Last Updated on May 20, 2015 by Chef Mireille
It’s time to visit Chinatown…the season for my favorite Chinese summer fruits is approaching…pretty soon lychees and rambutans will be in abundance. The longan berries and dragonfruit are already out, as are the mangosteens, although at $9/lb., mangosteens are still a little too rich for my blood.
If that’s not enough reason to get you to Chinatown, I have a new reason for you. After not going to Chinatown for a few months, I went to Chinatown in search of lime leaves to make some Thai food. The one place that sells it, that I know of is Bangkok Center Grocery. From where I live, there are two trains at my station, the B or Q. They both go to Chinatown, but they are several blocks away. I needed to take the Q train to Canal Street to go to the store. However, I wasn’t concentrating and hopped on the first train that came, the B. The B stop in Chinatown is Grand Street, so I had to get off there, which meant a few extra blocks walking. More time consuming, but oh well that’s what I get for not paying attention. This turned out to be the best mistake I have made in a long time. I stumbled across a culinary paradise!
I haven’t been to Chinatown in a few months and there is a new market there, New York Mart. A huge superstore that carries all of your mainstream grocery needs and so much more. Fresh fish and meat and a wonderful prepared foods section, as well as a section for Chinese cooking vessels – i.e. steamers, rice cookers, etc. are just the icing on the cake. The piece de resistance is the produce section – OMG – such variety with things that are usually hard to come by, even in Chinatown – fresh lotus and burdock root, fresh bamboo shoots and many root vegetables, including the purple yam. I can now make all the Filipino desserts I have been wanting to try using this colorful yam. Vibrant greens and fresh wood ear and other unique varietal mushrooms – before, I have only seen the wood ear variety dried or canned…and things I have never even heard of, like Nagaimo – have no idea what that is!
You can sit down and have lunch and then do all your Asian food shopping
The fish and seafood is really fresh. These shrimp, at $8.99/lb. were still moving!
They also carry many Southeast Asian ingredients like lemongrass and Thai basil, as well as curry pastes. The one thing they did not have is the lime leaves. I still had to walk to the other side of Chinatown. Regardless, New York Mart is now my one-stop shopping for most of my Asian food needs.
Of course, the standard ingredients at all Chinese markets were all there also – frozen dumplings and wontons, noodles galore, tea, varieties of soy sauce, mochi, pickled everything and an aisle of snack food!
Lotus Root seems to be the new commonly available item. Every year, new items appear that weren’t previously available. As I was walking though Chinatown, lotus root was available at even the small size street vendors, in addition to the indoor markets. Previously, I had never before seen lotus root in Chinatown.
This is a great place to bring out of town guests. Don’t forget to show them the frogs and other reptilian creatures – I will NOT be cooking these! Although I have eaten frog legs in New Orleans many years ago, the act of doing it myself is something I can’t comprehend!
and if you are in the mood for something sweet, how about trying some Red Bean & Taro ice cream bars, for a change
Located at 128 Mott Street, it is definitely worth a trip and I forgot to mention the most important reason to go there, it is clean!!!
I couldn’t walk away, without getting some of these ingredients, which are usually hard to come by. Stay tuned for a delicious soup recipe coming later in the week.