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A book/guide to Asian or South American produce?

greygarious Feb 19, 2009 06:41 AM

Can anyone recommend a book/guide to Asian or South American produce with good photographs and suggestions for use? There was lots of produce I don't recognize at the farmer's market north of Boston last summer, but the sellers speak virtually no English. When I'd point to something the seller would usually look forlorn, shake his/her head, and somehow express that it wasn't a flavor for me (typical white American of northern European descent). The most exotic thing I wound up buying was called, I think, "water spinach", which was tender green leafy stems that had no real flavor. Looked like a weed that would grow in my yard, and perhaps does!

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  1. HaagenDazs RE: greygarious Feb 19, 2009 06:51 AM

    If you've got some time, stand around and wait for a friendly shopper. I've made dinners based on just a few recommendations from folks that were buying things I didn't know about, and I asked what they were and how the were prepared.

    1 Reply
    1. re: HaagenDazs
      alwayscooking RE: HaagenDazs Feb 19, 2009 06:55 AM

      I got a recipe for stir-fried winter melon with shrimp through pantomime at the vegetable section (I think I got it). Fun and we both laughed during the rest of the shopping experience.

    2. buttertart RE: greygarious Feb 19, 2009 10:13 AM

      The Asian Grocery Store Demystified by Linda Bladholm should do the trick for just about everything available in Asian marlets - and there's a Periplus "Handy Pocket Guide to Asian Vegetables". Have used the former and can vouch for it but not the latter.

      2 Replies
      1. re: buttertart
        greygarious RE: buttertart Feb 19, 2009 03:13 PM

        Thank you! I'll investigate both - a pocket guide would be just the ticket.

        1. re: buttertart
          OnkleWillie RE: buttertart Feb 19, 2009 05:57 PM

          Bladholm also did a Latin & Caribbean Grocery Stores and an Indian Grocery Store book. All three can be found for cheap on ABE Books.

        2. pepper_mil RE: greygarious Feb 19, 2009 04:40 PM

          I have a language barrier at my market too and asking about stuff gets results about half the time. (The vendor usually gives one word cooking instructions - soup, stir-fry, etc) You don't need to know the name of something before you cook it though. You can break off a piece to nibble and see if it tastes more like a salad green or something you would cook. Water spinach is fantastic - it should have flavour like spinach.

          1 Reply
          1. re: pepper_mil
            buttertart RE: pepper_mil Feb 20, 2009 09:33 AM

            With a slight basil overtone, I always think. I prefer it to spinach.

          2. billieboy RE: greygarious Feb 19, 2009 05:20 PM

            The book I use which is quite helpful "Asian Ingredients" by Bruce Cost.


            1. Caitlin McGrath RE: greygarious Feb 19, 2009 05:54 PM

              There is also The Latin & Caribbean Grocery Store Demystified. In addition to the illustrations/descriptions of produce, this series includes lots of info about jarred condiments and ingredients, etc. Very helpful when the labels are in other languages with little or no English!


              1. j
                Jim Washburn RE: greygarious Feb 19, 2009 05:59 PM

                Wendy Hutton's "A Cook's Guide to Asian Vegetables" is excellent.


                1. o
                  OnkleWillie RE: greygarious Feb 19, 2009 06:06 PM

                  Charmaine Solomon's "Encyclopedia of Asian Food" (long out of print I suspect) is an excellent book if you can find one.

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