Welcome to my blog!My name is Melody M. Nuñez, and I’m an artist and a writer. Please look around my website and make yourself at home. I post new blog entries weekly, and hope you’ll subscribe to my blog and come back often! To learn more about me, please view the “About” page…
Category Archives: 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…
Do you enjoy trips to Ethnic Markets? Which are your favorites? Please comment and share…
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.
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!
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.)
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!
New York City – what a wild ride! I joined hubby partway through one of his business trips in New York in 2005, and had a blast. Though I was only there for four days it was long enough for me to take a bite of the Big Apple and know that it tasted very sweet.
Not that it was perfect, mind you. It was hot that July, and so humid that the air seemed to both surround and smother me. Traffic lanes are mere suggestions, and though most of my taxi drivers seemed to have a death wish, I survived unscathed. Some of the smells were less than charming as well, but the few drawbacks were eclipsed by the city’s charms.
From the white-knuckle taxi rides to the incredible variety of people, cuisines, and things to do, New York City is a thrilling destination. And for this California girl, a trip there was a chance to see and do things I’d only read about or seen on a T.V. or movie screen: hailing a cab, ambling around Central Park, getting a hot dog from a street vendor, and visiting mind-blowing museums like MoMA and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was a thrill, and a pleasure, and my trip was all too brief. I hope to see you again soon, NYC – I’d love for us to get better acquainted!
Chinatown, New York style. I did some shopping, and was treated to the sight of some silvery, scaly beauty.
Riding the subway for the first time was a treat, and as we came out from underground, and rode along the tracks in the sunlight, I spied the iconic brick buildings and fire escapes I’d seen so many times before on T.V. or in a movie.
The Empire State Building was incredible. It was amazing to see the city from above – the taxis and cars looked like little ants down below.
Hubby and I – 102 stories up on the observation deck of the Empire State Building.
Our trip to MoMA touched my heart. An art major in college, and a big fan of van Gogh, I was thrilled to see Starry Night in person.
We just took in a fraction of the work at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The collection is so vast, it would take days – maybe weeks- to enjoy it all properly. It was surreal, and a joy, to see works of art I’d only seen in textbooks and in slideshows in person! This photo was taken on the second story of the museum, looking across Central Park.
Central Park was the place to be – it was full of people enjoying the summer’s day, and it’s truly a haven in the midst of all the concrete, glass and steel.
Times Square – talk about sensory overload! All the people, the lights, signs, and traffic! Oh, and all the horses – pulling tourists in carriages, that is.
We visited Carnegie Deli in Times Square, and shared a mammoth, delectable piece of cheesecake. Yuuuuumy!
Our trip to Ground Zero was solemn, and it didn’t surprise me that it started raining as we left the site – it was as if Mother Nature was trying to cleanse the wound that had been opened nearly four years before.
French restaurant Les Sans Culottes was scrumptious! I had the Shrimp Provencal…
One of my favorite meals and experiences from the whole trip was a meal at Dominick’s out in the Bronx. There was no set menu, and it was a delicious, authentic, charming experience. We were with a group of locals – a very friendly group – and were so busy eating the food that hit the table (antipasto salad, stuffed mushrooms, and much more!) that I failed to take any photos. Dessert? The most fabulous strawberry gelato from a place a few doors down. The experience was deeply satisfying on every level.
We also had great meals at PJ Clarke’s (where I had the best corn on the cob I’d had in decades!) and Little Johnnies – a pizza place (we dined on a white bean salad and a scrumptious thin crust pizza).
Though I crammed a lot of wonderful experiences and meals into my short stay, what I fit in barely scratched the surface of all that New York City has to offer. The city is so diverse and so densely packed, there are literally wonderful things to do, see, and taste around every corner. It’s like they say in the musical On the Town: “New York, New York! It’s a helluva town!” I hope I’m able to entrust my life to one of those fearless taxi drivers and make my way onto the island of Manhattan again soon…
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!
Such pretty colors!
Can you tell what this is?
Yep – melon!
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…
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!
Hubby shopping in the rice section…
Hookah hoses on the household goods aisle.
We ended up purchasing an assortment of goodies, including some Persian sweets, and a yogurt/soda drink.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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…
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!*
Life in General
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…
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
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.
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!
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!
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…
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!
Top to bottom: A pear I tucked in among some pomegranates, sesame leaves & chives, and the lovely lily root. Very top: hachiyas (Japanese persimmons)
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!
Top to bottom: Shrimp-Flavored Chips, and some assorted purchases (including the snack-tastic Sesame Peanut Crackers, Almond Crush Pocky)
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!
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!
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!
Top to bottom: Rice, lots of soy sauce, and jars of Kimchi
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!
*Zion Market is located at 4800 Irvine Boulevard in Irvine, California.Tweet
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!
We started our adventure with a visit to a restaurant called Ambala Dhaba. We shared the following:
Samosa keema (the two pieces served as a tasty appetizer)
Channa masala (a vegetarian side dish featuring chickpeas – we loved it!)
Ambala chicken (our main dish, which came out sizzling on a skillet)
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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)
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!