Its fun to look at exotic foods at the Korean market, but WHAT do you do with them? I have a few main staple items I go to Chicago Foods for. In addition to the cheap cans of coconut milk I mentioned in my last post, here’s my list of top 10 items you’ll often find in my shopping basket.
- Rice Vinegar: is my absolute favorite vinegar for its sweet tart flavor. I use it all the time in my salad dressings, as an added accent in my salsa and guacamole, or as a substitute for lemon/lime juice. I use so much of this stuff, I usually buy it in gallon bottles. When I can’t find it in a gallon I have to content myself with two large bottles (above).
Miso is a salty-sweet paste made of fermented soy beans which can be used similar to a vegetarian bullion due to its naturally intense flavors. Its definitely a fridge staple because it lasts forever, makes a quick soup broth or marinade and is a great thing to have in a pinch if you need to quickly give some added body to any dish.
- Frozen Dumplings:
Although I like to make things from scratch, I also like dumplings ALL THE TIME! Found in the frozen food section are bags and bags of frozen gyoza, fluffy buns and all kinds of deliciousness. I like to buy a few bags to keep on hand to be steamed and served with rice for a quick dinner.
Sheets of dried nori can be found in a few sizes, but I like the small rectangles (~3″ x 4″) which is sold wrapped with multiple single serving packets to keep the seaweed from getting stale. Its a tasty addition to miso soup, or great to wrap around rice for a finger food. If you’re grossed out by seaweed, you don’t know what you’re missing; nori is nutritious and delicious.
I like to think of Lemongrass as the Asian bay leaf as you don’t actually eat the stalks but boil it in your broth for flavoring. I keep some stalks in my freezer at all times to throw into my stock or broth for my favorite Asian soups.
- Fresh Fish
The Chicago Foods fish counter is stacked full of fresh fish; heads still on and cheap! Buckets of clams. Shrimp for $2.99. Come on! This stuff may smell bad, but hopefully you don’t have that far to get home (although if you’re taking the blue line from the Belmont stop, the people on the train won’t like you so much).
Mushrooms can be expensive. Chicago Foods is a great place to find awesome prices on shitake and other exotic Asian mushrooms like oyster and beech difficult to find elsewhere. Because of their limited shelf life, its worth checking out their affordable selection of dried mushrooms to keep in the pantry as a quick substitution.
Soju is like a Korean sake; its stronger then a wine but less potent and slightly sweeter then its Russian cousin. Its delicious, full of alcohol and ridiculously cheap. Good to drink; good to cook with.
Chicago Foods is the only store I know of which has a year round sprouts station. $0.69 a lb. Do you know how many sprouts you get for in a lb? What I can’t figure out, is who needs 10 lbs?
Radish sprouts adds a hot peppery kick to any salad or stir fry.
- Fish Sauce:
Ever tried to recreate an Asian dish and you’re sure you’ve got all the ingredients in place but it still doesn’t taste right. You’re missing the fish sauce. This is my favorite brand and a bottle with last you for years.