Category Archives: ethnic food

Another Look: Odds & Ends

Welcome to a new installment of Another Look!  This post is designed to share a handful of goodies from my archive while I’m recovering from my surgeries.  I hope you enjoy these links, whether you’re seeing them for the first time or have seen them once before.  Today’s category is Odds & Ends!  Just click on the name of the post to link over…

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A Flower for Neva Lenora
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Letting My Inner Child Out to Play: Roller Skating
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Mad for Movies!
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Santa Ana Artists Village
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Letting My Inner Child Out to Play: The County Fair
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Dim Sum – Yum!
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What are some of your favorite “Inner Child” activities? Please comment and share.

Warm regards,
Melody

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Another Look: Ethnic Markets

Welcome to a new installment of Another Look!  This post is designed to share a handful of goodies from my archive while I’m recovering from my surgeries.  I hope you enjoy these links, whether you’re seeing them for the first time or have seen them once before.  Today’s category is Ethnic Markets!  Just click on the name of the post to link over…

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Shopping at a Korean Market
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Little India: So Near, Yet So Far Away
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arch

Chinatown
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El Mercado de Los Angeles: A Mexican Market
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A Quick Trip to “Persia”
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Do you enjoy trips to Ethnic Markets?  Which are your favorites?  Please comment and share…

Warm regards,
Melody

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El Mercado de Los Angeles – A Mexican Market

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I recently went on another ethnic market adventure – hubby and I ventured up to LA to visit El Mercado de Los Angeles in Boyle Heights.  A three-story indoor mall, El Mercado is full of visual stimulation and is a great place to eat and shop.  You’ll know you’re in the right place if you see a large, beautiful shrine to the Virgin Mary in the parking lot!  Shops sell everything from beautifully embroidered clothing to religious figures – there’s something interesting and colorful to see nearly everywhere you look. Piñatas, candy, cowboy boots galore – those are just a few things you can feast your eyes on.

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When you’re actually ready to feast, you have several options.  Whether you stop by one of the food stands for juice and ice cream like we did, go to one of the “order at the counter” eateries, or venture up to the third floor to the HUGE mariachi restaurant “El Mercadito”, you’ll be able to fill your belly and enjoy the environment – particularly if you’re new to such environs.  You can also take edibles to go – there’s a bakery and a market on the second floor.  The market sells cactus, and yes – the cactus is meant to be eaten, after you scrape off the “prickles” and cook it.  I’ve had cactus at my in-laws’, and it’s a yummy dish!

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cactus

Because my husband is Mexican-American, and because I’m pretty well immersed in the culture, I’ve been to markets and restaurants similar to those at El Mercado before.  For this reason, this particular ethnic market adventure wasn’t quite as “foreign” to me as my trips to some other spots here in Southern California. Little India, the Persian market, Chinatown, and the Korean market seemed more like a “local international adventure”, but I still really enjoyed my time at El Mercado.

Hubby and I wandered around, saw some new and some familiar things, ate some yummy treats, and did a little shopping.  Our edible purchases included candied pecans (upper right), cookies from the bakery, and Tomy’s butterscotch-y candy.  Hubby also bought a few movies he’d watched as a child, and I purchased Loteria sets for my at-risk art journaling students.  (Loteria is basically Mexican Bingo, and I like to include the cards in the supply kits each child receives.)

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek at our trip to El Mercado.  Please let me know if you have any questions, and please feel free to share any ethnic market adventures you may have been on lately!

Warm regards,
Melody

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Dim Sum – Yum!

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Have you ever had dim sum?  I’m definitely a fan.  Not only is the food delicious, the overall dining experience is, too!  For those who are unfamiliar with dim sum, and who didn’t read my Chinatown post from last spring, the folks at Wikipedia tell us that dim sum is a Cantonese term for a type of Chinese dish that involves small individual portions of food, usually served in a steamer basket or on a small plate.  Going for dim sum is usually known in Cantonese as going to “drink tea”.  If you’ve had tapas it’s kind of like that, but with Chinese food.  Dim sum is much more fun though, particularly if you visit a restaurant that serves the food out of rolling carts like the one in the photo above.

PICTURE THIS: You’re sitting at your table, hot tea already steaming in a white, handle-less cup.  Your table is soon visited by one of several servers, and the server is wheeling a cart that contains delectable dishes.  One by one the cart’s dishes are offered to you.  If something catches your eye you nod, and the plate or metal basket is placed on the table.  Your dining “ticket” is stamped, indicating what you’ve selected so your bill is easily totaled at the end.  If you’re not interested, a polite no suffices.

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You may not know the name of what you’ve selected, or exactly what’s in it, but you don’t care.  You just know that it looks and smells great.  Whether you eat with chopsticks or a fork, you dig in – enjoying both the food and the lively atmosphere in the room.  When the next cart rolls by the selection process is repeated.  You wash all the tasty food down with hot tea, and if you’re wise you’ll end the meal with something from the dessert cart – maybe some little tarts or mango jello.  YUM.

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HELPFUL HINT: Because a dim sum meal is composed of little plates/servings, and because you’ll probably want to try several of the tempting dishes, it’s best to dine with at least one or two other people.  That way you’re able to order a wider variety of dishes and taste more things before getting full and throwing in the towel, so to speak.  That said, I’ve had several dim sum lunches while dining solo.  You can always take home leftovers if your eyes end up being bigger than your stomach!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek at a recent dim sum lunch hubby and I enjoyed.  We dined at Capital Seafood in Irvine, CA and I definitely recommend it.  Please let me know if you have any questions, dear readers, and please let me know if you opt to eat some dim sum yourself!

Warm regards,
Melody

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Santa Ana Artists Village

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Southern California is full of wonderful cultural and culinary opportunities, and the creative spirit and great eats boldly collide in the Santa Ana Artists Village.  Located in Downtown Santa Ana, the Artists Village is home to galleries, “make and take” studios geared towards paper arts and mixed-media, street corner food carts, and fabulous restaurants.

A bit grungy, bohemian and decidedly urban, the Artists Village also has beauty and charm galore.  From the distinctive architecture of structures like the Santora Building, to the “slice of life” peek at locals going about their business, the Artists Village is a sight to see.  With its varied eateries, you’ll definitely want to take a bite out of the Artists Village!

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Artistic Endeavors

The Santa Ana Artist Village is home to many galleries, ranging in size from very small to very large, and the most common mediums shown are paint and sculpture.  Some studios offer hands-on experiences and classes, and two of my favorites are Studio Crescendoh and The Art Bar.  Geared towards those of us who love paper arts and mixed-media, Studio Crescendoh and the Art Bar offer a wide variety of classes – from lettering and art journaling to painting.  I recommend these venues if you’d like to make art – not just look at it!

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Grand Central is one of the anchors in the Santa Ana Artists Village.

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Colorful paintings grace the walls of Studio Crescendoh, but they offer classes in a variety of artistic mediums…

Restaurants

I certainly haven’t been to all the eateries in the Artists Village, but I’ve really enjoyed those I have visited.  Two of my favorites are the Gypsy Den and Memphis.

Gypsy DenBudget-friendly, this is the most artsy and bohemian of my three picks.  Their baked goods are delicious, and the coffee house feel takes me back to the Beatnik scene in the 60’s – though I hadn’t even been born yet!

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I love the decor at the Gypsy Den – so eclectic and colorful!

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It’s only right that some artwork should grace the walls…

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There’s plenty of seating to enjoy a bite.  I took this photo just after they’d closed on New Year’s Eve day, so it’s customer-free.

MemphisA bit pricier than the Gypsy Den, Memphis has fab food and a great, modern interior.  I love that the afternoon sun creates wrought-iron-shaped shadows in the restaurant’s interior windows, and having breakfast for lunch was a treat!

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A bit of the interior at Memphis, including the wrought iron work up top…

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I opted for breakfast, though it was after 2 p.m.

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Eggs over easy, French Toast, and chicken-apple sausage.  Yum!

I’ve also heard great things about Lola Gaspar, but haven’t made it there to taste their food for myself yet and hope to change that very soon.  Located just down the way from Memphis, and across the courtyard from the Grand Central Building, this restaurant is right in the center of the action…

Art Walk

The Artist Village really comes alive on the first Saturday of each month, when many of the galleries throw open their doors and welcome in the public.  From larger galleries with special shows to single-artist studios displaying their on-going work, the Art Walk is a great way to see a variety of artwork.  You can also sip some wine and nosh on the snacks folks often lay out, if you’re just looking for a nibble.

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Architecture & Ambiance

One of my favorite things about the Santa Ana Artists Village is the look of it – all the the little details that give it a unique flavor.  Naturally, architecture and some historic buildings play a big part in that. In my mind, the gorgeous Santora Building is the grand dame of the village, and the center of it all.  Built in 1929, it’s Spanish Ultra Baroque Design delights me.

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The ornate stone work combined with wrought iron (seen elsewhere on/in the building) is lovely…

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An interior photograph of the Santora Building.

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A clock tower in Santa Ana…

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Bare branches reach out to the Grand Central Building.

It’s more than the big structures, though.  It’s the old street lamps, the trees, and even the streets themselves.  These are some of my favorite things about the Santa Ana Artists Village, and if you’re a fan of details like this, it’s best that you visit during daylight hours to take in all the lovely visual details that make this area unique.

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The base of an old lamp post beckoned to me.

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Gritty, yet still beautiful – near the Santora Building.

Hope to See You There…

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little peek at the Santa Ana Artists Village.  If you live in Southern California – or if you’re planning a trip to Orange County – I hope you’ll stop in for a visit!

Warm regards,
Melody

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A Quick Trip to “Persia”

One of my favorite cheap ways to “travel” is to visit ethnic markets and restaurants.  Real travel isn’t in the budget this year, so hubby and I decided to take in some Persian markets and cuisine last Sunday and had a great time!  We’re lucky enough to live in a very diverse area, and enjoy the exposure we get to different lands and peoples even while staying close to home.  I hope you enjoy this peek into our recent adventure, and hope you’re inspired to visit an ethnic market in your area.

Our first stop was Wholesome Choice market, and while the store is more of a multi-ethnic international market, it had a lot of Persian food items – Indian as well.  We began in the produce department, and I drank in the gorgeous and unusual sights.  Discovering a new (to me) fruit or veggie is always fun!

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Such pretty colors! 

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Can you tell what this is? 

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Yep – melon! 

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Beautiful – and unfamiliar.  This is the fruit from a Rambutan tree, and I was relieved to read on Wikipedia that the fruit is peeled before it’s eaten!

As we made our way through the store we found some more interesting things.  I fell in love with an unusual jar of honey – it was filled with nuts, and was called Ari’s Aligned Nuts.  Gorgeous!  I didn’t purchase it, though I wanted to, because the jar was nearly $8 and I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy eating the contents.  I may head back for it at some point.  So pretty…

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Ari’s Aligned Nuts (in honey)

Naturally there was a large selection of rice, spices, and grains.  Though the store features many “standard American” brands and products, there were some decidedly more exotic items in the store as well.  For example, they sell hookahs and the related hoses.  You won’t see that at Albertsons!

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Hubby shopping in the rice section…

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Hookah hoses on the household goods aisle.

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We ended up purchasing an assortment of goodies, including some Persian sweets, and a yogurt/soda drink.

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We also got some olives, lentils, and unusually-colored tomatoes. 

Our next stop was Caspian, a nearby Persian restaurant, and the food was delicious!  I ordered the Chicken Soltana, while hubby ate an assortment of goodies from their buffet. My meal portion was huge, and we both had the leftovers for dinner!

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Chicken Soltana at Caspian – my lunch and our dinner! 

Tummies full, we proceeded to Super Irvine, a market that’s a stone’s throw from Caspian.  I oohed and aahed over the bags of rice near the door – they zipped open and closed, had handles, and featured appealing graphics!  I reluctantly walked away though – it was just too much rice for two people to use in a reasonable amount of time.

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One of two signs on the Super Irvine storefront.

Moving on, I had to take a picture with the lavash bread (huge!) before meandering through the rest of the store.  Our purchases at Super Irvine included a bottle of pomegranate juice, and some feta cheese.

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Big slabs of bread!

The last stop on our Persian adventure was a sweet shop called Assal Pastry, which was just down the way from Super Irvine.  Hubby was quick to pick out four cake-like pastries, and I selected something called Bamieh, which is likely deep fried dough drizzled in a sweet syrup.  Yum!

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Bamieh

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Some of the sweets we purchased – almond tarts, bamieh, and pistachio nougat.

Though our outing was brief, and was a mere glimpse into the Persian food experience, I’m really glad we went.  Trips like these give my senses a little jolt, and I cherish the new sights, sounds, tastes, and smells.  Exploring new things energizes my artistic and creative spirit, and though I still want to travel much farther afield, you can’t beat getting a dash of a “foreign” experience without having to pack a thing or experience jet lag!

Have you visited any ethic markets lately?  If not, are you hoping to?  I’d love to hear about it and welcome you to comment.  I also invite you to take a peek at my blog posts on Little India, a Korean market and Chinatown if you haven’t seen them already…

Warm regards,
Melody

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From the Archives: some blogtastic posts you may have missed the first time around…

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I’ve been a very busy girl!  I’ve published over 135 posts in the last year, and since you may have missed a few – especially if you’re a newer reader – I thought I’d mention the ARCHIVES feature that resides along the right side of this page – just below RECENT POSTS.  Simply select a month and go!  You may start at the very beginning (August 2010) and read forward, or just skip around.

In addition, here’s a compilation of links, by category, to some of the more popular posts I’ve published in the last year.  I hope you’ll all find something interesting (and possibly “new to you”) to enjoy!*


Photography

Visual Nutrition

The Joys of iPhone Photography

Harvesting Bounty at the Farmers Market

 

Life in General

A Flower For Neva Lenora

Letting My Inner Child Out to Play: Roller Skating

Mad for Movies!

 

Art

Making the Most of a Travel Journal

Collage Basics: Less is More!

Drawing a Blank? Prompts for Writers & Artists

 

Recipes

Something Sweet: Triple Chocolate Cake Recipe

Something Sweet: Blueberry-Lemon Muffins Recipe

Something Sweet: Almond Brittle Recipe

 

Crafts

Green Craft Project: Upcycled & Embellished Metal Cans

A Helpful Hint for My Fellow Paper Addicts: Making a Paper Swatch Ring

Paper, Glass & Wire Butterflies

 

Travel

A Photographic Tour: Peru

A Photographic Tour: Ireland

A Photographic Tour: New Orleans, Louisiana

 

Haiku

Nature’s Lace

Often Overlooked

A Santa Barbara Morning

 

Ethnic Markets

Little India: So Near, Yet So Far Away

Chinatown

Shopping at a Korean Market

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Friendly Giveaway Reminder

My blog birthday giveaway winners will be announced on August 30, 2011 so please enter today.  You could win a $15 iTunes gift card, a pack of my handmade photo notecards, or a $25 Visa gift card!  (Giveaway details/entry HERE) I hope you join the fun…

Warm regards,
Melody

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Chinatown

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Travel is one of my greatest passions – I love going places!  Whether it’s a trip to a nearby city, another state, or a trip to another country, I relish the new sights, experiences, and cuisines that often await me.  Unfortunately, I’m not able to travel as often as I like and have to be creative in order to placate my raging wanderlust.

As previously shared here on my blog, I believe that going to places like Little India or an ethnic market can add some foreign flavor to your life without having to pack – provided those aren’t your usual stomping grounds, that is!

Long before my passport was stamped in Ireland and Peru, I got a little taste of Chinese culture by visiting Chinatown.  I hope to make it to China some day, and know it will be quite different than my experiences in the Chinatowns of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York.  That said, I appreciate the sneak peeks I’ve had into how it might be.

Dragons Soaring in the Shadows of Skyscrapers

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I live about an hour away from downtown Los Angeles, though actual drive time depends on traffic.  L.A.’s Chinatown is startlingly close to the skyscrapers of downtown, which makes for an interesting contrast.  The Los Angeles version of Chinatown is where I’ve visited the most – I first went about nine years ago on a buying trip for my then-employer.  I was trying to find joss paper, which would be sold as an art supply and I had a wonderful time making my way in and out of the shops.

I feasted on the sights: herbs galore, stored in lovely glass jars.  Dried, fresh, and live seafood.  Red and gold, parasols, paper lanterns, and bamboo plants.

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The smells were enticing.  The musk of incense burning in some of the stores, cooking food, the tang of fresh herbs in the small markets, and the light, sweet aroma wafting out of the bakeries.

Experiencing the bustle of the shops, hearing the rapidly-spoken Cantonese and Mandarin languages, and towering above many of the other patrons in the stores were all interesting sensations.  I was still in my home state, but I was a bit out of my comfort zone.  Hurray!

Lunch, anyone?

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I also reveled in a fantastic lunchtime-experience: DIM SUM!  Per Wikipedia, dim sum is a Cantonese term for a type of Chinese dish that involves small individual portions of food, usually served in a small steamer basket or on a small plate. Going for dim sum is usually known in Cantonese as going to “drink tea”.

Seated in a noisy dining room, I drank tea and watched the parade of women with food carts as they passed my table.  Not always sure just what I was ordering, I smiled, pointed and enjoyed the culinary adventure.  Round, metal containers of food found a home on my table – their contents then landed in my tummy.  I instantly fell in love with dim sum – the experience and the food are both delicious. Some of my favorite dim sum selections include Fried Shrimp Balls, Steamed BBQ Pork Buns, and Vegetable Dumplings.  For dessert?  Baked egg custards. Yum!

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It’s time for another trip to Chinatown …

I hope you’ve enjoyed these photos, and a small glimpse into my trips to Chinatown.  I haven’t been to Chinatown in a while – it’s been at least a year – and after reflecting on my experiences there, seeing photos, and talking about the yummy dim sum, I realize it’s time to head back.  If you’re a Southern California reader, and are interested in going on a field trip to Chinatown some Saturday afternoon, please send me a message via my website’s contact page.  It would be great to gather a group and take in the sights – and some great food – together…

Warm regards,
Melody

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Shopping at a Korean Market

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I visited a Korean grocery store the other day, and had a wonderful time perusing the goods, taking pictures, and picking out some goodies to try.  While some of the products were the same ones I’d find at my usual grocery store, the majority of them were not, and I loved this little journey away from my day-to-day routine.  I firmly believe it’s good to shake things up and see and do something new – even if it just involves a new shopping experience.

This particular Korean market is one-stop shopping at its best: a grocery store, a deli, a bakery, a video store, a cosmetics counter, a pharmacy, and an assorted dry goods area are all housed under one roof.  It’s undoubtedly convenient for the Korean customers, and was a treat for me.

First stop? Produce

There is some great produce to be had at Zion Market, and most of it is delightfully inexpensive.  In addition to selling fruits and veggies singly, they also sell some things by the box: grapes, apples, persimmons, melons, etc.  Some of my produce purchases included blueberries, blackberries, mandarins, plums, grapefruits, twist chilies, a pear, chestnuts, and lily root.  I find it funny that I had to go to a Korean market to see my first chestnut  – as in “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…”.

I bought the lily root to try stamping with.  Back home I sliced it, pressed it onto a black ink pad, and made some quick prints to share with you, dear readers.  This is proof that cool art supplies are virtually everywhere – you just have to keep your eyes open!  Package of lily root: $1.18.  New tool in my art arsenal? Priceless!

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Top to bottom: A pear I tucked in among some pomegranates, sesame leaves & chives, and the lovely lily root. Very top: hachiyas (Japanese persimmons)

Snack Attack

Cookies, crackers – these items definitely translate into the Korean food experience.  They had some “standard U.S.” brands, and many imported brands.  I selected a few snack items to try, and enjoyed looking at the packages of some things I decided to pass on. For example, I delighted in seeing the Shrimp-Flavored Chips but had no desire to eat them. The Sesame Peanut Crackers did make it into my cart though.  I also bought some almond cookies.  Yum!

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Top to bottom: Shrimp-Flavored Chips, and some assorted purchases (including the snack-tastic Sesame Peanut Crackers, Almond Crush Pocky)

Spectacular Seafood!

I love the Zion Market seafood department.  Sure, they have meat and poultry too, but the fish really got my attention.  Some of the fresh fish was packaged, and some was out in open tubs filled with ice. Some of the seafood was still alive, too – swimming in water-filled tanks.  It was fishy and lobster death row, to be sure, but it’s a great way to ensure the main ingredient of your meal is fresh!

I also saw lots of dried seafood in neighboring aisles, including shiny dried anchovies.  Another interesting find included fish dogs (like a corn dog but with fish inside) and fried peppers on a stick.  Different strokes for different folks?  Apparently the appeal of fried food on a stick crosses cultural boundaries!

 

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Top to bottom: Fish in open tubs, bags of dried anchovies, Fish Dogs & Peppers on a Stick

The Deli & Bakery are FAB

The deli had quite an assortment of pre-made food to choose from, and there wasn’t a cold cut to be found.  Instead I saw dishes like crab cakes and seaweed salad.  I think my favorite packaged items in the deli were trays of ingredients to make a stew or another fresh dish.  For example, the tray in the photo below contained the makings for a stew: veggies, shrimp, meat – almost everything you’d need to make a fresh, yummy meal with the quick convenience associated with life here in the states.  Sure, you still have to cook it, but a customer wouldn’t have to dash around the store assembling multiple ingredients.

The Paris Baguette bakery nearly made this carb lover swoon – there were so many tasty things to choose from!  In the end, I chose some of their bread, a sweet pumpkin roll for a friend, and a piece of almond French toast for me.  Dee-lish!

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Top to bottom: The stew tray I saw in the deli section, and the bread purchased from the bakery (with the almond cookies mentioned above in the Snack Attack section)

Wow, that’s a lot of seaweed!

As I wrapped up my exploration of Zion Market, it was clear which pre-packaged items are very important in Korean cuisine.  For example, certain types of items filled an entire half of an aisle (one side).  Things like rice, noodles, soy sauce, pickled radish, seaweed, spices, and kimchi occupied a lot of real estate.  Bread? Not so much!

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Top to bottom: Rice, lots of soy sauce, and jars of Kimchi

Go Global

If you’ve got an unexplored Korean market in your area I encourage you to pay a visit.  Countless wonders, and some really good food, await you!

Warm regards,
Melody

*Zion Market is located at 4800 Irvine Boulevard in Irvine, California.

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Little India: So Near, Yet So Far Away

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I’ve shared many of my “loves” on this blog (art supplies, baking, books, movies, etc.), so I hope you’ll believe me when I tell you how much I love to travel. Whether it’s to another state, or another country, I am crazy about travel.  A business trip to Minnesota?  Yes!  A half marathon in New Orleans?  Woo hoo!  A guided tour in Peru?  Heavenly!  So it may surprise you when I say that a trip to an international district within a hundred miles is thrilling to me, too.

I live in Southern California and I’m so thankful that this area is such a melting pot.  And though different ethnicities are spread throughout, there are often pockets of particular ethnicities in certain areas.  For example Chinatown, near downtown L.A. I love driving up, having a dim sum lunch, and wandering through the stores and markets.  So much of the atmosphere and product is different than what I’d find in my neighborhood stores, and I eat it up.  It’s like I’ve traveled far away, though I’m not far from home at all.

I think of this kind of trip as a poor woman’s tourism, and am thankful I can slake my thirst for different experiences and cultures in these international districts in between my trips abroad.  It’s unlikely that I’ll ever have enough money or vacation time to satisfy my travel lust, so I have to be resourceful.

No Passport Required

My dear husband and I recently took an afternoon and went to the far-off land of Little India.  I’ve wanted to visit India (the country) for years, but haven’t managed a trip there yet, so this was a do-able compromise.  And though it was a unique and wonderful experience, it only took us about 30 minutes to drive to Artesia.  No packing required, and no jet lag!  José and I only spent about three hours in Little India, so I’ll definitely need to go back when I have more time.  I’d like to peruse the shops and markets more slowly, but I saw enough on this trip to know that I want to go back for more!

Culinary Delights

We started our adventure with a visit to a restaurant called Ambala Dhaba.  We shared the following:

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Samosa keema (the two pieces served as a tasty appetizer)

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Channa masala (a vegetarian side dish featuring chickpeas – we loved it!)

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Ambala chicken (our main dish, which came out sizzling on a skillet)

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Garlic Naan (delicious bread)

We also had:
A mango shake (José)
Shikanjvi (limeade – me)

The entire meal was delicious, but the channa masala, naan, and mango shake stole the show.  I would drive to Little India just for that shake – yum!  José was nice enough to share with me.

Vibrant Views

After lunch it was time for a little shopping.  As a visual artist, I was thrilled with the colors, textures and fabrics. Indian apparel is often bold and bright, and I love it.  The colors and fabrics were nearly irresistible, and my purchase desires definitely outstripped anything my wallet and finances could ever support!  I restricted myself to one tunic-style garment and some inexpensive bracelets, but drank in the textiles everywhere we went.  Delicious!  And that doesn’t even include the jewelry.

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My God, the jewelry!  The window displays turned me into a slack-jawed tourist, and I numbly stood there gaping and wiping saliva from my chin.  I couldn’t bring myself to enter a single jewelry store – for a few reasons.  One, I know the 24-karat gold jewelry they sell is way out of my price range.  Two, I have nowhere to wear such incredibly gorgeous and ornate creations.  Three, reasons one and two wouldn’t keep me from wanting these pricey and impractical ornaments and I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of the proprietors by whimpering and whining when I’d eventually be forced to leave the store empty-handed.

Groceries Galore

The grocery store we visited (Pioneer Grocery) was a treasure trove – full of products and packaging that were new and exciting to me.  Spices galore (including a huge bag of turmeric for less than $14), orange lentils that tickled my retinas, several kinds of rice in huge bags, and gorgeous purple and deep pink potatoes – all were there for me to enjoy free of charge.  Next time I visit I’ll grab a cart and shop!

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Dessert?  Certainly!

Culinary enthusiasts that we are, we felt compelled to sample Indian ice cream at Saffron Spot.  They have many flavors that are unusual to the western palate, and though we tried the rose-flavored ice cream, we stuck with more typical flavors like coconut, vanilla, and butterscotch.  Armed with our shovel-shaped “spoons”, we sat on a bench in the shade and enjoyed the creamy goodness.

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Leaving No Stone Unturned

After visiting some more clothing stores and shops with assorted goods, it was almost time to call it a day.  Work loomed the next day, and, responsible citizens that we are, we had to head home.  We couldn’t leave without visiting one of the many sweet shops though. We didn’t want to shortchange you, dear readers.  (wink)  We ventured into Bombay Sweets & Snacks, and gathered an assortment of goodies to take home with us.

Papri gathia (a kind of chip made from chickpeas – they resemble Fritos!)
Hot mix (India’s version of spicy Chex Mix?)
Coconut, mango, and badam (almond) barfi (squares of confectionery goodness)
Badana (mysterious orange balls that won me over simply because of their color)
Amriti (mysterious orange pretzel-looking things that also wooed me with their color)

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Back home I sampled all these goodies.  My favorites are the hot mix on the savory side, and the mango and badam barfi (tastes better than it sounds), and badana on the sweet side.  The badana balls are incredibly sweet and delicious.  I think they’re basically fried and sugared bits of bliss – so it’s a good thing I don’t live down the street from Little India or the Bombay staff would be seeing a lot of me!

Venture Forth, Southern California Residents!

I really enjoyed this poor woman’s tour, and hope to return to Little India soon.  If you live in Southern California (or live in another metropolitan area with international districts), consider a trip to Little India.  The sights, smells and sounds will be a treat for your senses, and you’ll experience the joy of travel without all the hassle.  If you’ve read this far, thank you!  I’ll be posting write-ups on trips I’ve taken and on visits to international districts/ethnic markets in the coming months, so please stay tuned!

Warm regards,
Melody

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