There are three main reasons that I want to encourage you to grocery shop at ethnic markets. First of all, fresh produce and spices are often much cheaper than at regular supermarkets. Secondly, shopping at ethnic markets exposes you to new food items. Finally, when you buy grocery items at ethnic markets you will expand your recipe repertoire and may even discover your new favorite meal.
Produce and spices are much cheaper
I am fortunate to live near many ethnic markets in Salt Lake City. There are Asian, Mexican, Middle Eastern, African, and Indian markets within 15 minutes of my home. The first thing I do when I go to any market is check out the fresh produce. I have consistently found that fresh produce is much cheaper at ethnic markets than at supermarkets.
On a recent stop at the Asian market, I found a package of five thumb-sized pieced of ginger for $1.49, a bag of shallots for less than two bucks, and a package of enoki mushrooms for $0.99. Have you priced specialty mushrooms at the grocery store where you typically shop? A buck won’t get you much.
Have you ever tried baby bok choy? The leaves are tender and mild-tasting and the stem ends have a pleasant crunch. If you are feeling adventurous you can check out this recipe for Garlic Ginger Baby Bok Choy.
Spices are also typically much less expensive at ethnic markets plus you can find spices that you may not be able to find at the regular store. I picked up spices like fenugreek seeds, za’atar, and sumac for next to nothing at a Middle Eastern market.
Discover new food items
At the Asian market I bought a container of furikake which is spicy, salty, mix of sesame seeds, dried seaweed flakes, and wasabi for $1.99. For years I have seen furikake listed as an ingredient in recipes for Asian dishes but could never find it in the spice aisle of my local store. I can’t stop sprinkling furikake on rice, over vegetables, popcorn, and as a topping to the savory shrimp pancake recipe that I will post soon.
Also at the Asian market I found a huge variety of fresh noodles. The noodles were made from rice, wheat, buckwheat to name a few. I couldn’t resist picking up a few different kinds of noodles and search the internet for recipes. I made a delicious kimchi egg drop soup with buckwheat noodles last weekend which was so flavorful and satisfying on a cool, crisp autumn day.
Speaking of kimchi, are you a fan? I love the funky pungent flavor and will often add a few scoops of that fermented goodness to kimchi fried rice, scrambled eggs, or in a Buddha bowl. Kimchi is a fermented spicy cabbage condiment used in Korean cooking. The fermentation process develops helpful bacteria that are great for your microbiome, aka, your gut. It is a bit of an acquired taste but I always have a jar of it in my fridge.
Expand your recipe repertoire
Do you ever feel as though you are in a dinner rut? As you plan and shop for your food for the week do the same cast of characters pop up every time? Let me guess: tacos, pizza, spaghetti? Am I right? One of my favorite things about shopping at ethnic markets is that it inspires me to find new recipes to try out. The Internet and sites like Pinterest are game changers for recipe exploration. You can find recipes for anything! You can check out my Pinterest account here to browse the recipes that I have collected.
But, I am not going to leave you hanging. I will be posting recipes over the next few weeks showcasing some of my ethnic market finds like this Kimchi Egg Drop Noodle Soup pictured above.
I would like to issue you a challenge to:
- google ethnic markets in your area
- pick one to visit
- buy one new, interesting ingredient
The second part of the challenge is to find a few recipes that use that ingredient. Finally, make one recipe and share your results by tagging me at @hellofunseekers on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.
Are you up for that?