One way to keep the interest up when cooking with limited mid-winter veggies is to add radically different flavors and seasonings. Several of us had been to a massive Korean supermarket nearby but, confronted with so many unfamiliar ingredients, and very wide choices (a hundred kinds of kimchee!) felt overwhelmed. We decided a field trip where we shared our knowledge and picked Q’s brain (although she is from China) would be not only fun but also very informative.
It really worked out! Q unerringly helped us understand the differences between various kinds of tofu – hard, soft, medium, smoked, baked, fried, flavored. She had clear recommendations for brands of shrimp paste, rice vinegar, miso paste and chestnut snacks. She could tell us how to use frozen fish balls. As we contemplated a huge wall of noodles, she described uses for plain, zucchini and squash versions. In other words, she was a fount of knowledge.
We loaded up our carts. It was interesting to see what people thought they would use. A nice lady was handing out samples of a Korean berry and vinegar concoction that is to be mixed into milk or water. I, for one, was very dubious. I hardly drink any milk and the idea of adding vinegar to milk, giving it a brisk stir and downing it seemed unappetizing to say the least. Well, what do you know? It was absolutely delicious! We loaded bottles of the concentrate into our carts. Apparently it is very good for health, both Q and the sales lady assured us.
We finished off our field trip by visiting the food court at one side of the massive space and enjoying wonderful spicy selections while discussing religion and feminism! On our way out, we stopped in the parking lot to divide up the boxes of veggies from Tomato Mountain that I had brought along in my car and then headed home to cook them up with many of our newly purchased ingredients.
Early the next morning, I cooked something I would never in a million years have made for breakfast or any other meal before this guided visit – I made wonderfully tasty bowls of fish ball soup with noodles, mushrooms and Chinese chives! Lip smackingly delicious!