So let’s visit some ethnic grocery stores. In this virtual tour, we head to Hua Xing Asia Market in Ann Arbor. Walk with me down the aisle and stop and peek at the variety, and the unusual, and the cheap, and the wonderful, and the odd.
Some of the Mystery Grocery Boxes have been sent. One box came from this Asian market. I wish I could be there when they open their boxes, but I must say that I was kind–very kind. I did not include anything too weird. I want people to sign up for this again, so I didn’t want to scare anyone off.
And speaking of being scared off, this is the lion that you must pass in order to enter the store. Actually, there are two lions, one on each side of the door.
And after you have tiptoed right between the two lions hoping that they won’t suddenly come to life and bite you, you are greeted by this guy who is laughing at you for your silliness.
Now the very first thing I noticed after I entered was this package of Jane-Jane dried flattened squid. I desperately wished I had bought it to include in a Mystery Grocery Box, but the idea of the Mystery Grocery Box only began to form while shopping, and finally hit me on the drive home. I had a quiet ride and could think because for once in my life, I went shopping without all four kiddos.
After entering and stopping at the Jane-Jane dried flattened squid display, I turned to my right to check out all of the “hardware.”
There was an entire aisle dedicated to tea sets. This cute little blue and white set caught my eye, but the price tag made my eyes google! $7.99! I almost bought it for my girls, then I remembered that they already had two tea sets, and probably didn’t need a third. It would make a great little gift for a birthday party.
I have always wanted a pestle and mortar. I would love to make guacamole in it at our table just like they do at a Mexican restaurant I love. I don’t have the room for one in my tiny kitchen, but I photographed it just for the love of it. I have seen pestle and mortars in Mexican grocery stores for about the same price.
And if you wanted a sleek urban looking pestle and mortar, you just had to go down one more shelf.
I love crockery. This bowl caught my eye with its thick crockery walls and blue and white simple design. This solid bowl could be used for serving or even baking a small casserole. I think pancakes might just fit perfectly, and the thick crockery walls would radiate heat and keep them warm for a long time.
My mom uses plastic trays for everything. I do too. I use them in homeschooling for finger painting, for the base of dioramas,
for watercolor painting, for keeping all the math manipulatives from scattering across the table, for science experiments, and many other uses. In canning, I place a cutting board within the plastic tray before I cut the kernels off the sweet corn. I do the same when I am slicing up a large turkey or beef roast, and I don’t want the juices overflowing onto my counter. I don’t remember the price, other than it was very cheap. And although it looks like porcelain (I had to pick it up to see) it actually was plastic.
A bouquet of brooms was at the end of the aisle, but let’s turn the corner and see what is down the next aisle.
And for those who want to grow their own vegetables, at the very end of the aisle were these hoes. It seems as if every country in the world uses this hoe except for North America. This website says it is the most common garden tool in the world.
“So what is an Azada? Azada (ah-zah-da) is what they call both grub hoes and grape hoes in Europe and South America. This type of tools has become very popular with British gardeners – click here to read what British gardeners say about the Azada. The grub hoe is called a powrah, mammoty or mamooty in India, a changkol or changkul in Asia, an enxada in Brazil, a jembe in Africa, and a Okinawan kuwa (where it is also a traditional Martial Arts weapon – check it out!)I think they are called a “cahngkol” in Malay.
Still in the cutting department, but on a much smaller scale is this wavy knife. I used to have one, and it was fun for cutting fancy carrots or other veggies, but one day it was used for Play Doh, and it has never again returned to my knife drawer. sigh.
There were rolling pins of every size. And all priced for my budget.
I don’t know why I included a “fly flapper” in this post, but I guess the cheap price caught my eye. Actually, lets play “I Spy”. One of these photos has a fly in the photo that needs to be “taken out.” Spot the photo with the fly and tell me in the comments section for a Give-Away.
This sieve was a very sturdy sieve–even reinforced by the two bars running across the bottom. I thought it would be great in canning for removing the seeds from blackberry or raspberry jam.
This looks like a torture implement. Tenderizing meat? Combing a wooly mammoth? I don’t know, but if you find out, I will send you a Give-Away. (Your second chance for a Give-Away.)
I love large pots. I adore large pots. I daydream about serving a large crowd out of large pots. A crab boil? Boiled sweet corn at a down-home BBQ? Paella in hand painted bowls on the terrace for fifty? What shocked me was the price of the very large pots and pans. Many were around $35.00. I can afford that. That’s do-able.
See those woven cone-shaped baskets? Do you know what they are? I did a little research.
Cooking White Sticky Rice
Sticky rice is a starchy grain. If steamed or boiled the same way as regular rice, the grains will break down and become soft and mushy in consistency. Instead, Thai people like to cook it in such a way that the rice grains remain whole and have a firm, chewy texture. To accomplish this, the rice is soaked for several hours (4 hours or more) until the grains have absorbed enough water to cook. Then it is drained and steamed dry in a woven bamboo basket without adding any water.
To cook sticky rice, Thais use a cone-shaped, woven bamboo basket that looks somewhat like a straw hat. The basket fits over a tall companion pot with a wide collar to hold it in place. Depending on how much rice is to be steamed, any round lid that fits above the rice level in the basket can be used as a cover. A few inches of water in the pot, when heated over a burner, produce the steam which rises and passes through the basket to cook the presoaked rice. Homes and restaurants in the north and northeast serve cooked sticky rice in small round baskets with covers (called gkra-dtip), which are placed around the dining table. These baskets come in different sizes; some hold enough rice for one or two people, while larger ones serve four or more.
The special steaming basket and pot are available from Southeast Asian markets and are essential for the even cooking of larger quantities of sticky rice (from a few cups to five pounds of rice at a time.) They are inexpensive, about five dollars apiece, and will last a long, long time, making lots of wonderful batches of delicious sticky rice.
Don’t use the sticky rice cooking method for other sorts of rice. It won’t work because non-glutinous rice is a much denser grain and will not absorb water the same way glutinous rice does. Even if soaked all day, when steamed dry, regular rice will not cook and produce the chewy texture of sticky rice.
Buying Sticky Rice
Sticky rice is usually labelled “glutinous rice” or “sweet rice.” The following brands are all good: Golden Phoenix, Butterfly, and Sanpatong (Three Ladies Brand). (Kasma’s Favorite Brands.) (from here.)
I’d like to try this. I didn’t think to pick up a “straw hat”, but during my next stop, I will. I had trouble finding the name of this kitchen device, and finally found this name–huwt neung kaoin.
“Sticky Rice Steamer (huwt neung kaoin Thai) making delicious sticky rice every time is simple.
A Thai Sticky Rice Steamer is a rather odd piece of kitchenware, when first seen. But upon consideration, it becomes evident that the design is rather ingenious. The hat-like shape of the bamboo basket allows it to sit inside the hour-glass shaped aluminum pot, so that the food is steamed on all sides, not just the bottom. When steaming sticky rice, the rice forms into a ball in the basket so that it can be flipped by grasping the top of the basket so that it cooks evenly (which is the preferred method of some Thai cooks). The steamer basket is also ideal for steaming parcels of food, like banana leaf wrapped sweets (kanom) and haw mohk (Thai fish mousse).
The first time you use the sticky rice steaming basket, we recommend that you soak the basket in water for about 6 hours. This will alleviate the taste of the bamboo, which naturally occurs. This taste will lessen the more you use the basket, but it does add a delicious aroma to the steamed rice. (from here.)
I wish I had a reason to buy one of those large pots or woks. It would be fun to host an event where I would need such a large pan.
And one more photo.
This photo doesn’t convey the length of this ladle very well. It is really quite long and large. If I ever buy my very large pot, I would need a very large spoon. Now recently I was in a Hardware store where some camping-cooking supplies were sold, and I saw a large wooden spoon. It was the type of spoon that you would use to stir a large “mess o’beans” or use to cook apple butter over an open fire or for a stew that would feed 150. I loved the large wooden spoon, and then I saw that the spoon cost $80.00. You read that correctly. So I put the lovely $80 wooden spoon back. These spoons may not have the same aesthetic beauty of carved hickory, but they stir beans, or stew, or apple butter just as well.
Since The Fuller Brush Man no longer knocks on front doors, it has become harder to find good scrub brushes. The kind of brush that would scrub caked clay off of baseball cleats. A brush to work on that carpet stain. A brush that allows you to put some muscle into stubborn stains. Here is your brush. Mrs. Two Ninety-nine can get the job done.
And if you need an extra-large whisk, this is also your place to shop.
But let’s move away from the mega sizes down to the demi sizes. For my cooking photos for this blog, I like to cook mise en place.
These little porcelain thumb cups could hold the different spices or salt or that tablespoon of vinegar or minced garlic that I need measure out.
These thumb size porcelain cups would work for an American Girl doll–perhaps a flour canister.
And these porcelain dishes would work for American Girl plates or for mise en place cooking.
I think this is a bag for tea leaves. I bought one. I think I could use it in place of cheese cloth for straining the seeds from preserves for jelly, or for straining yogurt to make it as thick as Greek yogurt without the higher price, or a large batch of sun tea.
Now we enter the dry goods and produce section of the grocery store. If you think that Italians have the corner on noodles, you are wrong. Noodles (pasta) originated in the orient and came home with Marco Polo. That is the legend at least,–based partially on fact. The history of pasta and noodles is a little more convoluted, but the origin does seem to be the orient. I believe that there were three aisle devoted entirely to noodles.
Then I met the frogs. They just seemed so alive. So froggish. So un-edible. Almost cute. But definitely not for taking home and killing. Does the butcher do that job? or is the customer supposed to do it?
I headed back to safer territory–dried fruits. As I was scanning the dried fruits, I noticed “dried plums”, and I thought, “I have never had dried plums.” “I bet they would be a great addition to granola or trail mix or even muffins.” It wasn’t until I put the “dried plums” in my basket and had traversed several more aisles that I realized that “dried plums” are prunes.
Then I rounded the corner and met the frogs again. This disturbed me, so I headed down the spice aisles.
The Asian Market is definitely the place to find cheap spices. I stocked up on several spices that my local grocery store carries for several dollars.
I also discovered dried shredded pork. I am not suggesting that you run out and buy this, but since I didn’t know you could buy pork in a plastic container, I thought you might also find this fact interesting. But as I came to the end of the aisle. . .
. . .I met the frogs again.
I headed for safer territory, and discovered. . .
I have seen ads in some magazine that promises the cure for fatigue, stretch marks, gray hair, and instant weight loss can all be found in eating some “perfect food”–royal jelly. The special food served to the queen bee whose only job is to. . .well. . .eat and reproduce. Anyway, if you would like to see if royal jelly works, $7.99 is a little cheaper than the $125 price tag on some royal jelly capsules I saw. Now if this stuff really does work, please tell me as I would love to be cured of all my mommy induced ills.
Another noted energy picker-upper is Ginseng. Here is a blurry photo of a bottle of ginseng. Make your own energy drinks for your kiddos by adding some ginseng to your smoothies–if your kiddos need more energy. Mine could use a little less energy most of the time. And at the end of the aisle, I once again found myself at the butcher department, so I decided to just step in and take a look.
You could buy fresh fish.
conches. (pronounced [conks]) and I love conch fritters and conch salad–both Caribbean soul food.
There were also lobsters in handcuffs. And. . .
(photo from here.)
Maybe hidden deep within a seafood stew, but only hidden. Not jellied and not grilled whole.
It was somewhere in the butcher department, that I realized my kiddos would love this place. It would make a great field trip. A combination aquarium, hardware store, produce stand, science anatomy field trip. We could even go home with a pig heart and dissect it to learn about valves and chambers and ventricles and atriums and such.
Next time, I’m bringing the kids.
P.S. Stay tuned for more Virtual Grocery Store tours, and don’t forget to play the “I Spy” game and find the fly or find the use of this scary tool. Enter your answers in the comments section for a Give-Away. And as always, “Thanks for shopping at Wal-Mart.”