Those who are of Chinese descent hunt out the stores that sell their delectable ingredients. These stores are by no means limited to ethnic origins. People from all over the world, who simply love Asian food, shop for the magical additives for their next meal. Different and unique food stuffs line the shelves.
Of course there are common items that are present in every type of cuisine: vegetables, meats, canned goods, bottled goods, et cetera. Yet, what marks a store that is ethnically identified are the products unique to the ethnic flavors of the cuisine. Spices, vegetable variations, special cuts of meat, dairy and of course sauces are in the minds of cooks and specialty chiefs who flood the aisles of these bustling markets.
In every department of the grocery store there are warmly familiar features, comfort foods and the ingredients that transform basic food stuffs into Momma’s cooking. Those items are the target for us shoppers. Languages from all parts of the world can be heard up and down the aisles.
Familiar tones of Cantonese dialects and of course Mandarin tones are most common. Words directed toward store employees of customers looking for specific items become repetitious. It all adds to the experience, the fun of shopping at an Ethnic store.
I chuckle in the produce department. Some of the green vegetables are popular among the gatherers. “Yum” is a word that connects my brain with some of the choices in the bin.
Then, I laugh out loud when I wander into the fruit section. There is a menagerie of fruit not common to the Western palate. One has a fragrance that gives a long distance announcement that it is present.
The Jack Fruit is both unforgettable in its fragrance and visual impact. Most who have never had the opportunity to taste its distinct flavor will give pause. Amazingly, it tastes much better than it smells.
A coconut is a fun distraction. With the outside husk removed, the fuzzy inner hard shell has markings on the end that look like a monkey’s face. Occasionally, the hairy surface and facial similarities gives this department some comic relief. The Almighty gave His creation variety, a trademark of an infinite God who also has a sense of humor.
photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography