I remember reading a funny piece in The Guardian about a stay at home dad who used to shop like a pensioner; meaning he would only buy one or two things on one shopping trip so he had something to do, “an outing” if you will, later in the day. It strikes me that he wasn’t being funny. I do the same thing now. I will organize a whole day around getting one ingredient.
As yesterday was a glorious day, even by spring standards, I decided to walk to Hackesher Markt to visit my favourite Asia Laden, Asia Mekong. I am reading Kitchen Chinese: A Novel about Food, Family, and Finding Yourself, which is a cute book that seems to have the same protagonist as the one in The Devil Wears Prada but in China, eating Chinese food. Then I opened this month’s Delicious magazine and saw a recipe for Chinese crispy duck with pancakes presented by Fuchsia Dunlop (whom I love because of her great book Shark’s Fins and Sichuan Pepper but also because I like saying her name out loud). That and the fact that I am in a city surrounded by tons of Asian restaurants that turn out less than mediocre food means I am always craving something “Asian”. I resolved on the spot to make Fuchsia’s recipe (wow, I even like writing her name!).
A little on Asia Laden’s. They are not just for shrimp paste and noodles but also for more basic things like soft brown sugar. I spent about two weeks when I first moved here buying “brauner Zucker” only to get home and find they contained a caramel coloured granulated sugar. It took about five packets before someone finally clued me in, soft brown sugar? Asia Laden. You won’t find it anywhere else (except for the food halls of KaDeWe or Galeria but expect to pay a lot more). They also have Indian spices and other “ethnic’ ingredients; for example I bought some Gram flour yesterday (to make some quick pita bread). You can pick up a bamboo steamer for 3.50. Or some Banana Sauce (had to look this one up myself, it’s a ketchup like sauce made from bananas).
I like Mekong Asia because it’s clean, bright and well stocked. Although, they didn’t have Peking duck pancakes there today and couldn’t point me in the direction of someone who did. I went across to Galeria on the off-chance that they might have them but I was informed by an annoyed employee that the “Chinese do not have pancakes”. (Galeria staff are the most ill-informed food staff! Harumph!).
The only thing I hate about these kind of stores is that I can never stick to my list and always end up buying things I probably won’t use. Which is why I limit my trips to once a month or so. Another little confession, since Asia Mekong is so close to Galeria, I always have to stop there as well and end up spending at least €30. Ach, well, it’s not like I spend my money on anything else (except for cook books, kitchen equipment and cooking magazines).
I have duck, a steamer, hoisin sauce but no pancakes so unless someone out there knows and wants to share, I will check out Vinh Loi, which was suggested to me by my Chinese friend(not in the context of pancakes though).
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