There’s something pretty special about the Asian market here in Denver. Located in Aurora near Havana and Parker Road, it sees a lot of activity from the Asian community in the area. The first thing I notice when entering the store is the smell of fish from the live fish counter near the back, and the sounds of Korean and Chinese being spoken all around. I might not recognize other languages as easily, but those two are very distinguishable.
The first thing I see is the display of kitchen gadgets, woks, rice cookers, chopsticks, tea kettles, spiders (strainers), bowls and plates, bamboo steamers, and much more. After wandering through those aisles, picking up items and putting them down again countless times as I decide I really don’t need more gadgets or any more cute little bowls (not to mention, we’re out of cupboard space), I head to the right to the rows of fruit and vegetables, where I’m sure to find something new and different each time.
I was excited to find blood oranges, which I have never seen at our regular grocery store, so I bought 10, knowing right away I wanted to turn them into a sorbet or sherbet for a light dessert. I picked up a fresh pineapple as well, to eat with the sherbet. Pineapple chunks on a stick were one of my favorite snacks to buy from the roadside vendors in China, and it always amazed me how quickly they could slice off the spiny exterior while leaving as much of the fruit as possible. Honey tangerines landed in my basket, too, for a green bean and tangerine salad to take to a bbq on Saturday. I’m always tempted to buy some pickling cucumbers, but without the time or other ingredients needed to make homemade pickles, I’ve held off on those so far. There’s every kind of bok choy and hot green pepper I could imagine. Other exotic, colorful and spiky fruits and vegetables that I don’t recognize.
The bins of bulk items hold an array of dried fruit and nuts with or without shells, and every time I walk by, there’s sure to be a child raking their hands through the bin of shelled peanuts while their mom is distracted with her shopping. Needless to say, I never buy those peanuts. :)
From there, I head to the fish counter where I take a number and wait my turn. The counter is piled with about 30 varieties of fresh, whole fish, and several kinds of shrimp. Underneath the counter, a live fish tank is crowded with fish, just waiting their turn. While I wait, the fish guys are busy cleaning, scaling and filleting fish to order, every once in a while hosing down the stainless steel counter. I always wonder how many showers it takes for them to get rid of the fishy smell that's sure to permeate their skin. They work so quickly, making short work of the scales that would take me a good 15 minutes of work with the back of a knife. I pick out two beautiful medium-sized fish for our dinner, a red snapper and a striped sea bass. I request only that they be scaled and then cleaned inside. We’re going to grill them whole later that evening with some lemons and herbs.
After leaving the fish counter, the packages of sushi-grade tuna and salmon tempt me, but we’re not making sushi tonight. There is plenty of frozen seafood to choose from, craw-fish, scallops, soft-shell crabs, lobster tails… I wish we had access to more fresh seafood, but we’re in Colorado after all. I do pick up a package of craw-fish, though, thinking we could have those along with the red snapper and striped sea bass. Bags of frozen, pre-made jiadze (dumplings) and other delicious treats are available for those who don’t want to make their own.
And then the dry goods aisles, which are so full of packaged noodles, spices, curry powders, canned goods, rice, crackers and candy, that I’m lucky to find what I’m actually looking for. I spent a good 20 minutes one time just trying to find the Massaman curry paste among the many tins of curry available. I like looking through the different and unusual snacks and candy, remembering what my friends and I used to eat in China. “Pocky Sticks”, sort of a cross between a cookie and a pretzel, were another favorite of mine. They came in different flavors, sometimes sweet or savory, often dipped in chocolate.
My basket getting too heavy to carry, I head to the checkout where they try to tempt shoppers with displays of sugary items like “choco-sweet cakes”, moon pies or mango popsicles.
That evening, I roasted an eggplant and a head of garlic, then made a hummus with the eggplant and garlic which was creamy and delicious on some toasted olive bread. We sampled the hummus while we relaxed before starting on dinner. With our whole grilled fish and boiled craw-fish that night, I also made a vegetarian dish that I frequently ate in China, but haven’t been able to replicate myself, di san xian (eggplant, potatoes and green pepper). So this time I used a recipe from Travel China Guide, but unfortunately it turned out really oily, so I might have to give up the notion of making it myself. I also found that I’m not crazy about craw-fish – maybe it’s because these were frozen and not fresh, but they tasted slightly muddy and freezer-burned, and were an awful lot of work for a tiny little bite of meat. However, the grilled fish was delicious and fresh. After we ate one side of the red snapper, Jamie lifted up the head, pulling the spine along with it and laid it on my plate, moving its mouth and saying “why did you eat me?” in his best fish voice. He took the fish bones and the craw-fish we didn’t eat and put them all in a pot to make some savory fish stock, which smelled fantastic simmering on the stove.
And for dessert, slices of fresh pineapple topped with pretty pink scoops of blood orange champagne sherbet, which I adapted from a recipe for blood orange sorbet by Yummy Mummy. I used Korbel California champagne, which, I know isn’t real champagne, but I like the flavor and it’s affordable. The champagne really complemented the blood orange juice and it was a wonderfully light and sweet ending to the evening.
Blood Orange Champagne Sherbet
- 2 cups freshly squeezed blood orange juice
- Zest of 1 blood orange
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 - 1 cup champagne or sparkling wine(depending on how strong you want the flavor)
- 1/4 - 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
Whisk together the juice, zest, milk, champagne, sugar and vanilla – start with a smaller amount of the champagne or wine and add more to suit your taste. Chill mixture in the refrigerator until very cold, then pour through a mesh strainer to strain out the zest. Pour into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions, then transfer to a container and freeze until firm enough to scoop, about 4-6 hours.
Yields about 8 servings, 1/2 cup each.
Recipe slightly adapted from Blood Orange Sherbet by YummyMummy.
Roasted Eggplant and Garlic Hummus
- 1 eggplant
- 1 head garlic
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 2 cans garbanzo beans
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 350. Slice the eggplant and the head of garlic in half and place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cover tightly with foil and roast for 1 hour, until the garlic is soft and spreadable. Set aside until cool enough to scoop the eggplant from the peel and to remove the garlic cloves.
In a food processor, combine the eggplant, garlic, garbanzo beans, tomato paste and lemon juice, and puree until smooth. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve hummus with a drizzle of olive oil on top and freshly cracked pepper.
Yields about 8 servings.
WW Points Plus Value: 3 points per serving
Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen