Sunday, July 10, 2005

Shopping spree

It was inevitable. As I read through Growing Up in a Korean Kitchen, I kept encountering new and unfamiliar ingredients. The Korean aisle in the Asian supermarket started exerting a gravitational pull. I made a list. But wouldn't you know it, yesterday's supermarket trip was made on the spur of the moment, and who knows where the list is.

Korean stuff I bought: pine nuts, hot red pepper paste, cooking wine, napa cabbage and boiled oyster mushrooms. Only a start, involving items that I knew were featured frequently in the cookbook and which I remembered clearly enough that I felt comfortable buying them. The dried bellflower root and boiled fernbracken got put back due to a need for further research. I wasn't sure if the soybean paste was really fermented soybean paste (toenjang), so I left it, too.

I also learned a lesson regarding the usefulness of reference sources when shopping at the Asian supermarket. Growing Up in a Korean Kitchen describes a host of ingredients, but in generic terms (no brand names, in other words) and the Korean names are given as English transliterations, not in Korean characters. Asian Ingredients often does give brand names and even descriptions for the items it recommends, but it is weaker on Korean ingredients than on Chinese or Japanese. As a result, I was left trying to puzzle out English names on bottles and boxes, knowing full well that an English description on an Asian container may fall woefully short of a useful title. I may have to teach myself the Korean alphabet. This is the sort of thing that makes me think that a "cheat sheet" of Asian characters frequently used in food labels (Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Thai, etc., etc.) would be a really helpful item.

While at the Asian supermarket, I also got more usual items such as ginger, firm tofu, abura-age, Chinese broad noodles, Thai chiles and green tea ice cream. I was also able to confirm that the ducks at the Asian supermarket are half the price of the ones at the Pennsylvania Dutch Farmer's Market, but I had suspected as much anyway. The cutest incident I witnessed was when a dad picked up a big angled luffa and pretended it was a snake. His kids gleefully pretended they were terrified of the "snake." Just in general, there were piles of gorgeous-looking produce; it was very difficult to walk past all of it.

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