In between watching football this weekend – and baking, and using the computer while Kenny watched football in the background – I finally visited H Mart, a grocery store that sells a massive amount of Asian foods, tried some Polish sweets, and devoured a Chinese meal that I actually crave. They were exciting food experiences all around. (And I use the word “exciting” with all sincerity. I truly did feel rush of energy each time.)
A Trip to H Mart
I spent an excessive amount of time in the enormous sauce section. Bottle upon bottle of soy sauce glowed from the shelves. With so many varieties, it was too hard to choose a soy sauce at H Mart.
So I picked black bean sauce and oyster sauce – both crazy high in sodium – because Martin Yan’s recipes in his Chinatown Cooking cookbook used a lot of both. (Check out Yan’s website Yan Can Cook for a rotating list of recipes, and explanations of Chinese ingredients and tools.)
I just checked out Chinatown Cooking from the library for a second time. Last time it sat in my apartment for six weeks, untouched. This time – now that I’ve picked up rice flour, sesame seeds, and red bean paste from H Mart – I will make Yan’s sesame balls – my favorite dim sum food.
Bean Curd with Chinese Leeks
After shopping at H Mart, we walked next door to Hunan Taste at 718 North Rolling Road. It’s one of only a handful of Chinese restaurants where I’ve had dinner.
That’s because I’ve never liked Chinese food much, even though Kenny loves it. When we lived in Queens, he ordered tofu and broccoli with brown sauce once a week. I always ordered sushi from a different restaurant instead.
We had dumplings (the traditional appetizer, which was made with a thick dough that I liked), pigs’ ears (thin strips that look like uncooked bacon, which I didn’t like), and taro pancakes (essentially flat, dense sesame balls, which I loved). But my absolute favorite dish – and really there was no contest – was the bean curd with Chinese leeks.
I know, it sounds simple. But it’s so, so good.
Unfortunately I’m not sure what seasonings the chefs use. Rasa Malaysa, a website of “easy Asian recipes”, uses taucheo, a fermented yellow bean curd, in its bean curd and leeks recipe. Maybe that’s the secret ingredient. I think I need to research more to figure this one out.
On Saturday I took a long walk to Polish Treasures, a small store in Fell’s Point, to interview the owners, Marianne Frederick and her husband, Dave. I had interviewed Marianne for a story in Johns Hopkins Nursing last year. But I felt a special connection to the store for another reason.
More than two years ago my grandmother and great-aunt bought a CD of Polish wedding songs there. Then, at my wedding, they wished Kenny and I a “spicy” life before very bravely singing a slow number, and then an upbeat polka.
I waslked in Polish Treasures, and was like a kid in a candy store. Well, one quarter of a candy store. (Polish Treasures also sells jewelry, Polish eggs, jewelry boxes, and more.)
Polish cookies tempted from the shelf on my right. Chocolate bars, all unfamiliar to me, beckoned from the register. In the back, Dave’s handmade paczki (pronounced pounch-kee), honey-dipped doughnuts filled with jelly or cream, gleamed.
I could think of no better way to spend a half-hour on a Saturday.
I don’t have a picture of the paczki because, well, we ate it before I got around to taking pictures. (“Now this is a homemade doughnut!” Kenny said after taking a generous bite of the paczki I brought home.)
These are the two treats I chose that we didn’t immediately devour:
Delicje are cakey cookies covered with a coin of jelly – the jelly has texture, kind of like a gummy candy – and dipped in chocolate on one side. Dave’s culinary school teacher used to bring these cookies to class. They’re made with three different kinds of jellies. I chose strawberry, a scent that hit me immediately when I opened the bag.
Cytrynowa Z Zielona Herbata
I couldn’t resist buying this huge chocolate bar filled with green tea and lemon. As I write this, I’m eating a generous square of chocolate (for research purposes). While chewing, I’m thinking really hard about how to describe the green tea layer. It’s not as fluffy as nougat and not as smooth as a flavored cream. But I can’t find the right words. What I can tell you is that the lemon flavor gives this chocolate bar a nice hint of sour brightness. (But I guess “brightness” is a subjective descriptor…)
What food experiences did you have this weekend?