Food From Far-Off Lands
March 20, 2012 § 3 Comments
I love most types of shopping, but I particularly like shopping that presents a challenge.
This could be choosing a paint color that my husband and I agree on, or stalking treasure at Goodwill, or finding a butcher block that is the exact same height as my kitchen counter (I know it’s out there).
Another scenario that thrills me: roaming around a grocery store that is stocked with food from far off lands.
There are risks, both to my pride and to my palate. If the market is small I might get awkward attention from regular shoppers – a grumpy stare from an old man, or a smile from a woman who wonders what the heck I’m going to do with the unfamiliar ingredient that I’m holding in my hand. I usually wonder what the heck I’m going to do with that ingredient, also. Sometimes it turns out that what I’m going to do is make a dish that tastes perfectly awful (I can’t seem to make pickled gooseberries work for me). But more often, I’ll take home an armful of inexpensive, lovely foodstuffs and learn a thing or two about a thing or two. And I thought you might want to learn, also.
Introducing Food From Far-Off Lands, wherein I explore a foreign food market, ask embarrassing questions to patient store clerks, and present recipes for you to try at home. If you visit the stores that I write about, you get to skip the ‘embarrassing questions’ part. You will stride into the store and ask with authority: ‘Where are the salted duck eggs, Madam? I am using them for tonight’s noodle dish. Thank you very much.’
31217 Pacific Hwy South, Federal Way WA
Last weekend my family discovered that there is an absolutely fantastic pool in Federal Way, a mere 30 minutes away via Sunday morning interstate (‘Get Away, to Federal Way’ is the mantra we repeated while lounging in the hot tub). After two hours of swimming and splashing and soaking, we were starving. One trip down the town’s main drag revealed a whole lotta Korean restaurants – a cuisine I know next to nothing about. I buried my nose in my iPhone for a few frantic minutes, trying to suss out the most highly recommended Korean restaurant in town. Eventually we agreed that I should pitch the phone in favor of our top-notch instincts (and crossed fingers). We turned into the first bustling parking lot that we came across. It served a gigantic store called ‘H-MART’, and streams of people were coming and going. I felt like I should have heard of this place before, but I had not. Always the last to know.
H-MART is an Asian mega-grocery, along the lines of Uwajimaya but mega-er. They have a respectable food court, where we had good lunch (highlight: extra-crispy Korean fried chicken). And they have aisles upon on aisles of Asian and Latino groceries and household items.
How do I love pork belly? Roasted and sliced, on a sweet little sandwich bun. Shredded over noodle soup. With rice.
H-MART has a gigantic produce section, well-stocked and fresh as fresh can be. I picked up a lovely cluster of oyster mushrooms, plump scallions, and emerald greens (‘taku choy’).
.These two will get along perfectly as a quick pickle.
A fried egg is good, a teensy fried egg is precious.
I couldn’t say no to outrageously inexpensive citrus. These beauties will make a lovely salad, maybe garnished with the sesame stem.
Tonight’s dinner was roasted pork belly with white rice and this vegetable dish…
Sauteed Greens & Oyster Mushrooms with Quail Eggs
One dozen quail eggs
1/2 lb oyster mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 lb of Asian greens (taku choy, tatsoi, or baby bok choy), stems removed from leaves
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tblsp neutral oil for frying (canola, vegetable, or peanut)
1 Tblsp soy sauce
chili sauce, for serving
For the eggs:
1. Bring a pot of water, deep enough to cover the eggs by one inch, to a rapid boil.
2. Carefully add the eggs to the pot and cook for 3-5 minutes, depending on the doneness you desire. The line between a soft and hard boiled quail egg is infinitesimal.
3. Remove the eggs from the boiling water and plunge them in an ice-bath for 5 minutes. Peel and halve the eggs, and set them aside.
For the Greens:
1. In a wok or a large skillet, heat the oil. Add the garlic and stir fry for 30 seconds, until the garlic begins to turn golden.
2. Add the mushrooms, and stir-fry for a few minutes more, until they begin to release their liquid.
3. Add the stems of the greens and stir-fry for a few minutes, then add the leaves.
4. After the vegetables have softened and are nearly done, add the soy sauce. Cook for two minutes more, then turn the vegetables onto a plate. Top with the halved eggs and serve with chili sauce, if desired.