Shopping the Ethnic Stores

My son loves Thai food.  My husband loves Somali and Italian.  We all love Mexican.  It's great to have so many recipes available on the internet that can be copied from restaurants where we try dishes or when we find something in our travels.  The hard part is that many of the authentic ingredients are harder to find in the local supermarket where I shop.  I've wanted to check out some ethnic stores so I could give the recipes I'm using the proper 'respect' they deserve.  Ha!  So just to preface this- these are all new to me and I was not disappointed.  I used YELP, the iphone app to help me find them.  Usually you can get some reviews that help you decide which one might be best and then there is a map link or hours.  Easy to use and I check that app all the time when we're traveling too.

I have to say that I've been in some of these stores in larger cities and it can be a bit intimidating at first. Most are in neighborhoods where a population of that ethnicity would shop there so you feel a bit out of place when you don't look like everyone else.  Then there can be a language barrier between you and the packaging, so you struggle to find stuff.  I say, get over it and get on in to these amazing stores for you will find bargains and delights!!!

Our first stop was the Fondy Market- an outdoor market that runs into late Fall and is under cover.  My husband said it was in a bad part of town, but I had heard they have really good produce grown by Hmong farmers so I wanted to go anyway.  We got there early in the day and there weren't many vendors, but they had a great supply of the things I wanted and even things I didn't know I wanted.  The nice thing about meeting with them when it's not busy is that they have time to explain some of the more 'interesting' vegetables and give you ideas for how to prepare them.  It's cheaper and fresher and in most cases ORGANIC, which I love.

A colorful array of peppers
Omar found this enormous pumpkin 

I bought so many additional veggies
 from this great teacher/farmer
Then we went on over to an Asian market, Pacific Produce, that had been recommended by the chef who did my Thai cooking class.  This place was huge and had many aisles of goods in a variety of Asian languages, I suppose.  Since I don't read those languages, I had to rely on pictures or help from a store clerk.  As soon as we walked in, Omar said, "Power Rangers Store".  If you know anything about the show, you could see why he'd assume that. I have never seen such a large variety of fish that I couldn't name.  And if you need an egg roll wrapper, they have about 20 different brands that are oddly all the same price.  It takes longer to shop like this.  I didn't know where anything was and in some cases had never seen it so I had to wander the aisles while Omar managed to lose his Captain America shield on top of a grocery shelf.  When he alerted me, I went to find a stool and he knocked over a whole shelf of goods trying to climb it like Spiderman.  We were lucky that two nice men came to the rescue and picked up the goods, retrieved the shield, and we went humbly on our way.  The produce all seemed to be extremely fresh, though much of it I couldn't identify.  The big bonus was the price.  Everything was so much cheaper.  With a little help from my friends, I found everything I needed for my Curry Shrimp which we ate for dinner, and Jake said it was good.
If you need coconut milk, they have it!
After Pacific Produce, we had one more stop- Amana- an Arab store.  It's a great place to find rice and some grains that can be harder to find in the local PicknSave.  We also buy halal meats.  This is a method used to kill the animal that is considered more humane by the Muslims.  They don't necessarily display what you want, so you have to let them know what type of meat and how you want it cut.  I asked for 3 pounds of chicken breasts and he packed it precut in cubes.  It's nice having a butcher.  You can even special order lamb or goat meat, something that Abdul likes us to serve at holidays.  The cookies and biscuit aisle aren't bad either!  Omar found a few goodies.  There's a chocolate cheesecake I've wanted to try and I found some chocolate biscuits that will be good in the crust.

Rice in various sizes and blends

One awesome detail I left out is that these ethnic stores usually have a diner/deli attached.  You can always pick up a quick bite at a low cost.  The Arab store had pita sandwiches with lamb, beef, or chicken.  Love the cucumber sauce!  There is also falafel and shawarma.  The Asian grocery both Thai and Vietnamese foods which include wonderful buns with all types of toppings, or maybe you want a fully cooked duck, complete with the head still attached.  My friend Kathy told me about a wonderful Mexican store that has cheaper beef and a great hot food selection too.  I'll have to save that one for another day!


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