2.16.12 Eastern Promises

Vegetables 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife
My sister-in-law, who lives in the 'burbs, mentioned to me the other week that she had ventured into a local Middle Eastern market and been thrilled with what she discovered. Most towns have at least one ethnic market—Korean, Mexican, Greek—serving not only its immigrant community but anyone smart enough to take advantage of its wares. They present a fantastic opportunity to do a little armchair traveling, and to expand your cooking repertoire in the process. When I lived in L.A., I found the most amazing Thai market and, with the help of this extraordinary book, entered a whole new world of fish sauce, palm sugar, wild lime, sticky rice and green papaya. Of course New York City is like one big ethnic market, but when I want Japanese ingredients, I love to take a trip to Mitsuwa. I've mentioned this enormous Japanese superstore before—its aisles of rice, sake and bonito flakes, ramen stalls and red bean confections—but thought I would show you some of my bounty from a recent visit. The store is located in Edgewater, New Jersey, and well worth your time even if all you come away with is an automated rice cooker.
Enoki 790 xxx
shroom at the top
There's a bounty of mushrooms to choose from, including enoki, fresh and dried shiitake, hedgehog, maitake, shimeji and more, and many of them organic. The produce is all impeccable, though nowhere close to what you see in Japan, where fruit and vegetables are pampered, fetishized and curated beyond belief.
Miso 790 xxx
miso ready for dinner
Naturally the miso selection is extensive. Go expecting to be confused and overwhelmed, and don't expect anyone to help you. Consult a few recipes ahead of time and make a shopping list, so you don't wander aimlessly. Even if you don't plan to cook Japanese, there are so many interesting ingredients and prepared foods that will interest you.
Kombu 790 xxx
giant kelp
Everything you need to make dashi, the stock that is the backbone of all Japanese cooking, is available there, including various grades of kombu (giant kelp) and bonito flakes, the sawdust-like dried and shaved fish that adds such a wonderful smoky taste. Kombu is a superfood, full of marine nutrition and packed with glutamates that add amazingly savory umami impact. Add a 4" strip of it when cooking a pot of beans, as its amino acids help soften them and make them more digestible.
Tofu 790 xxx
soy vey
My favorite new find? This delicious surfboard-shaped tofu. I was attracted to the packaging and then read on the label a suggestion that it be eaten with maple syrup for dessert. Sold. It has a rich, creamy texture and a mild, soothing flavor. All for only 60 calories. I drizzled mine with this and never looked back. I think I'm turning Japanese. I really think so.
 
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4 Comments

btw, forgot to tell you that the woman who owns the local Korean fruit market bought some of the roasted corn tea for me last time she was at Mitsuwa!
Lisa on February 16, 2012 at 5:35 pm — Reply
So do you like it?
laura on February 16, 2012 at 5:40 pm — Reply
I still can't believe I have not been there yet. MUST go. The price of hijiki in local markets is making a trip even more worthwhile. I do love the market next to the Humane Society on the far east side, and always go for a bowl of something there for fortification after a visit to the Humane. Also on a mission to get aprons from atelier momo&momo. Maybe some will be there? The wait staff at our local natural Japanese place- Ozu have them and I am obsessed. Bib style with cross straps in back,bamboo buttoned, stripe ribbon trimmed, indigo dyed, many pocketed, sturdy.
anne on February 22, 2012 at 1:15 pm — Reply
I haven't made a pilgrimage in two years. I think it's high time to change that!
Julia on February 23, 2012 at 8:36 am — Reply