You all know that I am sucker for markets. Flea markets, farmers markets, night markets, supermarkets, black markets…no wait scratch that last one.
I can spend hours browsing a grocery store in a foreign country or my own city. I prefer to check out the food shops before seeing museums and monuments.
At the heart of it, I think you can really tell alot about a culture based on what is on the market shelves. I love seeing how a foreign place uses the same ingredients as we might but in a wholly new way or application.
At the base of it, maybe I am just easily entertained by bright and shiny wrapped food products, waxy produce, a butchers handicraft and the aroma of a fresh flower stall.
I remember on my first visit to Carrefour (a mega grocery store chain), in Ningbo China, the seafood section had a huge glass aquarium standing 4 ft tall x 6 ft wide. It was filled with water, rocks and thousands of turtles. The one thing to love and hate about Chinese cooks is that EVERYTHING is expected to be fresh when purchased. Well, except thousand year old eggs, but that is another story. There was a huge stack of turtles laying all over each other that reached the top of the aquarium. Sure enough, one enterprising turtle, had made his (probably a her actually) way to the very top and was teetering on the edge. I secretly started to cheer for this turtle. Do it! Throw yourself over the edge.
Bam! That turtle took the plunge, shook it off and then looked for the nearest exit. Don’t be fooled by the slow turtle myth. That little turtle was hauling turtle tail. The fishmonger had yet to see the escapee. I was enthralled (told you I am easily entertained)! Well, turtle made it out of the seafood section, through the bakery and was headed for the check out line before it got swooped up by a store employee.
Where was I? Oh yes, MARKETS. I haven’t really taken the time yet to explore markets here in the Newport Beach area.
Yesterday I decided to change that and headed out to a few markets that popped up on a google search. I only made it to one; because I spent over 2.5 hrs in the first market!
Mitsuwa Market is the largest Asian market in the area. Its huge. Think Target size. It has it all. Fresh produce, Tofu in every possible shape and form, a butchers, a bakers, a tea shop, snacks, enough rice and noodle choices to make a trail back to China. There is a food court with restaurants and stalls exactly as you would see in China. There is a stationery shop, a cookery shop, a junk shop (cheap chinese import plastics), a travel agency for China Air! It’s all things Chinese under one big roof. I walked every aisle.
Here a few of my favorite things.
Loving these giant daikon. An easy wonderful side dish is to peel the daikon with a vegetable peeler, toss with fresh mint or basil and either a ponzu or mirin vinegar, fresh salt and pepper. So delish. I got a laugh at the “Sumo” tangerines. That conjured up a few images and looking at these wrinkly things is not too far off
One of my favorite treats is 1/2 of a papaya squeezed with fresh lime juice. Divine! I bought one and that was breakfast today.
The little leaf is Shiso. I have never found this in any market in US. It has a peppery but minty bite and is excellent served as the bed of a fried oyster. One of my favorite herbs. So excited to find it I might have bought 10 packages. I am just saying I might have.
Here is my suggestion for a great dish… Warm Udon noodles tossed in chili oil and topped with grilled octopus. Wash it down with a cold Sapporo or a nice Sake.
The personal care aisles are always my favorite, especially in a foreign country. In China I am always giggling at the whitening creams, freckle removers, lotions and potions made with strange parts of insects like scorpions and beetles and well then there is this
PS. I have a secret addition to Pocky and am now obsessed with the night lights like chinese lanterns! Must have.
Mitsuwa Market at 665 Paularion Avenue in Costa Mesa is a MUST do if you are in the area. Call me, I’ll go with you. Any excuse! Happy Friday Everybody.