them through Google translate to see whats what.
- Step outside your culinary comfort zone and try something new. Some of my favorite things to cook with like Furrikake, Gochujang and Kimchi, have all become my favorites because I just picked them up and tried them. I had no idea what to do with them at first. I just googled the item for recipes, picked one and tried it. It has lead to many really enjoyable meals.
Korean Style Stir Fry Sauce
2 1/2 TBS Gochujang (Korean hot chili paste)
1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp Gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes)
In small bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix well