Since before Christmas I have been asking my husband to go with me to an Asian market in a nearby city. I had never been there, but heard that it had a wonderful selection. Since I have an ever-expanding collection of cookbooks that call for ingredients that definitely aren’t available at my local grocery store, trips to ethic grocery stores (or mail order) is the only way I can make many of the recipes whose descriptions make my mouth water.
Two days ago my husband was working from home and surprised me by saying he’d go to the market. When we got there I got another surprise. The market is in a strip mall that sits behind a row of businesses. One of the places you have to pull into the parking lot to actually see the businesses because they aren’t visible from the road. Oooh boy! Not only was there the Asian market I intended to go to, there were also a second Asian grocer AND and Indian market. Foodie heaven in a strip mall.
As I walked around the small stores, looking at packages, I was searching my mind for what exotic ingredients I needed for recipes that had caught my eye in the past. I got everything from green cardamom pods, dried woodear fungus that states “genuine fungus” on the package, a big jar of kimchi turned a vibrant red from the ground chili pepper paste in it to a package of dried tofu sticks. My I-don’t-know-what-it-is-but-I’ll-try-it item was a jar labeled bean sauce.
My favorite dish from my local Chinese restaurant is black bean chicken. Sauteed chicken and veggies with pungent, uber-umami bits of flavor courtesy of whole, fermented black beans. I figured the sauce I bought was just those beans ground up into a sauce. Close, but not quite. I did a little research and found it is made with different kinds of beans and is essentially the Chinese version of Japanese miso. Score! I love miso. I can’t wait to try it this weekend.
My husband dutifully followed me around. He long ago got accustomed to my obsession with odd or exotic food. He doesn’t understand it sometimes, like my excitement to discover packages of dried shrimp because now I can try cooking Burmese food, but he puts up with it. This week he even picked out a few things for himself from the snack food aisles. So does anybody else go to grocery stores and buy unfamiliar foods? “Ooh, that’s looks interesting. I have no idea what it is, but I’ll try it.”