My oldest daughter is a freshman with an obsession for Japanese anime and is always asking me questions that I can’t answer about Japanese culture. So, I was excited when Chef McAffee asked our food purchasing class to visit the oriental super market in Little Rock. It seemed like just the sort of adventure to share with my daughter.
We headed across town to Mr. Chen’s Oriental Supermarket on University Ave. I was surprised by it’s size. It really is a “super market” as large as most American grocery stores and complete with sections of produce, seafood, dried goods, and housewares.
It was fun looking through all the different items, many that I didn’t recognize. We tried to imagine how they must taste or how they are meant to be used. We giggled over things like Grass Jelly Juice and Horny Goat Weed, puzzled over Dried White Fungus and White Fungus Soda, and felt the urge to touch all the fruits and spices, gathering a few curious stares along the way from other shoppers.
It was astounding how many spices and teas there were. An entire aisle of each had us exclaiming over every item. In the end I chose a package of Chinese Five Spice and my daughter bought a canned version of tapioca tea. We were really tempted to take home a tea set and bowls, but I think I’ll surprise her by giving them as Christmas gifts. (Shhh! Don’t tell!)
It was nice to find so many items that are standard in Asian recipes but hard to find in the store. We decided to come back next time with recipes in hand so that we can finally tackle our favorite restaurant dishes at home. As a matter of fact, we saw someone there doing exactly that. I saw her hand the recipe to the cashier and ask for an ingredient she couldn’t find. It was nice to see how eager the clerk was to help her, and it made me realize what a treasure we have here among us. We can explore and experience other cultures right here without ever leaving the state and that is a gift to be treasured – and shared. So, grab a friend and your favorite Asian recipe and head across town to the Oriental Market. You’ll find a delicious adventure there.
Want to see more finds from our trip to the Oriental Market? Check out the gallery below.