Saturday, July 18, 2009

Field trip: Great Wall Supermarket

I'm spoiled since I have a good Asian market near where I live (Asian Food Market in Plainsboro), but there are other Asian markets in the central Jersey area. Today, on a whim, I decided to cruise up Rt. 27 to Great Wall Supermarket in Franklin Park, along one of the mall-ier stretches of the Lincoln Highway. I knew (since I was going to be there on a Saturday morning), that it was likely to be crowded, but did not let that dissuade me, since there are a number of items that the local Asian market has stopped carrying, and I was hoping to find an alternate source (short of going the internet route).

For starters, Great Wall was bigger, much bigger than my local market, the size of a great big supermarket like Superfresh or Stop and Shop (or, indeed, McCaffrey's in West Windsor). Being bigger, it was also jammed with way more people. The checkout line moved surprisingly quickly, however. It was pretty overwhelming, though, and since the layout was different than the local market's, I probably missed some things. Most notably, the local market has specialty sections for Japanese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Filipino and Indian food items, while Great Wall does not break these items out the same way (so, rather than looking for Japanese shoyu in the Japanese aisle, you need to find the Japanese section of the general "seasonings" aisle). It was kind of like visiting a parallel universe where nothing is quite where you expect it to be, but that's more a factor of how imprinted I am on the local market than Great Wall's fault. I also didn't notice any specifically Indian ingredients at Great Wall (such as Maya spices, which I'm used to seeing at the local Asian market, which is next door to a little Indian grocery store).

Digression: it turns out that that little Indian grocery store, Desi Corner, had its moment of blogging stardom in this post from John and Lisa Are Eating in South Jersey.

I'll need to go back during a less crowded time to explore in a more leisurely fashion, but I found some Lan Chi sauces (which the local market no longer stocks) and Mizkan honteri mirin (my latest attempt at satisfying my mirin cooking needs without buying aji-mirin or sugaring up some drinking sake). On the other hand, I found no yuzu juice, nor Shirakata-Denshiro Soten tea (and, although I got Lan Chi's Soy Bean Sauce with Chilli, their Barbecue Sauce was nowhere to be found). The lunch counter looked intriguing (it even had an eat-in section with seating), but that will have to wait for another visit. I picked up a couple of pounds of pork shoulder that was absurdly cheap and threw it into the freezer when I got home. I also got a big hunk of ginger root, some fresh mushrooms and some Bull-Dog Worcestershire sauce (since I've been thinking that it's about time to check out the Bull-Dog mystique: heck, you can even be their fan on Facebook!).

Also noted for future reference were Pho 99 (NJ SPICE review), in the same mall as Great Wall, and a little roadside burrito joint on the west side of Rt. 1 south of New Rd.

Here are some Yelp reviews (none by me) of the Asian markets mentioned in this post: 

Great Wall in Franklin Park here.
Plainsboro Asian Food Market here.

Plus Great Wall (in Chinese) and Asian Food Market's own sites (both are chains).

Friday, July 03, 2009

Summer vacation?

It's a weird thing about being a grad student; you get out of school for the summer and then discover that you need to catch up on all of the things you didn't do over the school year. Like food blogging!

Our story so far...well, you can read the rest of the blog for that. I love cooking Asian food. When I started this blog, I had a lot to learn about that. Now, I still have a lot to learn (since I did not grow up with this food being cooked in my own house), but there is a range of dishes from various Asian cuisines that have become easy for me to cook. In the meantime, I've branched out and started exploring various western cuisines. Also in the meantime, the food blogging community has grown by leaps and bounds and I despair of ever being able to keep up with it the way I did (geezer alert) back in 2004.

That is, when I have time to cook. Temping a full-time job and studying for classes on the side makes a pretty grueling schedule, even without the inevitable chores or need for some sleep. It is all too easy to go for easy food, both in the office and at school. If I had my druthers, I'd prefer to take my time making some good home-cooked food, but such a busy schedule puts a premium on time, too. So the good food gets shut out more often than I would like.

A day in the life: I'm making Chinese chicken stock today, since I've accumulated a good batch of chicken bones from a master sauce chicken (along with some chicken backs from the Pennsylvania Dutch farmers market). Today is a day off, so I have the luxury of relaxing and catching up on non-work things. My garden is full of sweet basil plants from a local farm, along with a patio tomato plant, some lettuce, rosemary, and the apple mint and spearmint that have been with me from day one of this blog, almost. I've been in a salad mood lately; just romaine and tomatoes from the supermarket with some low-fat ginger dressing from a  company whose face is a recently-deceased movie star. I love this dressing, which I discovered while having dinner with The Cruise Director and The Fireman recently. It is almost as gingery and sharp as the wonderful dressing I used to get at Dosanko in Midtown NYC, though it is brown, not the day-glo orange of the Dosanko dressing.

I'll leave you with a couple of items I've noticed today: a great idea to use leftover pasta sauce to make bruschetta from Tigers and Strawberries, and a warning about a major outbreak of late blight that I found via Bug Girl on Twitter.