Sunday, February 24, 2008

homecoming blues and spices

So I rolled in on the bus late last night, perky for some reason, humming inaudibly to myself for most of the trip (Dr Worm by They Might Be Giants for anyone who's curious. It's catchy!). I didn't even nap like I usually do. And it's probably a good thing the trip itself was easy, because I came home to a mailbox full of mysterious bills written all in french for exorbitant amounts with weird phone numbers attached and a kitchen that would make pigpen blush. *sigh*

It's times like this I should (well, okay, start some administrative detective work, and yes, I am on hold right now) pore over probably my last fun grocery splurges for a little while. A few days before I left I went to the Kowloon market in Ottawa's chinatown and found scads and piles of fascinating dried things, powders, pickles, extracts, roots, sodas and noodles, beans and seeds and instant desserts with happy fruits on them, cakes and canisters and flakes, oh my!

I also ducked into a middle eastern bakery and picked up the sumac and harissa you see right there at the front of all the treasure. The rest of it is (clockwise from the jackfruit can), green jackfruit, mochi cakes, licorice dried plums, mung bean noodles, the cool rice-noodle-thingers I loved at the Green Door (the package says to let them soak for 12 hours -- we'll see how that goes), spicy pickled turnips, black sesame seeds, and YES a big stick of agar! Weehee. I can make lemon bars now, and any manner of fiddly cupcake devices, I'm excited.

Total: a little under $15

And being in Ottawa I had to replenish my spices at my favourite bulk bin health place. When I first started cooking I couldn't fathom the idea of tossing out spices after a year, I just couldn't understand how that wouldn't waste anything. And then I noticed my thyme canister was down a few teaspoons and I got simultaneously proud and concerned about my next quiche. Kardish is great for this kind of thing - I got basil, thyme, oregano, dill seed, ground and whole coriander, ground cardamom and cumin, aniseed, cinnamon sticks, kelp powder, mustard powder, onion powder, tons of paprika, white pepper, fennel, caraway and cream of tartar.

Total: $4.28 <----- (why I shop at Kardish)
The mochi was one of those pure experiential purchases. Having never tried it I didn't waste much time breaking into that package and inspecting the chewy little blobs within. I was surprised to find them all filled with pastes (and pleased, at first, to find this), and the three flavours were pretty obviously sesame, peanut butter, and plain white with red bean.

I'm not sure if this was just low quality mochi, and it probably was, but I wasn't totally bowled over by the stuff. The peanut butter was especially tasteless and UN-nutty, and the sesame was aromatic and crunchy but not much better. The plain white was without question my favourite, and I discovered that eating the paste first and *then* the plain mochi was definitely the way to go. But all in all I'll leave this stuff to the macrobiotic crowd (actually, these ones did have sugar, so maybe I got the candy-style kind, I don't know). They were really really fun to poke!

So in the interim I've hung up the phone, the musak even stopped playing. Time to put on pants, knock on some doors and squeeze my culinary dreams into whatever a bag of rice and the contents of my pantry can bring me. I have sumptuous photos from the rest of my trip to blog about after I get some work done, and hey, I actually love steamed rice and brown veggies (*guffaw*), so I'll-a be fine.

And I DO have agar. Rawr!!

14 comments:

trina said...

ooh, I'm excited to see what becomes of your agar!

Ruby Red Vegan said...

i am a newbie to international food stores, but last time i went i got some dried turkish figs that were 5,000 times cheaper than they are at whole foods. and that makes me happy. next time i go i'll have to look for jackfruit!

jRoq said...

that's a lot of spices! and yea for lemon bars!!!

pleasantly plump vegan said...

good stuff!

aTxVegn said...

You had a great trip to the Asian market. We love those giant orzo shaped rice thingies too!

Rachael said...

we finally checked out our local asian market and omg it was awesome. we had to rush because my partner had to head to work, but yeah, lots of awesome canned and dried *things* that we just had to buy. we were there actually because my partner got it into her head to make mochi...which is actually really easy and they are amazing fresh and warm. We used sweetened bean paste and rolled them in coconut flakes but will have to try with other fillings and toppings.

good luck with sorting out the mysterious french bills...

Carrie said...

Awesome haul! I love Ottawa...although I've never gone grocery shopping there.

Cynthia said...

This is weird, but I swear I've bought that exact same mochi before and it was Not Good. The texture was all weird and rubbery and not soft and gummy. Don't let it turn you off mochi!

pavotrouge said...

I yet have to try making my own mochi, the quality of the storebought varies a lot.
Asian grocery stores are the best!

ChocolateCoveredVegan said...

Oh how I love Asian markets. You can find such fun things, and for so little money. If you’re ever lucky enough to get mochi in Japan, give it anoher chance, because it is soooo good, and so much better than the stuff I’ve been able to find around here. Haha, but you’re right—it IS fun to squish!

Vegan_Noodle said...

Looks like you stocked up on all the goods!!

bazu said...

You can't beat bulk spices- I don't think I could live without them!

Emmie said...

Oh I wish it was possible for us to buy bulk spices here. All we get is the jars at the grocery store, or in little bags at the arab stores (but very overpriced). It annoys me.

We have an awesome asian store that i go to regularly for tofu, noodles, fun sweets and other little things. It makes me happy to be able to buy such lovely things so cheap.

Ashasarala said...

I need to find some interesting spice stores around here. All that for under 20 bucks! Day-um!

We do have some Asian markets, at the very least. Though they always wreak of dead fish. :(