Saturday, November 8, 2008

A trip to the market...

I've been trying to think of ways to spice up my blog, and one idea that appeals to me is doing my own version of "French Laundry at Home". If you're not familiar with this blog (and you should take the time to read some of the posts, it's a great read), the idea is that the author cooked her way thru the "French Laundry Cookbook", and wrote about it. That's a pretty impressive feat. I remember reading thru the book when I checked it out from the library and thinking, "wow, not a home cooking cookbook".

For my take on "cooking your way thru a book, one recipe at a time", I'm thinking about taking on Fuchsia Dunlop's "Land of Plenty", which is a pretty good cookbook focusing on Sichuan cuisine.
To that end, Bridget (my 5 year old daughter) and I took a trip this afternoon to the local Asian market to pick up some pantry staples.

Here in the Triangle, we have a very large Asian population, which we owe to the presence of 3 top flight universities (NCSU, UNC, and Duke) as well as a slew of smaller schools, and to the vibrant high-tech/biotech scene here. This presence translates to a pretty big Asian market here in Cary, called, fittingly enough, the Grand Asia Market.

I enjoy going to places like this, because it allows me to get some idea of what it's like to be both a minority and a stranger in a strange land. Walking in, you're confronted with signs in languages you (probably) don't understand, and very few people of your own ethnicity. Personally, I think it's good for you to experience this kind of dislocation, since it allows you to empathize at least somewhat with other minorities. For example, african-americans make up roughly 12% of the US population, so anytime an african-american walks into a room, it's likely that they will be the only black person in the room. Walking into the Grand Asia market, you know exactly how they feel.

But enough liberal guilt. Shopping at the Grand Asia market is definitely different from Krogering. I was primarily interested in pantry items, so I skipped the fresh fruit and veg area, but I got sucked into the fish and meat departments, and I gotta say, the next time I'm buying fish, I know where I'm going. They had a ton of fish, including live fish (which at least guarantees that it's fresh) and crabs, and it all looked pretty good.

Live fish:

Stone crabs: (they had turtles too, but I didn't get any pics of those)
Live blue crabs:

A broad selection of not-living fish, which was much more appealing than what you get at the regular grocery:
Next to the fish department was the meat department. Since I haven't tried any of the meat there, I can't say it's better than a usual grocery, but the selection was far more interesting. The only thing I bought was pork belly (which seems to be a hip kind of meat lately), but there was a ton of stuff that I can honestly say, I've never considered buying. But if I'm ever looking for fresh bung, I know where to go (snicker).

There was a great variety of cuts that you just never see at the regular grocery:

Next time you get a cornish hen, this is the "non-prettied up" version:

I'm open minded, and I can see eating testicles, but who eats uteri?

And, when you can't think of anything else to eat:
Please don't think I'm making fun of the meat selection. While I wouldn't eat some of the stuff I saw, I did see things I would eat, like pork liver and pork belly. Even though I think pictures of pork uteri are funny, someone is obviously eating it, since they're selling it fresh, and when you get down to it, meat is meat, regardless of where it comes from on the animal.

After the "pleasure" portion of the trip, checking out the meat and fish, we went and got the things I was really here for, which were the pantry staples. The hard part of shopping in a place like this is that little is in english, so you need to kind of parse what english is there to get an idea of what you're buying (or be familiar enough with the appearance of what you're buying to be confident you're buying the right thing. I think I managed to muddle thru alright, getting most of what I wanted.

Spices galore:

More noodles than you can shake a stick at:

My haul:

Pork belly, light and dark soy sauce, rice wine, rice vinegar, black vinegar, sichuan pepper corns, hot peppers, preserved vegetables, etc.

So, all in all, a good trip (we also went to a local motorcycle dealership for some parts for a bike I'm working on, and I think Bridget had more fun at the market than at the motorcycle dealership). I got most of what I needed, and I think I'm ready to take on Fuchsia Dunlop's very good cookbook. In the coming days/weeks/months, I hope to flesh out my plan a little better. I'm excited at the idea of cooking everything from a book, but it's kind of intimidating, especially since I'm sure there are things that I won't be able to find anyone to eat (and then I'll have to eat it!). Right now, I need to work out what I'm going to cook and when.

So keep reading!

Music notes:
I've been on a jag of buying lately. I picked up the new Blitzen Trapper album Furr, which is really really good. I went to see the Drive-By Truckers and The Hold Steady the other night here in Raleigh, and they totally kicked a**. I have all but one DBT album, but I only had one Hold Steady album (Stay Positive), so I went and bought "Boys and Girls in America". Awesome stuff. If you haven't heard the Hold Steady, you're missing out, and you owe it to yourself to rectify the matter. I also picked up "Boxer" by the National. It's an album that's hard to figure. Sometimes I listen to it and think "mellow", other times not. But all in all, a great album, that I've listened to repeatedly in the last couple of days. Regardless, three great albums in a week is a pretty good string of music.


Barb Lorenzo said...

Duck tongue? Seriously! I can never understand people who eat other creatures' tongues. That's like French kissing an animal!

Dave Mackie said...

I got to googling, and came up with this recipe (from Martin Yan, no less), for duck tongues:

What's funny is that the ad at the top of the page says "How I lost 44 lbs fast!". I'm open-minded, but I think eating duck tongues would probably cause me to lose a lot of weight fast. Especially since this link:
describes them as being very "tongue-y" (not like beef tongue) and having a strip of cartilage in them or something. Fortunately, my sichuan book does not have any tongue recipes.