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Discovering New & Unusual Foods in Uncommon Places....

Posted Oct 08 2010 8:30am
You could spend an entire day exploring this place!
Yesterday, I made a little pilgrimage to Grand Mart , (one of the more intriguing  local shopping destinations  I'd mentioned in a previous post ), to stock up on some of harder-to-find ingredients that I use for cooking and baking. The primary purpose of this visit was to purchase some uncommon whole spices for the new tea recipes I've been creating as of late for my blog and cookbook. [Whole spices & herbs have several beneficial health properties, and are especially wonderful for cooking and making teas and spice mixes (like garam masala). Whole and freshly ground spices are far more aromatic and flavorful, and will add a new and vivid dynamic to one's cooking.]

Chinese black rice.
This Korean supermarket not only stocks food from Korea and North America, but also other types of specialty foods from around the world, including China, Japan, India, Vietnam, Thailand, Africa, Mexico, Latin America, etc. I love shopping at this grocery store because, not only do I find ingredients I already use, but during each trip I make, I always seem to find something new & interesting to cook with that I've never tried before. It's like an international mini-voyage of culinary discovery. :)

After this stop, I also trekked to Trader Joe's, an Indian market, & a Persian market, to pick up some of the remaining odds and ends on my shopping list. I wasn't able to find everything on the list, and so, ended up ordering the rest of the items from Amazon.com . ;) The free-shipping deal  we get from  Amazon.com  makes these purchases rather irresistible. :)

A bowl of dried jujubes.
Anyhow, I thought I'd list some of the ingredients I'd purchased yesterday, just so you can see exactly how unusual my shopping list can sometimes be. :) In fact, some of my friends have previously commented on this, saying things like, "Where can I find some of the more unusual ingredients you include in some of your recipes?" or "What's wrong with just making a hamburger?" Heheh. Well, if you've perused past posts or are a regular reader of this blog, then you already know my thoughts on all of that. ;)

So, to prove my point, witness the below list of items that I purchased yesterday
--dried jujube fruits (used in Korean cooking)
-- chow mein noodles  (OK, admittedly not that exotic, but it's an ingredient for some of my more unusual recipe creations. :) )
--whole red Szechuan peppers (a common ingredient in Chinese five-spice powder )
-- black rice ( high in antioxidants & vitamin E )
--a block of seedless tamarind pulp (used for many Indian & Southeast Asian dishes)
-- black mustard seeds  (used frequently in Indian cuisine)
-- dried whole Chinese star anise  (another ingredient in Chinese  five-spice powder )
--a 3 lb. bag of coarsely ground sea salt (OK, maybe sea salt's not that unusual, but the bulk purchase probably is. ;) )
--unsweetened dried blueberries* (for teas, trail  mixes, & hot breakfast cereals like Oatmeal, etc.)
--freeze-dried strawberries* (for trail mixes)
--dried Californian apricots* (They are soooo much tastier than the Turkish kind!)
Cut licorice root.
-- vanilla beans [Typically, whole vanilla beans are outrageously expensive & often hard to find: What's really cool is that I was able to get 54 premium Bourbon-Madagascar vanilla beans (1/2 lb.) for only $23.75 at  Amazon.com , as opposed to Whole Foods's highway robbery price of $12 for only ONE single bean!]
-- cut licorice root (for making herbal teas)
-- whole licorice sticks (again, for teas & other uses, etc.)
-- cut sarsaparilla root (Yep, you guessed it again. It'll be used primarily to make teas & other beverages. :) As you may or may not know, sarsaparilla's one of the main ingredients in root beer.)
-- whole whole, dried allspice berries (for teas & cooking)
-- white chia seeds
-- whole dried rose buds & petals (for teas, aromatic rices, etc.)

(* Trader Joe's has a fantastic selection of dried fruits.)

So, there it is. To be honest, I probably could've saved a lot of driving around (not to mention time & gas money!) after the Grand Mart trip if I'd only have gone to  Amazon.com  first. I guess I didn't think it'd be as hard as it was to find (what I thought would be) some of the more common ingredients like whole allspice berries or vanilla beans. Sheesh! However, the shopping trip was a fun & interesting adventure, so that in itself made the excursion worthwhile.

Well, now that my pantries are well-stocked with all sorts of fun ingredients, be on the lookout for more unusual and one-of-a-kind recipes. :)

Happy Cooking!
-C


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