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Where to buy ya cai (Sichuan preserved mustard) in LA

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AlkieGourmand Mar 23, 2012 08:46 PM

Title says it all.

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  1. ipsedixit RE: AlkieGourmand Mar 23, 2012 08:49 PM

    Any Chinese supermarket, e.g. Ranch99, 168, Shun Fat, will have it.

    38 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit
      j
      JThur01 RE: ipsedixit Mar 23, 2012 11:32 PM

      As ipsedixit writes, it's easily found at Chinese supermarkets in the San Gabriel Valley. Thuan Phat on Rosemead Blvd. in S. El Monte seems to have a bin full of pouches "on sale" perpetually.

      Outside the SGV, perhaps the 99 Ranch in Van Nuys, though I'd call to check.

      1. re: JThur01
        a
        AlkieGourmand RE: JThur01 Mar 24, 2012 07:18 AM

        Is it always in pouches instead of jars? How do you tell it is ya cai if you can't read Chinese?

        1. re: AlkieGourmand
          TonyC RE: AlkieGourmand Mar 24, 2012 08:51 AM

          Well.. the pouches are often clear. You see it, and you'll go: hey, that's mustard greens: http://www.flickr.com/photos/fotoosva...

          FDA requires content marking for all imported foodstuff. Look for the ingredients list.

          1. re: AlkieGourmand
            w
            will47 RE: AlkieGourmand Mar 24, 2012 10:36 AM

            Some of the brands say 'ya cai' in pinyin on the outside too. I think it will always be in pouches. Sometimes they'll be in the refrigerated section but sometimes not. You can also print out the characters and bring them with you to compare.

            The brand pictured here (says 'sumi yacai' in pinyin at the top) is available at many of the local markets.
            http://www.fuchsiadunlop.com/sichuane...
            http://gastrojunkie.blogspot.com/2010...

            The various imported pickled vegetables vary in terms of additives etc, so read the ingredients.

        2. re: ipsedixit
          Mr Taster RE: ipsedixit Jan 13, 2013 09:04 PM

          Tonight I went to SG Superstore, Hawaii and 169 and was unable to find real ya cai. I had to get the Tianjin dong cai as the recommended substitute
          http://www.flickr.com/photos/avlxyz/5...

          I'm specifically looking for the real stuff from Yibin
          http://posharpstore.com/en-us/sui-mi-...

          Any recent leads?
          Mr Taster

          1. re: Mr Taster
            w
            will47 RE: Mr Taster Jan 14, 2013 08:54 AM

            I could be wrong, but I think zhacai is a little bit closer substitute, though the flavor is a little different. I actually like it better for certain things. It comes in similar small packages, similar to http://www.hiwtc.com/products/zha-cai...

            The brand I see most of Sichuanese yacai is the same one you linked to.

            I am pretty sure you can find this brand at one of the stores you mentioned. Make sure to look in a few different places, including both refrigerated and non-refrigerated sections. I will take a look next time I am at one of these and see if they still have it and what aisle it's on. Are you looking at the 168 on Las Tunas or the one on Valley?

            You can also try places like Tak Shing Hong / T&S.

            1. re: will47
              Mr Taster RE: will47 Jan 14, 2013 09:25 AM

              Hey Will, I picked up the Tianjin pickles because I am using Dunlop's book as guide, and she recommended it. I will check out zhacai, however.

              I was all over each of those supermarkets. Entirely possible I missed it, but I was focusing on areas with canned preserved vegetables and looking for a pouch. I did take a few cursory looks at the refrigerated staff in Hawaii and 168 (on valley) with no luck.

              Greatly appreciate any reconnaissance work you'd be willing to provide as I can only get out there on weekends.

              Mr Taster

              1. re: Mr Taster
                l
                linus RE: Mr Taster Jan 14, 2013 09:38 AM

                i dont know if this helps, but when i went looking for the stuff you are talking about (at 99 ranch), it was nowhere near those oddly shaped brown jars.
                i found it in pouches in the same (cold) aisles as the tofu and fresh noodles.

                1. re: Mr Taster
                  ipsedixit RE: Mr Taster Jan 14, 2013 10:11 AM

                  Mr. T,

                  Like will47 and linus have mentioned, I think you might be looking in the wrong sections, because I know I've seen it at SG Superstore.

                  1. re: Mr Taster
                    m
                    MikeG RE: Mr Taster Jan 14, 2013 10:39 AM

                    I've seen it various places, including near the dried mushrooms, fungus, etc (but not near other preserved vegetables) and right next to similar-looking mylar pouches of Szechuanese hotpot pastes with which it has little in common. I agree that your best bet is printing out a pic or two and asking at the store.

                    And for what it's worth, it also comes in oblong boxes about 4"x6"x1", like these http://www.84techan.com/tp/20110603/1... and http://img.tjkximg.com/image/2011-01/... .

                    1. re: MikeG
                      Mr Taster RE: MikeG Jan 14, 2013 10:52 AM

                      Alright, looks like I will be heading back next weekend and will focus on the refrigerated section. I did look for it near the foil douban (and hotpot) pouches with no luck.

                      Mr Taster

                      1. re: Mr Taster
                        w
                        will47 RE: Mr Taster Jan 14, 2013 11:52 AM

                        Dahua (99 Ranch) at Focus Plaza should have it also. Did you look in there when you were at Hawaii?

                        1. re: will47
                          Mr Taster RE: will47 Jan 14, 2013 12:01 PM

                          No- I gave up on trying to find real Sichuanese ingredients at 99 Ranch when I couldn't find Pixian doubanjiang (they had only local and Taiwanese douban) and the vacuum sealed fermented black beans (only prepared pastes- not the actual beans).

                          Mr Taster

                          1. re: Mr Taster
                            w
                            will47 RE: Mr Taster Jan 14, 2013 09:26 PM

                            SG Superstore has Yibin Suimi Yacai (the brand mentioned) in both small and large packets (I think the large packet has smaller packets inside). Right next to it is the Fortuna brand Sichuanese zhacai (which 99 Ranch (Da Hua) does have). Aisle 4B, towards the front, on the bottom right (see attached picture). Just a little hard to find, because most of the other preserved veg are in the cardboard boxes to the left of those shelves.

                            While I couldn't find the yacai you're looking for at the 99 Ranch in Focus Plaza, they did have the same brand of Pixian Doubanjiang as other places (more info in thread about that), and the Fortuna brand Sichuan zhacai.

                            In general, most of the Chinese markets have the preserved vegetables both in refrigerated cases and in boxes, unrefrigerated, elsewhere in the store -- often on the opposite sides. I find that the far left, far right, and far back parts are often the best places to look - near frozen food and / or dairy cases, and near the produce.

                             
                            1. re: will47
                              Mr Taster RE: will47 Jan 14, 2013 10:36 PM

                              Wow, thanks Will. You've gone above and beyond the call!

                              I made Xie Laoban's dan dan mian tonight (with the Tianjin pickled cabbage) and it was quite delicious. I'm looking forward to making it again with the ya cai.

                              I didn't even have time to find proper dark sesame paste (zhi ma jiang) so I made it with Joyva tahini which is a light colored but excellent quality tahini, not so intensely bitter as a lot of inferior brands (most others) can be.

                              I'd be curious to know if you've seen the dark "mushroom colored" sesame paste that she refers to in her book.

                              Mr Taster

                              1. re: Mr Taster
                                w
                                will47 RE: Mr Taster Jan 15, 2013 08:40 AM

                                I haven't really looked at the book's description recently, but I usually use regular Chinese sesame paste, which is definitely different from Tahini. I usually get Lian How or similar brand. Not sure if that would be considered "mushroom colored" or not, but it should be darker than tahini, and should work fine for those recipes.

                                1. re: will47
                                  l
                                  linus RE: will47 Jan 15, 2013 09:17 AM

                                  i guess it depends which mushrooms one is referring to when calling something "mushroom colored."

                                  i've bought sesame paste at chinese markets that is quite dark brown, much darker than tahini. never had trouble finding it.

                                  1. re: linus
                                    w
                                    will47 RE: linus Jan 15, 2013 09:34 AM

                                    Yeah - my guess is that she may just be trying to help people differentiate it from Tahini. I think Chinese sesame paste includes the hulls

                                    Of course there is black sesame paste too (made with black sesame seeds), but, correct me if I'm wrong, I think that's usually the sweeter kind used for tang yuan, pastries, and other sweet stuff.

                                    1. re: will47
                                      Mr Taster RE: will47 Jan 15, 2013 11:13 AM

                                      My understanding is that it's a dark brown, not black, and has a stronger flavor than tahini.

                                      She does recommend tahini in a pinch, however.

                                      Mr Taster

                                      1. re: Mr Taster
                                        w
                                        will47 RE: Mr Taster Jan 15, 2013 11:57 AM

                                        I would definitely recommend using Chinese sesame paste. Tahini is not really a good substitute.

                                  2. re: will47
                                    Mr Taster RE: will47 Jan 15, 2013 12:12 PM

                                    This is pretty much what I think of as being "mushroom colored"

                                    http://airyway.blogspot.com/2010/11/c...

                                    Mr Taster

                                     
                                    1. re: Mr Taster
                                      l
                                      linus RE: Mr Taster Jan 15, 2013 03:16 PM

                                      i would think your closest 99 ranch has sesame paste that colour, mr. taster.
                                      i've bought it at the one on sepulveda in the SFV.

                                      1. re: linus
                                        Mr Taster RE: linus Jan 15, 2013 03:51 PM

                                        I haven't specifically looked for this ingredient yet, so I do not have the experience to know how difficult (or easy) it is to find.

                                        Thanks for the encouragement-- it sounds like this item isn't as obscure.

                                        Mr Taster

                                        1. re: Mr Taster
                                          TonyC RE: Mr Taster Jan 15, 2013 04:15 PM

                                          It's a bit nutty that you've looked for specific peppers but allowed the tahini sub. 1 sub is more tolerablle than the other, especially when we're talking about a noodle sauce that only requires... 4 ingredients.

                                          I don't have the "right" ya cai zha cai sitting around, but I have sesame paste sitting around. Every fridge is a bit different, I s'pose.

                                          1. re: TonyC
                                            Mr Taster RE: TonyC Jan 15, 2013 05:27 PM

                                            Yes it's nutty, but there's a simple explanation... I forgot to write "zhi ma jiang" on my shopping list last weekend :)

                                            However, my Lovely Tasting Assistant is studying right now in Monterey Park. But she's not quite the food nerd that I am, and she's stressed out from studying like bonkers for a huge mega pharmacy exam, but I have put in a gentle request for ya cai, zhi ma jiang and suan tsai (for the lovely pot of Taiwanese beef noodle soup I made last night)..... the suan tsai is the lock, because I know she's going to want that soup tonight, and since she's already there, she can grab other two ingredients (maybe)... although the market I know she'll be going to is the not-so-good HK market on Garfield/Garvey... no bloody way she's going to drive to SG Superstore. So, cross your fingers for me, fellow Chowhounds...

                                            Mr Taster

                                            1. re: Mr Taster
                                              TonyC RE: Mr Taster Jan 16, 2013 10:09 AM

                                              That particular HK, in addition to the Shun Fat on Atlantic, due to the sheer number of FOBs and lower income immigrants, as well as the elderly subsisting on social security, has more packaged Chinese ingredients per square foot than 99 Ranch/169 (which also sells SE Asian ingredients).

                                              TS Imporium at Garfield/Garvey will have all the "generic" form of ingredients you're looking for as well.

                                              1. re: TonyC
                                                Mr Taster RE: TonyC Jan 16, 2013 01:07 PM

                                                Interesting... I'll need to check out TSI. I always thought it was more of a smaller Wing Hop Fung type medicinal herb shop rather an a place to find these kinds of cooking ingredients.

                                                Mr Taster

                                                1. re: Mr Taster
                                                  w
                                                  will47 RE: Mr Taster Jan 16, 2013 03:38 PM

                                                  Tak Shing Hong / T&S (same Chinese name, though there are two pretty close to each other on Garvey) has a lot of grocery type ingredients.

                                                  I've also heard it said that these type of stores tend to have better grade huajiao (i.e., Sichuan peppercorn) than what you'll find in a supermarket.

                                                  1. re: will47
                                                    Mr Taster RE: will47 Jan 16, 2013 04:10 PM

                                                    I picked up some gorgeous, fragrant sichuan peppercorns at Penzey's. Now, as a rule I don't make a habit of buying my Chinese ingredients in Santa Monica, and I haven't compared them with what's available at T&S or at supermarkets, but the aroma is simply wonderful, especially after toasting.

                                                    Mr Taster

                                                  2. re: Mr Taster
                                                    TonyC RE: Mr Taster Jan 16, 2013 04:27 PM

                                                    TS Emporium (pardon previous typo) have racks of cheap bagged vegetables. Saturdays, ah-po's will elbow you in the chest and boot toddler's ass out of the way just to pick the freshest lotus root. Newly arrived communists look at the vegetable prices, think they've found their Mecca, then wonder why there are homeless people in America.

                                                    It alone was enough to make the nearby Monterey Park farmers market fail (and is probably making it enroute to failure again.)

                                                    TS Emporiium is (obviously) Tak Shing, none are mark T&S. http://www.tsemporium.com/

                                                  3. re: TonyC
                                                    Mr Taster RE: TonyC Jan 16, 2013 01:12 PM

                                                    Oh, and incidentally she did pick up the right sesame paste, as well as some fresh pickled mustard greens (not really suan cai, but was still delicious, brighter and fresher tasting than packaged stuff) and a packaged, much funkier, saltier "pickled mustard tuber". I whipped up a batch of xie laoban's dan dan mian this morning and it was significantly deeper, earthier. Different, neither better nor worse, than the tahini version I made.

                                                    Mr Taster

                                    2. re: will47
                                      w
                                      will47 RE: will47 Jan 18, 2013 10:38 AM

                                      The HK Market on San Gabriel (don't normally go there now that 168 is open) has it (in medium-sized packages) too - it's above the open freezers on the very far left of the store, towards the front of the aisle.

                                      1. re: will47
                                        Mr Taster RE: will47 Jan 18, 2013 11:19 AM

                                        Interesting-- that's where I found Pixian douban the first time. I'll check it out, though it sounds like I really need to get to the 168 on Las Tunas. I've never been there.

                                        Mr Taster

                                      2. re: will47
                                        Mr Taster RE: will47 Jan 19, 2013 11:49 PM

                                        Got it!!

                                        In the racks above the low freezer cases at HK Supermarket, left side of the store as you walk in (on San Gabriel Bl at Las Tunas). Pouch is a lot smaller than I expected.

                                        Did not see it at 168, SG Superstore or Hawai'i.

                                        Mr Taster

                                        1. re: Mr Taster
                                          w
                                          will47 RE: Mr Taster Jan 20, 2013 12:04 AM

                                          See photo above re: SG Superstore. Aisle 4B, near the front. It's very low, and there are two sizes. Seriously, it's there, unless my post 2 days ago prompted a run on this stuff.

                                    3. re: will47
                                      ipsedixit RE: will47 Jan 14, 2013 02:38 PM

                                      Just one point about Hawai'i Supermarket.

                                      It might have the most discombobulated system of stocking grocery items that I have ever seen.

                                      I've found frozen alligator next to ice cream in the freezer section, and Progresso Soup cans right in there with the canned black bean pastes.

                                      1. re: ipsedixit
                                        Mr Taster RE: ipsedixit Jan 14, 2013 03:18 PM

                                        That's part of the problem I've found in many Chinese markets, to a greater or lesser degree. 99 Ranch is probably the only Chinese supermarket where I feel things are consistently organized sensibly.

                                        By the way, Hawai'i had the "facing heaven" chiles but inspect that packages carefully as I think I saw moth webs dangling off a few. Also, years of mystery crumbs on the shelving beneath the packages. Pretty disgusting, but beggars can't be choosers...

                                        Mr Taster

                                        1. re: Mr Taster
                                          ipsedixit RE: Mr Taster Jan 14, 2013 03:21 PM

                                          One of the greatest mysteries to me is how in the world Hawai'i passes their LA County Health Inspection ...

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