Thursday, March 12, 2009

Chinatown produce

After work last evening I headed down Christy Street to Chinatown to see what was there. I sensed another incipient lurgy and wanted to hit it on the head with some ginger and garlic.

Of everything I see in all those boxes and barrels, I can identify about one third. But even identified, I would be hard-pressed to know how to use most of the ingredients. Fresh produce is easy, but it's all the dried nuts, seeds and fungi that just stump me.

Above right, dried bracket fungi? Or pods?

Good looking daikon and ridged gourds on Elizabeth Street.

Beautiful garlic chive flowers. I ate the buds in a salad (of chunked iceberg, that maligned lettuce!) with a dressing of fish sauce, lime, chile, sugar, ginger and lemon grass.

The lovely back-to-front of celery and eggplant. These colours make me want to paint again.

Fresh mushrooms this time.

And fish. No idea what these long ones are.

Dried fish: big and little.

And clams the side of my hand.

I didn't find tamarind, and will return to look for it.

I found a lady on the sidewalk selling giant, larger-than- football-sized papayas for $3.50. A steal. And they tasted good, with a squeeze of lime.

I bought sweet mango's, two for $1. And a huge green one, more expensive at a per pound price of $1.29. And three red chiles were thrown in free.

The lurgy got one whiff of the garlic chives and fled, sobbing.


  1. Yay, the power of garlic strikes again! stay well!

  2. Oh, Marie, what beautiful pictures!! Makes me so homesick for Honolulu's Chinatown ...


    P.S Glad the lurgy's gone ...

  3. I often wonder about the produce of chinatown, the meats and fish too. So often it is a b-a-r-g-a-i-n.
    So I think is this just regular produce at china town prices, or is it bottom of the barrel stuff, or is it imported all the way from China, or is it that people in chinatown wouldn't dream of paying what I pay at our local market? Because if its fresh, and good, why don't we all shop in Chinatown?
    I love the visual style of abundance at the China town markets, plus the exotic (to me) things I wouldn't know what to do with.

  4. QC - false alarm...paranoia. Till this year I have not been sick since 2000.

    Keli'i - the whole Chinatown concept is so interesting, because I imagine they are very similar, all over the world, no matter the surrounding culture.

    Frank: yup. Well, not everything is a bargain, you know. I mention the bargains because they appeal to me, since I don't have a huge budget. I tend to go overboard there when I'm buying longans or durian or...crabs?

    I don't think it's bottom of the barrel, because you can tell that at a glance. Some places the fish are gleaming, others they are wilting. And I often see USDA officers prowling through the barrels of live frogs and turtles. Poor things.

    It sure ain't organic, unless by accident. That concept does not seem to have caught on down there. Maybe some of it is, but it just isn't advertised?

    So why don't we all shop there? Convenience, I guess. It's not onestop shopping. Its lotsastops. But then in my Brooklyn 'hood, though onestop exists (Trader Joe's...brrr, scares me: home of ready to eat super packaged meals. But nice Meyer lemons!), I tend to shop all over the place; here for cheese, there for bread, somewhere else for meat, fruit etc. Good work out.

    So... Chinatown. Maybe because it's work. The crowds are slow. the sidewalks dodgy, the streets smelly in high summer.

    But worth it, I think. And you know what I saw heaps of on Mott Street?

    Pea shoots! Tuck them in tonight...

  5. Tuckin em in.

    I shop all over too, although less fanciful destinations now because of better money management...

    I just went to the Mutter Museum in Philly (post soon I hope) and discovered that Mexican Agriculture still uses lead arsenate as a pesticide. Is this a rumor? I don't know, but it was presented as fact. Do they do this in China or wherever else our cheap produce is coming from?

    And do I care? Pesticides never killed my grandparents, hardy Germans that they were, Grandma's still going at 93.

    More damn complicated feelings.

    I still get excited to see the abundance, textures, colors of Chinatown markets.

  6. Question is: were your grandparents eating heavy metals and unspeakables? When did agrichemistry become the wonder drug, cure-all? I have done no research, so in my ignorance I assume it may have been at the tail end of the 50's and the 60's? Old timers ate old fashioned food raised the old fashioned way. I think.

    You need to grill your grandmother. Not literally, of course.

    Then again - there is a lot of knee jerk hysteria about food, apart from the sensible stuff.

    I will rest easy knowing the peas are warm.

  7. My grandfather was an ardent user of pesticides on his vegetable plot"

    Next post: Mutter

  8. Gorgeous, paintable vegetables! Not too sure about those open clam shells though!
    Yes, I think Chinese stalls are much the same everywhere, leastways, the 4 countries in which I've shopped Chinese.
    As to pesticides - be very wary of the currently "fashionable" berries coming from China. They are sold (in Australia) as health food but have been found to contain unacceptable levels of organophosphates.
    Growing your own or buying from a trusted source is always best.Not always possible, sadly.

    PS I have a tamarind tree if you'd care to pop over...

  9. I love shopping for produce in of life's great pleasures.


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