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what to get at chinese supermarkets

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I have decided to frequent some Chinese supermarkets in the area, and wanted to ask if there were any Asian vegetables or fish I should try, and how they should be cooked, and etc. Also, what is jasmine scented rice? Does it taste any different from regular white rice?

Any advice or info is appreciated. ^_^

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  1. Well, I guess my question would be what sorts of vegetables/fish do you eat on a regular basis? What have you tried before that you enjoy? Do you enjoy crunchy veggies or leafier-types, etc? Do you like leaner fish or do you like really rich, oily fish (e.g. tilapia versus sea bass)?

    Jasmine rice is a type of long-grain white rice that is a bit nutty and floral in smell and taste. It's the white rice that's often served with Thai food (not the sticky rice, though -- different stuff). Other Asians use jasmine rice, too, but the Thais are most commonly associated with it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: misswills

      Also, are you thinking prepared foods or fresh/pantry items to cook yourself? What about an Asian bakery or Chinatown Ice Cream Factory? Kaman on Canal has very good roast duck (it's hanging from the window). I usually order a 1/2, cut up, no extra sauce. Don't go on a weekend/around Chinese holidays the line is too long. You might want to start with the Thai market on Mosco (near Columbus Park, not good for fresh produce) and Hong Kong Supermarket (very large) on East Broadway. Of course, there are smaller shops and fishmongers too.

    2. Try some Napa cabbage ... http://www.melissas.com/images/produc... ...
      and cook it as you would green or savoy cabbage. It makes a very nice slaw as well.

      I also like Japanese sweet potatoes ... (satsuma-imo) http://img.alibaba.com/photo/11190476...

      Baby bok choy incorporated into your stir-fry is a great addition ... http://noteatingoutinny.com/wp-conten...

      ANY mushrooms dried or fresh ... http://static.flickr.com/49/174294721...

      Take a look at their frozen goods, and sauces as well.

      1. I suggest you try asian food first before attempting to cook it at home. At least you get to try and create an idea of what you like and dont like.

        1. chinese broccoli is very easy to make. It can be steamed until bright green or stir fried with some oil in a large wok. Leave it in large pieces, don't remove the leaves, you can eat the whole thing. After cooking drizzle on some oyster sauce (bottled, will definitely be in the sauce section of the market). There are many varieties of chinese broccoli and related vegetables. You can try cooking them all in this way and see which ones you like best. Very good for you, too

          1 Reply
          1. re: kenito799

            At the Asian market close to me I usually get Chinese broccoli, ginger, galangal, snow peas, Thai basil, mint, baby bok choy, green papayas, dried shitake mushrooms, edemames as well as my coconut milks, curries, fish sauce, soy sauces, macap manis, sambal, nori and what ever looks good or interesting

          2. I love fresh waterchestnuts. Look for ones that are firm. They may be dirty so wash them before peeling with a small sharp knive. I put them raw in salads as well as in stir fries. I will warn you having them fresh will spoil you for the canned version.

            2 Replies
            1. re: AGM_Cape_Cod

              OH, you are so right! The fresh ones are so sugary sweet I couldn't believe it! Extra work but NO resemblence to those nasty canned bits.

              To the OP, a recommended brand of oyster sauce, which among other things you can put on your chinese, or even western broccoli, is Dragonfly super premium. Drizzle it over when the veg is cooked, drained and on the plate. Be sparing, it's strong. It's also good on asparagus.

              Also, if you've never had Asian pears, also called apple pears, do yourself a favor and get some once they come in during autumn. They are extra crisp and have a sweet almondy flavor. Personally I peel them as I don't like the skin but ymmv.

              And jasmine rice is really yummy for fried rice. Caveat: it HAS to be cold, so make it a day in advance before frying.

              1. re: Louise

                You've gotten alot of good tips already, just had to tell you I second the asian pears! They are unbelievable!
                I also love Yuzu sauce.

            2. As one poster said, definitely stock up on the sauces. Most Chinese supermarkets will carry oyster sauce, fish sauce, different soy sauces, it could be possible that they carry mirin and ponzu, maybe even yuzu juice. And while not in season, Asian supermarkets are the best places to get Durian and Jackfruit; try the freezer section for frozen pieces of these fruit.
              As a treat, Asian supermarkets carry the most interesting junk food and candy. Sometimes you'll get an amazing Asian treat or other times you'll get something that has an acquired taste; but it's nice to try new things, you should just grab something random every time.

              2 Replies
              1. re: digkv

                Oh, yes! Haw flakes, my favorite, I could eat a truckload. Those dried plum things with various spices including hot chile powder, white rabbit milk caramels, fruit gelatins, jackfruit candy, tamarind candy, you are in for a treat!

                For salty stuff, dried squid (ok, it's not for everyone, I know), and every possible variety of miniature rice cracker which although they are technically Japanese, a lot of Chinese stores will have. Some are covered with sugar for the irresistable sweet and salty combination.

                1. re: digkv

                  No....not Durian!

                2. Have you tried lychees?
                  They can be purchased canned in light syrup, dried in the shell.

                  Green tea ice cream

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: HillJ

                    Or fresh! Fresh lychees are in season right now!

                    1. re: sweet ginger

                      I can never seem to find fresh, drat!

                      1. re: sweet ginger

                        Yes, one of the *many* gustatory pleasures of living in California.

                    2. in the freezer section of larger markets, you can usually find a broad range of dim sum type dumplings, rolls, and buns as well as scallion pancakes. They usually stock fresh noodles and wonton skins and the rapid turnover gives you more assurance of freshness. A lot of Chinese markets here are more Asian than specifically Chinese, so you can find miso, kimchi, pickled veg, Thai sauces etc. Flavored soy milk in more varieties is usually available as well.

                      1. this doesn't fall in the veggies category, but I am addicted to the frozen potstickers (chicken, beef, shrimp, vegetable) in the freezers at the Asian markets. I keep them in my freezer all the time, and love them for a quick meal with edamame.

                        1. Another thing is hoisin sauce. The stuff in the grocery store is gross and expensive.

                          1. Has anyone ever noticed that the Knorr soupbase sold in yellow cans in Asian markets is completely different tasting from the ALMOST identical looking product sold in Western stores? Curious.
                            Anyway, the one sold in Asian groceries (has Chinese writing on the can) is a lot better and makes a great base for boiling frozen dumplings in. I add a few bits and pieces to take the "canned" flavour out of it, like a lot of fresh ginger and maybe a smashed garlic clove of a slice of onion. Then whatever greens in the last few minutes of cooking and pour it into a bowl with a dish of sriracha sauce on the side. The whole thing takes ten minutes and my 3-year old I have a have a great lunch.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: waver

                              I think Knorr sells products fit for local taste all over the world. Here in Thailand there are soup broth cubes which go well in Thai-style soups. They even have 'tom yum' cubes.

                              1. re: waver

                                My problem with a lot of those products is the MSG...I try to avoid that. Always look at the ingredients!

                              2. If you can find pea sprouts, cook it with some garlic. Yum!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: theSauce

                                  i find most, if not all, veggies in asian supermarkets to be cheaper and fresher. i feel like there's greater turnover at asian supermarkets, so there's less of a chance you'll be getting bottom-of-the-pile veggies. the greens particularly tend to be fresh and cheap: baby spinach, scallions, broccoli/chinese broccoli/broccoli rabe, etc. there's also more variety of veggies, like japanese radish, japanese cucumbers (no seeds), and various herbs.

                                  i also stock up on all the sauces i can't get at local supermarkets, like soy sauce, sesame oil, oyster sauce, zaru soba dipping sauce, and hot paste.

                                  noodles - zaru soba, udon, etc.

                                  and, i always detour into the ramen section. in korean supermarkets, they have instant jja jjang myun, super spicy ramen (nuh goo rhee), and all of these cool new kinds i've never tried before.

                                2. I just dive in...and I ask someone next to me who looks like they might be helpful. If they don't speak English, I keep trying. I've met some great people that way..in all departments of the store!

                                  I (now) also have a Chinese Cookbook that has pictures of tons of ingredients and how to use them..plus it has a list of "basic chinese pantry items". It is "The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen", Classic Family Recipes for Celebration and Healing, by Grace Young.

                                  1. Vegetables: gabi, gabi leaves, sweet potato, sweetyt potato leaves, bitter gourd for stuffing and steaming; napa and other Asian cabbages for from stir-frying to stuffing and steaming; ginger, galangal, ...

                                    Fish: spotted grouper ($$$): steam with green/spring onion, fermented black beans, garlic, ginger, soy sauce; top at serving with boiling hot toased sesame oil and chopped cilantro.

                                    Different bottled sauces: experiment with something like broccoli and beef as a template to which you add a different sauce each time.

                                    All pickled stuff in sealed bags: eat cold with hot rice.

                                    Dried anything: seaweed, mushrooms, fungus, fruit, fish, squid, ...

                                    Rices: Jasmine (aromatic), Basmati (sub-continent, aromatic), sticky (Lao, NE Thai), Japanese (e.g., Kokuho, Koda Brothers,...)