I met my dear friend Matt in New Orleans (I promise not all of my stories happen there… just maybe all of the best ones) at a pirate-themed event that was taking place in the French Quarter. I was with the Theatrical Combat Network at the time, performing some stage combat, showing off our costumes and generally playing pirate to the entertainment of onlookers, the Travel Channel, and most importantly ourselves.
Matt walked me safely to my hotel on several inebriated evenings, bought me in the wench auction (all proceeds went to helping restore New Orleans post-Katrina) and gave me a place to stay when my flight home was cancelled. Granted that place was in Texas, but any detour is a short one when the alternative is sleeping in an airport. He also endured my vegetarianism at the time, which allowed me to try many new things, but prevented me from trying other things that were New Orleans staples.
A year or two later, when I was the brokest I’ve ever been, Matt called me up at about 2am and informed me that a flight heading to New Orleans was leaving from Detroit in about 4 hours and that he’d like me to be on it.
I was no longer veggie, so he immediately ensured that I tried everything I had missed the first time around, and all in all it was one of the best trips I’ve ever been on to date.
Anyway! Matt was kind enough to guest-blog for us on the wonders of the underexplored markets just around the corner. Here’s what he had to say…
So, I’m not really a blogger, so pardon my writing. Miss Molly has been nice enough to allow me a guest spot in her blog, so I’m going to do my best to say something vaguely interesting.
Now that that’s out of the way, I do want to talk about a frequently-neglected source of incredibly good, cheap, fresh food: your local Asian market.
I’m lucky enough to live in a community where we have a massive Korean supermarket, but even for those of you not in an area with a big immigrant/east Asian community, I guarantee there is at least one grocery store catering to that demographic within easy distance, if you’re in a city of any size. (Try looking for an H-Mart near you)
“But it smells like fish in there!” you say. Yes, it does, because they’re actually cleaning fish at that counter in the back in front of you. Nothing is frozen, and the prices are probably going to be around 2/3 or 3/4 of what you’d pay for fish at the regular grocery store. Red meat can go either way on price, but fish specifically is a staple for the people they’re catering to, so you’d be silly not to take advantage. Beyond fish/meat, the other big draw for me is produce. Really fresh, seasonal produce is what drives most of these places, and again, at a significantly lower price that you’re going to pay for lower-quality produce in the generic grocery stores in your neighborhood. Bigger variety, too; take it as a chance to try some new things, and you may be surprised at what all you find that you like. The other items you can find at your local Asian grocery are about what you’d expect; a variety of fresh and dried noodles (also great ramen that isn’t maruchan/ichiban, though Molly tells me we’re trying to avoid that), a massive range of both fresh and dry spices, and a surprising amount of American name-brand items at significant markdown over your normal local grocer. The short version is, consider giving a different shopping venue a shot. You might be surprised at what unexpected good things you stumble across, and how much money you could save on items you planned to buy anyway.
Thank you so much for your sagely advice, Matt! I look forward to checking out and posting up some recipes from things I’ve found once I wander to the nearest Asian market.
Guys, while you’re hanging out, check out Matt’s Etsy, on which I was given the honour of writing several item descriptions.
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