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Just Discovered an Amazing Asian Market - What Should I Try to Make???

So, I went to this an amazing Asian market for the first time and while I picked up a basket of goodies, I was pretty overwhelmed. It's a whole grocery store filled with imported goods and a lot of it I have no clue about. I want to branch out and take advantage of the Asian ingredients I suddenly have access to, but I'm not sure where to start.

Any advice?

What are some things I should pick up next time I go?

What should I try to make?

Is the unpackaged fish really safe to eat?... It scares me a little.

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  1. You CAN spend quite a bit of time in the jarred condiment aisles alone!
    Do not overlook the butcher or fresh fish section if theres is one. Asian markets usually have better pricing and somewhat different selection than mainstream places (I don't know, whole pork belly, fresh pigs feet, ox tail, seasonal fish, etc).

    Maybe pick up some Japanese rice condiment (I understand its called Furikake), sesame oil, chili oil, but maybe that was in your basket of goodies already? ;-/)

    1. Unpackaged fish safe?

      If it's on ice, the eyes are clear and the fish doesn't smell fishy, it's probably good.

      Asian markets are usually an inexpensive source for pork belly. Braised pork belly is delicious.

      Other aisles that are fun are the...
      Produce aisle. Unique fruits to try
      Noodle aisle. Many unique ramen flavors or different noodle types.
      Meat counter - ground pork. Ground pork is surprisingly difficult to find in a regular supermarket. Makes for a meat base for dumplings.

      2 Replies
      1. re: dave_c

        I'm a pescatarian, so no pork for me, but the fish guide does give me a little more confidence. :)

        I picked up some fun beverages, a couple different types of curry, prepared dim sum and fish balls, kim chi, thai basil, amazing juicy shitake mushrooms, and quail eggs. Not sure what I'll do with the quail eggs, but they were just $1.50 so I guess I can just play around. :)

        1. re: dave_c

          "If it's on ice, the eyes are clear and the fish doesn't smell fishy, it's probably good."
          Good advice. I'd add taking a look at the gills. In general bright red=good, brownish=not so good.

          (to OP, I didn't realize what you meant by "unpackaged". If you meant fish, by weight on ice (as dave_c describes), I'd trust that more so than packaged mainstream stuff)

        2. I'm making a cookbook of Asian recipes for my MIL in Stockholm as a gift this Christmas, it includes some jars of basics... To get started and make sense of things, here's a few links that are useful:

          15 basic ingredients for Asian cooking & their uses

          Rasa Malaysia's recipe index - her recipes are super easy and delicious! Includes popular things you see at Asian restaurants (Chinese, Japanese, Korean...). She has popular and all time favorite recipes at the top - great first dishes to try!

          Steamy Kitchen is also similar

          More Chinese and dives into specific regions of Chinese food

          Hope that helps! :) Just choose something that looks interesting and start buying ingredients that will be handy for many recipes. For example, I always have on hand:
          - garlic black bean sauce: great for a basic stir fry, seasoning/marinading meats, on tofu
          - sesame oil: usually used to finish a dish or marinade
          - white pepper powder: rarely use black pepper, white pepper has that light sting
          - soy sauce
          - fish sauce: used a lot in Thai/Vietnamese dishes
          - hoisin sauce: dipping condiment, sweet
          - oyster sauce: used for sauces and marinades, salty

          Those are things I've used in the last two weeks for dinner. I tend to choose Asian dinners as weekend quick dinners because we can stir fry some things together in 20m and eat.


          Unpackaged seafood: safe if it looks firm, fresh and supple. Don't go for anything with clouded eyes or smells bad. Typically unpackaged seafood is fresher (though sometimes it's just defrosted seafood behind a counter). Try to buy some fresh shrimp, crab or shellfish from a tank of water. It's less intimidating than a floppy whole fish :)

          1 Reply
          1. re: bobabear

            Rasamalaysia.com is one of my favourite sites. The recipes *always* work. The others I'm not familiar with, so thanks, bobabear. :)

          2. Fish: fish balls, baby octopus, shrimp
            Meat: pork belly, spare ribs
            Poultry: whole chicken, duck or duck parts, eggs
            All the makings for homemade egg rolls, dumplings and buns
            Assorted rice noodles, dry pastas, fresh lo mein noodles, soba
            Better buys on spices, pastes, basic kitchen stables
            Better buys on produce (ginger, lemongrass, chilies, thai basil)
            Green tea ice cream or pops
            Green tea powder and tea bags
            Great buys on kitchen gadgets and cookware
            Asian sweets
            Dried fruit and nuts
            Canned lychee
            All your Asian sauces, lots of diff soys, hoisin, rice vinegar, toasted sesame seed oil
            Their bakery

            37 Replies
            1. re: HillJ

              I actually did pick up some thai basil! I was so excited when I saw it. I figured I'd had my last when the plants in my garden finished for the season. A big bunch was just $1.50. :)

              Lychee - I've had lychee bubble tea and that was really good, but what do you usually do with it?

              1. re: gastronomics

                You can eat lychee if you peel the skin off.

                You can also soak it in sake or vodka to make lychee infused alcohol for cocktails.

                1. re: gastronomics

                  Don't laugh but I open the can and eat them :) I use the liquid and a few lychees for a martini. I love lychee canned, dried and fresh-and you can buy all three at the Asian market!

                  1. re: HillJ

                    You've convinced me. I'll have to get some next time I go. :)

                    1. re: gastronomics

                      With canned the center pit is removed and the outer shell. With dried you remove the pit; with fresh you peel the outer shell and remove the pit (didn't know if you knew this, wouldn't want you to choke).

                        1. re: HillJ

                          Hmm... where should I bring it then? Have you tried it?

                      1. re: HillJ

                        "Durian :( Let's not go there! Stinkkkkky."

                        But Anthony Bourdain loves it, and I love him! n.n' Have you tried it?

                        1. re: gastronomics

                          I came close about a year ago and changed my mind. A friend bought one, opened it outside as suggested here and that was all the introduction I needed at the time. But don't let me discourage you.

                          1. re: gastronomics

                            I've had it. The taste, to me, was fairly mellow. I was indifferent to the taste but not keen on eating something that smelled like hot trash...

                            1. re: Hobbert

                              So I chickened out over the smell and never experienced the taste. Did I miss anything?

                              1. re: HillJ

                                Nah. The taste is mellow and uninteresting. I believe it changes with ripeness but I didn't see much need to try it again.

                                1. re: Hobbert

                                  Thank you, then I'm moving on to greater flavors!

                              2. re: Hobbert

                                *nods* I'd mostly like to try it to have the experience and say I did.

                                1. re: gastronomics

                                  Yep, that's why I tried it. It was pretty hyped and I'm glad I did but I won't have it again.

                              3. re: gastronomics

                                We picked one up a few years ago and wondered what all the fuss was about. It was somewhat stinky, but not the putrid, rotting onion/sewer smell.
                                I am told that Durian are frozen before being imported here. The freezing apparently mutes the stinkiness.

                              4. re: HillJ

                                Canned lychee is very good.
                                Maybe look for ramboutan (lychee's furry cousin) stuffed with pineapple. The added bit of pineapple adds to the mix.

                                1. re: porker

                                  I have actually and I really did enjoy them. I'm also seen ramboutan fresh for sale. These look like something out of Star Trek- tribbles.


                                2. re: HillJ

                                  Re: the canned lychees in syrup? Try them with some excellent jersey cow cream, not mere whipping cream. Lychees, syrup and that cream! Cuts the sweetness! Say "thank you lychee tree" if you really like the combo!

                                  1. re: GTM

                                    I appreciate the kind recommendation GTM but those lychees are terrific all by themselves! Open can, enjoy!

                                      1. re: porker

                                        that's right! Lychee puree in martini!

                                    1. re: GTM

                                      I'm actually not much of a sweets person, so this may be a good option for me!

                                3. re: HillJ

                                  Has anyone tried salted duck egg or durian? They have both of those there and I'm curious.

                                  1. re: gastronomics

                                    Salted duck egg is best in rice dishes - sticky rice wrapped in bamboo leaf with salted duck egg inside, or rice porridge with salted duck egg. Usually not for eating alone or other uses...

                                    Durian :( Let's not go there! Stinkkkkky.

                                    1. re: gastronomics

                                      If you get durian, don't bring it in your house!

                                      1. re: Hobbert

                                        Re: durian. ALL durian on sale in the USA has been frozen before shipping. That is the equivalent of de-fanging a cobra. There is hardly any "durian" remaining there, a mere apology and an excuse for charging a high price.

                                        Have you tasted frozen mango or pineapple sold by Dole? They are not bad as bits of cold, sweet-tart chewy, wet edibles go, but do they taste of fresh, prime ripe pineapple or the best quality mango to you? Same here.

                                        1. re: GTM

                                          >> ALL durian on sale in the USA has been frozen before shipping.

                                          What is your source for this information? I'm very curious to know.

                                          Mr Taster

                                          1. re: Mr Taster


                                            I have been very curious about the answer to this. I have been unable to find any legal mandate on the USDA website that requires durian to be frozen before arrival in the US.

                                            There may, of course, be the practical consideration that the fruit might spoil on the boat as it travels from Asia, and that could be a valid reason for freezing. However, my experience buying durian in Los Angeles doesn't support this.

                                            I see you're probably in New York, and New Yorkers are known for thinking they have access to the entire world (I'm from NJ and my sister lives in Brooklyn, and my grandparents are from Queens). But the practical consideration is that NYC is awfully far from SE/S Asia, so it makes sense that from a New Yorker's perspective, all durian arriving in NYC markets would be previously frozen, due to economic and spoilage considerations.

                                            I live in Los Angeles, and during the season (autumn) it is common in Chinese and SE Asian markets to regularly see (and smell) fresh, funky durian (at a premium price, mind you). The frozen, nearly odorless (as you say, "defanged") durian is available all year at a much cheaper price, sold as whole fruit in freezer bins, in packages in the freezer case, and also thawed and "peeled" segments sold in styrofoam trays covered in plastic wrap. I don't have any proof that the durian being sold as fresh was previously frozen, but it sure as hell doesn't smell that way to me. (I spent 6 months traveling through SE Asia, and several more months in Taiwan where durian is a very popular Thai import, and I know what real durian smells and tastes like.)

                                            So I am still curious to know if your assertion that "ALL durian on sale in the USA has been frozen before shipping" is solely a reflection of your own personal experience, or if you can point us to some factual documentation supporting your assertion. My gut tells me that fresh durian would need be transported in cold storage from Asia, but would not be fully frozen. But that's not based on any documented fact-- just my intuition and personal experience with the frozen and fresh versions of the fruit.

                                            If you have some actual documented proof of how this sensitive fruit is transported, I'd be very curious to read it.

                                            Mr Taster

                                            1. re: Mr Taster

                                              GTM, where did you go?!

                                              I emailed the USDA about the fresh/frozen durian question and, miraculously, got an incrediblty detailed response.

                                              This is excerpted from an email from Chris Bembenek, Customer Support Communications Specialist, Team Leader
                                              United States Department of Agriculture, Animal Plant Health Inspection Service.

                                              "Frozen durian for consumption should be admissible into the United States from all countries that do not have sanctions against them (North Korea, Cuba, Iran, etc.) with a “Frozen Fruit and Vegetable” permit based on PPQ form 587. Fresh durian for consumption is admissible from Thailand with a permit based on PPQ form 587."

                                              So there it is! Fresh durian is absolutely available for sale in the US, (as my nose suspected) as long as it comes from Thailand.

                                              If anyone is curious for more details, I can forward you the email from Chris.

                                              Mr Taster

                                              1. re: Mr Taster

                                                Yeah, but now everyones gonna want durian from North Korea, Cuba, and Iran.
                                                I wonder if we can get cuban durian in Canada?

                                          2. re: GTM

                                            I've only eaten durian from street vendors in Thailand but thanks for the info, I guess. I also don't eat frozen fruit so couldn't compare your other examples.

                                        2. re: gastronomics

                                          I love durian, but don't expect to be very popular after you eat it. There is no middle ground with durian....you either love it or hate it. Just be forewarned that the majority of people hate it.

                                          1. re: EricMM

                                            >> Just be forewarned that the majority of people hate it.

                                            That's an awfully generalized statement. I'd say it depends on what continent you're referring to. I know an awful lot of people who absolutely love it, though most of them are not Caucasian.

                                            Mr Taster

                                          2. re: gastronomics

                                            Salted duck egg is a bit of a chameleon depending on the cuisine. I usually blend the egg yolks with tomato water, Sriracha and a touch of vinegar to create a dressing for a tomato, onion and salted duck egg white relish that is killer with grilled fish or meat. A little chive and cilantro never hurts as well. Others might take a simpler approach, mincing the eggs to top like seasoning on mildly flavored dishes like congee or pork mince. Also traditional, but perhaps more interesting for a Westerner, is using the eggs as a savory contrast to sweets like bibingka or mooncake.

                                            As for durian, I probably have a weak sense of smell since I'm not much bothered by its scent, let alone that of kimchi. Durian flavor and texture, however, is best described as onions and custard. So go ahead and open a durian in my kitchen; just don't offer me any.

                                            1. re: gastronomics

                                              I lived in Singapore for a few years, and learned that stinky cheese is a great analogy for durian -- the reaction there to stinky cheese is essentially the same as the common reaction here (USA) to durian. Not that many people grow up around both -- you're more likely to like the one you grew up with, and might not understand how anyone could like the other one.

                                              There are different varieties, which vary greatly in stinkiness. The custard-like texture is amazing. I liked it OK the first time I tried it, and loved it by the second or third time. However, the frozen one I had once here in the US was really disappointing in taste and texture.

                                              1. re: gastronomics

                                                Heh. People tend to either love durian or hate it. And by hate, I mean you cannot transport durian on public transportation in Singapore without risking a substantial fine. It's on the warning posters along with no food, drink, or smoking. :D

                                            2. If they have a BBQ section, get some crispy skin roast pork and/or BBQ pork and/or BBQed duck.
                                              Its ready to eat just like that (which I prefer), or can be incorporated into dishes.

                                              4 Replies
                                                1. re: porker

                                                  Yeah... I like meat a lot too, I just don't want to support unethical practices. I'll eat it if I can know for sure it was raised ethically, or if a hunter friend wants to offer some, but that doesn't happen often. :/

                                                  1. re: gastronomics

                                                    If this is true, I'd advise strongly against eating meat from Chinese supermarkets. Some Korean supermarkets in Los Angeles are making inroads to certified organic and grass fed beef, but the Chinese markets are trailing in this regard.

                                                    Mr Taster

                                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                                      I wouldn't eat meat unless I knew the specific place from which it originated - and it was a good environment.

                                              1. Maybe pick up a cold bottle of good ole Pocari Sweat.

                                                1. To me, "Asian" is so broad as to be either meaningless or mind-boggling. I'd zero in on one Asian country whose cuisine you'd like to try, then specialize in it. Once you get a few dishes down pat, try another's country's dishes. Try on-line recipes and/or your library to get acquainted with some flavor profiles. Better yet, talk to some of the other customers there for ideas--instant experts!

                                                  5 Replies
                                                  1. re: pine time

                                                    I agree 100%. The flavor profiles and kitchen essentials of the cuisines I've cooked so far - Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Thai and Indian - are pretty different.

                                                    1. re: ineemeeny

                                                      Hey, folks, we removed a few posts here. It's fine to help others understand the differences between cuisines and what they need to cook each one, but taking them to task for not already knowing the differences really doesn't help. Thanks.

                                                    2. re: pine time

                                                      This, a million times. I've lived in Sri Lanka (eight years) and Singapore (two years) and their cuisines are so different as to not even be recognizable as similar.

                                                      I agree with trying food from one or two countries to start with and branching out from there. It can be a terrific way to become more familiar with the cuisine and the ingredients.

                                                      I sometimes pick up ingredients that I have no idea what they are and figure out what to do with them later - which can be dangerous if you don't have other ingredients to go with it. My husband would prefer that I figure things out ahead of time, so I try to take pictures with names on the item to figure things out before I buy, but sometimes, I can't quite help myself. He just shakes his head usually.

                                                      1. re: LMAshton

                                                        "I sometimes pick up ingredients that I have no idea what they are and figure out what to do with them later "

                                                        I can't believe there is not an "app" for that. Actually, I think I found one at some point.

                                                        1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                          Someone recommended one to me at one point. I looked at it, but that was as far as it got, I think.

                                                    3. Oh I am so with you on the excitement of finding a great Asian Market. I'm by no means any expert but I have spent many hours enjoying the wonders of Asian markets and my best advice to you is to get yourself a copy of Bruce Cost's excellent book, "Asian Ingredients: A Guide to the Foodstuffs of China, Japan, Korea, Thailand and Vietnam," and read it (also bring it with you while shopping).

                                                      I found this book extremely helpful when first exploring Asian cuisine at home, as it describes many of the most important Asian ingredients as well as some of the more unusual ones. It also contains recommendations as to brands, photos of ingredients, packaging, etc. So handy to have this book in your hand when looking at a wall of 20 different kinds of fish sauce! There are a few actual recipes in the book, but it's mostly just a reference guide for ingredients. You can get it used on Amazon for nearly nothing: http://www.amazon.com/Asian-Ingredien...

                                                      1. I regularly shop at Asian markets ( Chinese to Indian). My regular (staple) purchases are:

                                                        Fermented dried black beans
                                                        Lumpia wrappers
                                                        Bitter melon and all the fab veggies
                                                        Fermented soybean paste
                                                        Herbs like Chinese chive, shiso leaf, sesame leaf, lime leaf, curry leaf, etc.
                                                        Shrimp paste
                                                        Soy sauces ( get a nice mushroom soy sauce)
                                                        Noodles, 100 percent buckwheat
                                                        Chili powder, hing and methi in the Indian section
                                                        Beans and legumes (try the moong beans and dals)
                                                        Chinese sausage (in the un refrigerated section)
                                                        Medicinal teas

                                                        Non staples, but frequent purchases are:

                                                        Chinese hot pot sauces
                                                        Canned fruits
                                                        Fish sauces
                                                        Peanut oil
                                                        Cookies for teas

                                                        1. I think you'll have a lot greater success in getting suggestions if you let us know what kind of Asian and Asian dishes you like to eat in restaurants? Also what you skill level is? I'm also betting that the Seattle library has a good selection of cookbooks so you may want to check out some Asian ones (Fuschia Dunlop and Andrea Nguyen are my faves) so you can check some out and see what appeals. Have fun.

                                                          BTW, you must check out Uwajimaya, the most amazing Asian market I've seen,in the ID.

                                                          11 Replies
                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                            I'm a pescatarian (no red or white meat), but I'm also an adventurous eater. I have a high tolerance for spicy foods, and I enjoy funky textures, unusual ingredients, and trying new things. Not a huge fan of sweets. I'm a savory girl.

                                                            I'm not sure how to explain my skill level. I'm instinctive cook, not really a great baker who know recipes by heart, but I am confident in my ability to follow instruction. I'm not afraid of taking on a challenge or of making a mistake. I don't believe there is any food I am really incapable of making.

                                                            I'm actually NOT in Seattle, I'm in Grand Rapids, MI. Just accidently posted there for some reason. n.n'

                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                              Fresh Tofu- love that idea! How different is it you think? Much better?

                                                              I spotted all sorts of dried fish and wondered what they were for! You just eat them like a chip? The bones don't bother you? I'm picky about bones. Even the tiny ones.

                                                              1. re: gastronomics

                                                                If you do make the mapo tofu recipe I suggested above, be sure to use the extra soft tofu and be gentle with it as you handle it as it breaks down easily. Fresh, soft tofu is absolutely great in that dish but be aware that there are widely varying standards in how tofu is packaged. I've seen tofu labeled as "soft" that's more like "medium firm". At least with fresh tofu what you see is what you get.

                                                                Mr Taster

                                                                1. re: gastronomics

                                                                  I was taught that Lumpia is a type of eggroll from the Filipines. Wiki says it is Chinese. Either way, the wrappers is the cruchy outside. Very thin and fries very crispy...

                                                                  Woops, just saw that this was answered further down.

                                                                2. re: c oliver

                                                                  I didn't see much Indian food (though there's a smaller Indian market I have access to elsewhere) at the market I went to. I think the majority is Chinese, though I'd have a hard time telling Chinese print for Japanese. There was also a fair amount of Filipino food. They have the partially developed duck eggs there. :(

                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                    I tend to like a lot of foods that other people don't, so I'm optimistic, but I guess I'll just have to try and see!

                                                                    1. re: gastronomics

                                                                      What I meant is what kind of Asian food do you like generally and what specific dishes do you order when you go out. I'd first learn to cook something that you already know what it tastes like and that you like it.

                                                                      Lumpia wrappers are used to make lumpia, a Filipino treat.


                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                          That sauce sounds freaking amazing! :)

                                                                          If durian tastes like onions and custard, seems like it could be the start of a pretty awesome, pungent sauce.

                                                                          1. re: gastronomics

                                                                            Dried Chinese/Taiwanese sausage is great. I love the snow peas and dried Chinese/"wind dried" sausage recipe in Fuschia Dunlop's book.

                                                                            Mr Taster

                                                                    2. How exciting! I've been shopping in chinatown for years and have a few staples i only buy there now:
                                                                      Miso paste- if you seal it well in the fridge it keeps forever
                                                                      A lighter miso =more mild flavor, darker is stronger. I use miso in everything from a bit in a cup to drink like tea to salad dressings, marinades and soups
                                                                      Dried seaweeds- konbu is great for broths, adds a rich sea flavor, also the "snack" dried seaweed packages
                                                                      Fresh tofu- look in the packaged desserts aisle for an almond tofu pudding kit, makes a soft delicious dessert
                                                                      All nuts, spices, and dried beans are super cheap
                                                                      Something called "mushroom soy sauce" is a deep super flavorful soy
                                                                      Fresh bean sprouts, bok choy, all kinds of greens, and chinese broccoli
                                                                      If they have jars of korean bulgolgi sauce its a great marinade for tofu or used for stir fry or just on rice

                                                                      Every time i go i try something new, usually just costs a buck or two and most of the time i find something great! Like those tiny dried crispy fish snacks- they're awesome!

                                                                        1. re: greygarious

                                                                          Wow!!! That looks amazing. And cheap. Buying. Thanks, gg.

                                                                        2. gastronomics,

                                                                          Please listen carefully to my recommendation, as I have several very specific reasons why this book is for you:


                                                                          The author is English but is fluent in Mandarin after having lived in China for many years, and studying cooking in Sichuan province. As such, Sichuanese food is her specialty ("Land of Plenty" is her Sichuanese cookbook), but I'm recommending "Every Grain of Rice" because it's a better book for beginners.

                                                                          This is not expressly a vegetarian book, but most of the recipes are vegetarian (or pescatarian) simply because traditional Chinese cooking often doesn't use meat, or uses only very little as a condiment.

                                                                          However, I'm recommending this to you not just for the recipes, but for the.... drumroll..........

                                                                          ***COLOR ingredient photographs in the back of the book!!!!***

                                                                          I can't express how important color ingredient photos are for beginners taking their first steps through a Chinese condiment aisle. These photos are so invaluable to help you find exactly the jar of obscure fermented tofu (for example) that you need to get the recipe just right. Even when you know what you're looking for, you can walk up and down those aisles filled with hundreds of little jars of pickled vegetables and fermented beans. A color photo of that specific jar makes things SO much easier. Then once you know where it is, you're golden.

                                                                          She also includes beautiful color photos of Chinese vegetables, so you can point these out to the grocer even if he doesn't understand English. Green garlic changed my life :) (They look like giant green onions, but the bulb can be a little purple, and they smell and taste of garlic rather than spring onion-- you can use the green and white/purple parts just as you would green onion.)

                                                                          The recipes are so simple, but incredibly flavorful and that's because Chinese cooking uses a lot of what she refers to as "magic ingredients" to impart a lot of flavor right away... lots of fermented pastes and tofus and aromatics that don't require a lot of time or cooking to main the main ingredient (usually a bland veg or tofu) really flavorful. I just made her mapo tofu recipe last night (please don't leave out the green garlic or garlic leeks if you make this-- regular leeks or green onions are not a substitute). "Land of Plenty" includes a meat-based version of mapo tofu, while "Every Grain of Rice" has a vegetarian version.

                                                                          Let us know how it turns out.

                                                                          Mr Taster

                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                            I have her Land of Plenty but I think I want this just for those pictures. You're right; those aisles can be quite overwhelming. Thanks, MT.

                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                              I don't favor style over substance... I generally find cookbook photos gratuitous, as pages used for photos are pages that could otherwise be used for recipes.

                                                                              I'm of the belief that a well-written recipe does not require photos-- look at Cooks Illustrated for a great example of this. The instruction are written so clearly that you're never left wondering what your next step is.

                                                                              The photos in Every Grain of Rice, while beautiful, also have that outrageously practical use of literally being a map to Chinese supermarket, and are the actual products she uses to cook her own recipes. It's not just an invaluable and beautiful addition to the book-- it's essential.

                                                                              Mr Taster

                                                                              1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                And that's why I want it! Hazan's Essentials has no photos either and that's just fine with me.

                                                                            2. re: Mr Taster

                                                                              I agree, this is a great book to learn simple delicious Chinese recipes. The photos are incredibly useful.

                                                                              If you do buy it also check out the recipe write ups here on chowhound as it was a cookbook of the month earlier this year.

                                                                            3. My local Asian market is TINY! First time I stopped in was because something made me remember I was almost outta soy sauce. There must have been at least 8-10 different brands, besides typical K-brand you find in regular supermarket. I just asked which one the owners would recommend. NOTHING in store has a very high price tag on it. SAME brand of panko crumbs as supermarket at about half the price.

                                                                              Black or white sesame seeds (8 oz bag) for about a DOLLAR! One lb bag of "onions" (shallots) for about $1.50. JUMBO eggs are always less than $2/doz. Not a huge selection of produce, but with the rapid turn-over, always fresh... baby bok choy, long beans, etc. FRESH blocks of tofu dipped out of a big bucket in fridge case. Doubt I'll ever try every noodle they have.

                                                                              When traveling from NJ to PA to teach GED classes, discovered a BIG Asian/Indian market. Probably 10-12 different varieties of lentils. Lots of "unusual" veggies... like eggplant literally about the size of an egg... purple and white.

                                                                              Sister lives in VA, near DA sorta, and occasionally goes to some BIG Asian market. She says the ladies are ALWAYS willing to help her out.

                                                                              1. Those cute little quail eggs are great on salads...over the summer, I did a seared tuna Nicoise salad with poached quail eggs and a Dijon Vinaigrette that was delicious.

                                                                                17 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Cherylptw

                                                                                  Someone on CH wrote about doing deviled quail eggs!

                                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                                    That's actually what my mom suggested! :)

                                                                                    1. re: gastronomics

                                                                                      But quail eggs aren't only used in Asian cuisines. And using them for deviled eggs would REALLY not be Asian :)

                                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                                        Pretty adorable though!

                                                                                        I was kinda thinking of using them for a sort of egg drop soup. I did one recently where I left the raw yolks out until just before serving. They looked interesting floating in the broth, were fun to cut into, and were delicious as they mixed with the broth. I used chicken eggs for that, but it would be neat to try it with just quail eggs or a mix of the two.

                                                                                        I also like the look the soy sauce eggs featured on Rasa Malaysia: http://rasamalaysia.com/soy-sauce-egg...

                                                                                      2. re: gastronomics

                                                                                        In Taiwan's night markets, I've seen little divoted griddles where they crack quail eggs into the little indentations and fry them up.


                                                                                        Mr Taster

                                                                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                          I'm most afraid of overcooking them, but I'd give it a shot. :)

                                                                                          1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                            Too cute. And beats the hell out of balut!

                                                                                          2. re: gastronomics

                                                                                            If you make deviled quail eggs, you should make them pink, because they're that much cuter. And actually, the pickled part makes them extra delicious. Caveat: use raw beets, not the cooked vacuum-packed ones, for vibrant rather than muddy pink.

                                                                                          3. re: c oliver

                                                                                            They are so delicate, I'd be afraid they would fall apart from all the handling but interesting....

                                                                                            1. re: Cherylptw

                                                                                              I can't find the thread but poster did comment that they weren't the easiest things to peel. I'd guess not :)

                                                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                They're not; I found it out the hard way....

                                                                                                  1. re: gastronomics

                                                                                                    So, this sounds really bizarre, but for $1.25 i satisfied my curiosity and bought a can (?!) of quail eggs! They were hard boiled, peeled, and the ingredients read: quail eggs, water
                                                                                                    I just rinsed them well and they were pretty good! I used them for a salad nicoise for friends and they upped the cute factor. I just cut in half.

                                                                                                    1. re: Ttrockwood

                                                                                                      I ended up cooking mine over-easy. They were a little tough to crack and, as you might imagine, they cooked up quickly, but other than that I thought they were pretty similar to a chicken's egg. I also had mine in a salad. :)

                                                                                                      1. re: gastronomics

                                                                                                        We did take-out sushi with friends awhile back before heading out to a party. Theres a roll called sunset (or is it sunrise?); a tube-roll of nori 3/4 full of rice topped with flying fish roe on one side, and a quail egg yolk on the other. For take-out, they supplied the quail egg whole - at home, you crack the little guy, do the separation thing, and drop the small yolk into the roll.
                                                                                                        A bit of dexterity required.

                                                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                  I've used them for deviled eggs and pickled eggs ONCE. Very, very tedious to peel and the shells pulled off much of the white. This was even after following a tip to boil with vinegar added to the water to help soften the shell.

                                                                                                  I have no desire to repeat this experience...

                                                                                              2. re: c oliver

                                                                                                I think that was for low-carb gifting....
                                                                                                I'm just sayin.

                                                                                            2. Sorry if I'm repeating, but +1 for mapo tofu. Try a combination of salted black beans and black beans in chili oil.

                                                                                              1. Dumplings....Wontons......Noodle Soups/Dishes

                                                                                                1. What a great question, we have two great Asian food markets nearby but I never know what to buy.

                                                                                                  1. Head to the freezer section and grab a bag of frozen pandan leaves. There long green leaves used to infuse either their color or their flavor in dishes and deserts. Bee-line it back to your kitchen and shove 2 or 3 thawed leaves, tied in a knot and pulled tight to extract a little of their natural juices and moisture, into your pot of cooking rice. I personally do a coconut milk infused jasmine with just barely starting to caramelize onions right in my rice cooker. I learned it from a cooking school site that I've been a member with since last year. I've been hard pressed to make rice any other way since learning this technique and this unknown ingredient. It makes your house smell amazing to boot.

                                                                                                    7 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: MadmonkX

                                                                                                      Never heard of them. I'll be on the look out!

                                                                                                      1. re: MadmonkX

                                                                                                        >> this unknown ingredient

                                                                                                        I can think of several hundred million non-Americans who wouldn't consider pandan "unknown" :) Everything is relative. One person's disgusting stink is another person's roquefort.

                                                                                                        I've never cooked with pandan but I've certainly eaten my share of green-colored foods made with the stuff (tofu pudding, thai desserts, etc.) When infused, I really can't taste much of the leaf itself-- the flavor and aroma is subtle.
                                                                                                        However, as I said, I've never cooked with it myself. It wouldn't surprise me to find that when you're working with the actual leaf (and can use whatever quantity you like to flavor whatever it is you're cooking it with), the flavor and aroma would be stronger than what you can buy commercially.

                                                                                                        Now you're making me want to experiment with pandan too :)

                                                                                                        Mr Taster

                                                                                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                          Maybe you can answer this one for me, Mr. Taster. I recently saw a Japanese desert wrapped in an oak leaf. Is this just for the pretty of it, or is oak leaf meant to impart some flavor? Are there other ways oak leaves are used?

                                                                                                          1. re: gastronomics

                                                                                                            It was most likely a fermented sakura (cherry blossom) leaf, which imparts a very specific flavor to the mochi (rice ball). You eat the leaf-- it's not just a wrapper.


                                                                                                            Mr Taster

                                                                                                              1. re: gastronomics

                                                                                                                Although my wife and I were in Japan during children's day festival in 2007, I don't remember eating this (it doesn't mean we didn't-- it was a long time ago).

                                                                                                                Otherwise, my resources are the same as yours for this one. Google to the rescue!


                                                                                                                Mr Taster

                                                                                                        2. I bought frozen coconut milk from a great asian grocer. I was excited and saved it for a special curry. When I poured it into the sauce I realized that it was full of coconut threads. We did not like it. Things I do like are crispy onions, flavoured seaweed, holy basil, specialty soy sauce, different Miso pastes....

                                                                                                          1. I would check out their crab and shrimp. Our market has really good quality frozen lump crab meat, a good sized package for $8. That is how much the regular grocery charges for a small cup that is nowhere near as good. Their shrimp are also much better.

                                                                                                            Other things I grab on a regular basis and use quite a bit: rice noodles, sesame oil, hoisin, chili sauce, cans of baby corn, bamboo shoots, lychee, coconut milk. I get big bottles of rice vinegar and sushi vinegar. I use large amounts of both for quick pickle veggies and in recipes. Our Asian store has about any brand of rice you could want. I usually mail order bags of Nishiki from Amazon but most stores carry it. I will never buy regular white rice from a western grocery store again.

                                                                                                            Fresh veggies: bean sprouts, napa cabbage, pea pods etc. None of these are unusual but they are cheaper and way fresher at our Asian store than any of the regular grocery stores.

                                                                                                            One sweet thing I buy that isn't really extremely sweet are these tapioca rolled cookies. They have coconut in them but it is just a faint sweetness rather than in your face sweet ness. They are Thai but don't have a package to grab the name off of.

                                                                                                            Sometimes I will just grab something that looks interesting and figure out what to do with it when I get home.

                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                            1. re: blackpointyboots

                                                                                                              I would be sure to check country of origin and ingredients for any seafood before buying....

                                                                                                            2. First of all, you need to pick what you want to cook by browsing Chinese cookbooks. Only then you can start venturing out to Chinatown grocery stores. You will be surprised the amount of herbs, spices, different sauces, dried meats and fish, and much much more. It is impossible to know all, so pick a recipe and start from there. I am a Chinatown shopper and I still cannot figure out everything they sell...

                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                              1. re: roro808

                                                                                                                If you don't already have it, it sounds like you might benefit from my recommendation, too.


                                                                                                                Mr Taster